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Kishbaugh v. The City of Lafayette Government

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

June 21, 2019

KEITH KISHBAUGH
v.
THE CITY OF LAFAYETTE GOVERNMENT, ET AL.

          APPEAL FROM THE FIFTEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF LAFAYETTE, NO. C-20192137 A HONORABLE JOHN DAMIAN TRAHAN, DISTRICT JUDGE

          STEPHEN J. OATS LAWRENCE E. MARINO OATS & MARINO COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE: LOUIS J. PERRET, LAFAYETTE CLERK OF COURT

          CAREY THOMPSON JONES EMILY G. ANDREWS ASST. ATTORNEY GENERAL DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE COUNSEL FOR INTERVENOR/APPELLANT: KYLE ARDOIN, AS LA. SECRETARY OF STATE

          LARRY LANE ROY BROWN SIMS COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT: KEITH KISHBAUGH

          MICHAEL DEAN HEBERT PAUL DAVID ESCOTT BECKER & HEBERT COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE: LAFAYETTE CITY-PARISH CONSOLIDATEDGOVERNMENT THE CITY OF LAFAYETTE LAFAYETTE PARISH GOVERNMENT

          STEVEN T. RAMOS ANDRUS, BOUDREAUX, LANDRY & COUSSAN COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANTS/APPELLEES: DANIEL GILLANE DEBORAH AMY HAROLD BERNARD, JR. DENNIS SULLIVAN JANE SAWVEL BRUCE SAWVEL

          TRAVIS J. BROUSSARD GARY MCGOFFIN DURIO, MCGOFFIN, STAGG & ACKERMANN COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANTS/APPELLEES: JANE SAWVEL BRUCE SAWVEL DENNIS SULLIVAN DEBORAH AMY HAROLD BERNARD, JR. DANIEL GILLANE

          Court composed of Sylvia R. Cooks, John D. Saunders, and D. Kent Savoie, Judges.

          SYLVIA R. COOKS JUDGE.

         Plaintiff, Keith Kishbaugh, filed suit against the City of Lafayette Government, the Parish of Lafayette Government, and the Lafayette City-Parish Consolidated Government, (collectively Lafayette City-Parish), challenging the constitutionality of an ordinance that sought to cure deficiencies in certain city and parish council district descriptions set forth in the recent 2018 amendment to the Lafayette City-Parish Consolidated Government Home Rule Charter. Along with its answer, Lafayette City-Parish filed a reconventional demand, seeking a declaration that the ordinance was a valid reapportionment of the council districts. The Secretary of State subsequently intervened as a plaintiff, and several affected residents intervened as defendants (residents/intervenors).[1]

         After a bench trial on the merits, the trial court found in favor of Lafayette City-Parish and the residents/intervenors, denying the claims of Plaintiff and the Secretary of State and dismissing, with prejudice, their petitions. The trial court denied as moot all remaining claims and demands not addressed in the judgment.

         Finding Plaintiff and the Secretary of State failed to prove that the ordinance was not a valid reapportionment, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         I.

         ISSUE

         The validity of the Charter is not contested on appeal.[2] The sole issue presented for this court's review is:

         Whether the trial court was correct in failing to find that both the Lafayette Home Rule Charter and the State Constitution mandate that any Charter amendment must be voted on by the people and that the amendment presented must match that put into effect by local government[?]

The Secretary of State sets forth five assignments of error:
(1) The trial court committed legal error by concluding that Lafayette City-Parish Ordinance No. O-042-2019, adopted by the Council but not submitted to the electors of the City and Parish of Lafayette, was an effective and valid amendment of the City Parish Home Rule Charter.
(2) The trial court erred as a matter of law in determining Lafayette City-Parish Ordinance No. O-042-2019 to constitute a reapportionment of the voting population of the City and the Parish of Lafayette in advance of the first election for council members under the Charter Amendment, rather than an ordinance to correct the deficient descriptions of city and parish election districts in the Lafayette City-Parish Charter Amendment that was ratified by the voters on December 8, 2018.
(3) The trial court misapplied the legal principles that give courts the authority to reform a legal instrument to accord with the intent of the parties when clerical errors are found therein.
(4) The trial court erred as a matter of law by resorting to the intent of the City-Parish Council to allow for reformation of the election provisions of the Charter Amendment by ordinance.
(5) The trial court erred in allowing Michael Hefner to testify as an expert witness in this case when Mr. Hefner had a direct stake in protecting his own reputation and work by testifying favorably to the Lafayette City-Parish.

         II.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         In 1996, the Lafayette City-Parish Consolidated Government Home Rule Charter (Current Charter) took effect, under which the governmental functions of the City of Lafayette were consolidated with the governmental functions of the Parish of Lafayette. On December 8, 2018, a majority of voters approved an amendment to the Current Charter (Amended Charter), abolishing the Lafayette City-Parish Council and replacing it with a separate Lafayette City Council and Lafayette Parish Council. Relevant herein, the textual descriptions and boundaries of the Lafayette Parish Council districts and the ...


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