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City of Shreveport v. Shreveport Municipal Fire

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

September 26, 2018

CITY OF SHREVEPORT Plaintiff-Appellant
v.
SHREVEPORT MUNICIPAL FIRE AND POLICE CIVIL SERVICE BOARD Defendant-Appellee

          Appealed from the First Judicial District Court for the Parish of Caddo, Louisiana Trial Court No. 596, 422 Honorable Ramon Lafitte, Judge.

          PETTIETTE, ARMAND, DUNKELMAN, WOODLEY, BYRD & CROMWELL, L.L.P. By: Joseph S. Woodley Counsel for Appellant

          BREEDLOVE LAW FIRM By: Pamela N. Breedlove BILLY R. CASEY Counsel for Respondent Appellee, Michael Carter Counsel for Appellee

          Before BROWN, WILLIAMS, and McCALLUM, JJ.

          McCallum, J.

         The City of Shreveport ("City") appeals a district court judgment affirming the decision by the Shreveport Municipal Fire and Police Civil Service Board ("Board") to indemnify one of its members for the attorney fees that he incurred while defending a lawsuit filed by the City against him.

         We affirm the district court judgment.

         FACTS

         Michael Carter is a member of the Board as well as the President of the Shreveport Police Officers Association. On September 14, 2015, Carter served public records requests upon the City. He subsequently filed a petition for a writ of mandamus, damages, and attorney fees against the City and the Shreveport Police Chief and City Attorney, in their individual and official capacities. Carter was also a plaintiff in a lawsuit filed in federal court against the City.

         On November 5, 2015, the City filed suit against Carter seeking to enjoin him from participating in Board meetings and serving on the Board on the grounds that his lawsuits against the City presented a conflict of interest. In response, Carter filed a motion for summary judgment and an exception of no cause of action. He also requested sanctions against the City in the form of attorney fees.

         A hearing on the pending matters was held before Judge Craig Marcotte on September 12, 2016. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Carter and dismissed the injunction suit because that lawsuit became moot when the public records lawsuit was dismissed. Attorney fees were awarded to Carter in his public records lawsuit, but his request for sanctions in the City's lawsuit was denied. The City was taxed with costs in both suits.

         On September 14, 2016, Carter wrote to the Board asking that it indemnify him for his attorney fees in the City's lawsuit. Attached to his letter was a copy of Shreveport Ordinance Section 2-106 ("Ordinance"). The Board considered the matter at its October 12, 2016, meeting. Carter related to the Board that his attorney had been served with the City's lawsuit on November 10, 2015, which was approximately two months after he was sworn in as a member of the Board. He contended that the purpose of the City's lawsuit was to prevent him from serving on the Board. He added that the Board's attorney at the time had told him that she could not represent him in the lawsuit due to a conflict of interest. A billing summary from Carter's attorney was submitted at the meeting. She asserted that she had worked 55 hours at a rate of $175 per hour, making the total attorney fees $9, 625.

         A representative from the City present at the Board hearing argued that Carter had not been sued in his official capacity, and that if Carter wanted attorney fees, he should have asked for them in the trial court. The Board, which did not find the City's arguments to be persuasive, voted for Carter to be indemnified for $9, 625 in attorney fees and $524 in court costs.

         The City appealed the Board's decision to the district court. Judge Ramon Lafitte affirmed the award of $9, 625 in attorney fees, but reversed the award of $524 for costs because the City had paid that after the Board hearing.

         The City now appeals the district court's ruling. The City argues that (1) the Board lacked the jurisdiction to consider the request for attorney fees; (2) the provisions of the Ordinance were not met; and (3) the amount of attorney fees was not supported because the relevant factors concerning attorney fees were not considered.

         DISCUSSION

         Board's ...


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