EUGENE J. SONNIER, II
THE CATHOLIC FOUNDATION OF THE DIOCESE OF LAFAYETTE, ET AL.
WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEAL, THIRD CIRCUIT,
PARISH OF LAFAYETTE
JOHNSON, C.J. would grant the writ
application and assigns reasons.
Sonnier, III ("Trey"), the son of applicant, Eugene
J. Sonnier, II ("Mr. Sonnier"), and his ex-wife,
Norlet Pierre ("Mrs. Pierre"), died in October 2013
while serving in the United States Air Force. Prior to his
death, Trey executed Department of Defense Form 93 which,
among other things, allows military members to designate the
"person authorized to direct disposition"
("PADD"). Mr. Sonnier was listed as the PADD on
Form 93, and thus was the person authorized to make funeral
and burial arrangements for Trey. If our goal is to respect
the wishes of military personnel who sacrifice their lives
for our country, the results of this case directly disrespect
the dictates and wishes of the deceased, and purposefully
thwart Mr. Sonnier's plans for his son's burial.
Trey's death, Mr. Sonnier met with the cemetery manager
and purchased a plot as Trey's burial place. Mr. Sonnier
further advised the manager that his plan was to construct a
double tomb so he could be buried next to his son, and
indicated his intent to purchase the two adjacent plots that
were necessary to construct the double tomb. Before Mr.
Sonnier could return to purchase the plots, Mrs. Pierre
purchased the adjacent plots for herself and her spouse. In
addition, although Mr. Sonnier was the sole purchaser of
Trey's plot, the title to the plot was re-issued jointly
to Mr. Sonnier and Mrs. Pierre.
Sonnier initially filed suit against several parties
essentially asserting sole ownership of the plots or,
alternatively, seeking permission to move Trey's remains
since he had the exclusive right to control his son's
interment by virtue of his authority under Form 93. When he
was not able to obtain the desired relief in that action, Mr.
Sonnier filed a Petition for Declaratory Judgment asserting
that Trey's PADD authorized him to disinter Trey and
re-inter him in a location of his choice. In my view, Mr.
Sonnier is entitled to this relief.
is no question Mrs. Pierre's actions have prevented Mr.
Sonnier from being buried next to Trey in a double tomb, and
thus Trey's PADD designation empowering Mr. Sonnier to
control Trey's interment has been violated. 10 U.S.C.
§ 1482, which governs the PADD, provides in pertinent
(c) The following persons may be designated to direct
disposition of the remains of a decedent covered by
(1) The person identified by the decedent on the record of
emergency data maintained by the Secretary concerned (DD Form
93 or any successor to that form), as the Person Authorized
to Direct Disposition (PADD), regardless of the relationship
to the decedent. [Emphasis added].
Louisiana law provides that the PADD has the right to
control interment. At the time of Trey's death,
La. R.S. 8:655 provided, in pertinent part:
A. The right to control interment, as defined in R.S.
8:1(26), of the remains of a deceased person, unless other
specific directions have been given or the designation of a
specific person to control disposition has been made by the
decedent in the form of a written and notarized declaration,
vests in and devolves upon the following in the order named:
B. (1) If the decedent died in a manner described by 10
U.S.C. § 1481(a)(1) through (8) while serving in any
branch of the United States Armed Forces, the United States
Reserve Forces, or National Guard, and the decedent executed
a United States Department of Defense Record of Emergency
Data, known as DD Form 93, or its successor form, the
right to control interment for the decedent shall devolve
upon the Person Authorized to Direct Disposition, also
referred to as the PADD, as indicated on the DD Form 93 or
its successor form. [Emphasis added].
La. R.S. 8:1 (26) defines "interment" as "the
disposition of human remains by inurnment, scattering,
entombment, or burial in a place used or intended to be used,
and dedicated, for cemetery purposes." In my view, there
is nothing in La. R.S. 8:655 or in the statutory definition
of "interment" which limits the PADD's
authority to the choice of initial disposition of the
denying relief to Mr. Sonnier, the court of appeal found
disinterment was controlled by La. R.S. 8:659, which
provides, in pertinent part:
A. The remains of a deceased person may be moved from a
cemetery space to another cemetery space in the same cemetery
or to another cemetery with the consent of the cemetery
authority and the written consent of one of the following, in
the order named, unless other specific directions, in the
form of a notarial ...