STATE OF LOUISIANA, THROUGH ORLEANS PARISH CRIMINAL DISTRICT COURT, CLERK OF COURT ARTHUR MORRELL
CITY OF NEW ORLEANS, THROUGH ITS MAYOR MITCHELL J. LANDRIEU
FROM CIVIL DISTRICT COURT, ORLEANS PARISH NO. 2018-03398,
DIVISION "C" Honorable Sidney H. Cates, Judge.
BANDARIES MADRO BANDARIES, P.L.C. P.O. and ARTHUR MORRELL
Clerk of Court Criminal District Court, COUNSEL FOR
T. SMITH ASSISTANT CITY ATTORNEY CORWIN ST. RAYMOND DEPUTY
CITY ATTORNEY CHURITA A. HANSELL CHIEF DEPUTY CITY ATTORNEY
CHERRELL S. TAPLIN SR. CHIEF CITY ATTORNEY SUNNI J. LEBOUF
CITY ATTORNEY, COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE.
composed of Chief Judge James F. McKay III, Judge Edwin A.
Lombard, Judge Regina Bartholomew-Woods.
F. MCKAY III CHIEF JUDGE
plaintiff, State of Louisiana, through Orleans Parish
Criminal District Court, Clerk of Court, Arthur Morrell,
appeals the trial court's July 10, 2018 judgment in favor
of the defendant, the City of New Orleans, through its Mayor,
Mitchell J. Landrieu, which denied plaintiff's petition
for declaratory judgment. For the reasons that follow, we
reverse the judgment of the trial court and grant the
declaratory relief sought by the plaintiff.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
of background, the City of New Orleans and the Clerk of
Criminal District Court have been involved in a dispute over
the proper funding of the Clerk's office since 2012. The
dispute is contentious and the parties have been before this
Court on several occasions.
becoming aware that the invoice from his auditors in the
amount of $40, 000.00 had not been paid by the City, the
Clerk sent a demand to the City requesting that it pay the
billing, as had been done in the past. The request provided a
March 26, 2018 reply date. The date passed with no reply.
Thereafter, the Clerk filed the present lawsuit.
April 6, 2018, the Clerk filed a petition for declaratory
judgment, arguing that the City unlawfully refused to pay for
the Clerk's annual audit for the 2016 fiscal year. The
Clerk argued that the City's refusal caused the
Clerk's auditor to delay conducting the Clerk's
fiscal year 2017 audit, which is required by state law. The
Clerk also argued that the City's refusal was unlawful
because La. R.S. 13:1381.7 requires the City to pay the
Clerk's expenses. Finally, the Clerk claimed that the
City was responsible for the audit expense because the City
had historically paid for it.
April 18, 2018, the City moved to transfer the matter to the
same division that had heard the previous litigation
regarding the Clerk's budget, while the Clerk opposed
such transfer. The district court heard the motion to
transfer on June 14, 2018, and granted it on June 25, 2018.
At the Clerk's urging, the district court set an
expedited hearing on the merits.
matter came on for trial on June 27, 2018. Three witnesses
were called to testify at trial, all by the Clerk. The
witnesses were: Cary Grant, Assistant Chief Administrative
Officer for the City of New Orleans; Alisha Brumfield,
Judicial Administrator of Criminal District Court; and Arthur
Morrell, Clerk of Criminal District Court. Following trial, a
judgment was issued on July 10, 2018, "denying the
Petition for Declaratory Judgment [of the Clerk] and
dismissing these proceedings, with each party to bear its own
costs." It is from this judgment that the Clerk appeals.
appeal, the plaintiff raises the following assignments of
error: 1) the trial court was manifestly in error in its July
10, 2018 judgment denying the Clerk's declaratory
judgment based on its finding of fact in its
"reasons" that "[t]here was no evidence
presented that the City of New Orleans historically pays the
expenses for the annual audit of the Clerk of Criminal
District Court's office"; and 2) the trial court was
manifestly in error in its July 10, 2018 judgment denying the
Clerk's declaratory judgment in its findings of fact that
"there is nothing in La. R.S. 13:1381.7, or any state