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Misita v. The St. Tammany Parish Government

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

September 11, 2019

ANTHONY MISITA AND GLENN AND LINDA TORRES
v.
THE ST. TAMMANY PARISH GOVERNMENT ANTHONY MISITA
v.
JOHN MAUMOULIDES, LAKELOTS, INC., INTREPID, INC., ONE CONSORT INTERNATIONAL, LLC, LAKE RAMSEY DEVELOPMENT AND ST. TAMMANY PARISH GOVERNMENT

          Appealed from the Twenty-Second Judicial District Court In and for the Parish of St. Tammany, Louisiana Docket Number 2018-10697, 2013-14638 Honorable Richard A. Swartz, Judge Presiding

          Louis R. Koerner, Jr. New Orleans, LA and Pierre V. Miller, II New Orleans, LA Counsel for Plaintiffs/Appellants, Anthony Misita and Glenn and Linda Torres

          Kelly M. Rabalais Angel M. Byrum Deborah S. Henton Mandeville, LA Counsel for Defendant/Appellee, St. Tammany Parish Government

          Thomas H. Huval Covington, LA Counsel for Defendants, John Maumolides, Lakelots Inc., Intrepid, Inc., Lake Ramsey Development, Artesian Utility Company, Inc., and David Guidry

          Thomas P. Anzelmo Christine M. Berger New Orleans, LA Counsel for Defendants, Paul Carroll, Kevin Davis, Joey Lobrano, Brian Forstein, and James A. (Red) Thompson

          BEFORE: WHIPPLE, C.J., McCLENDON, WELCH, HIGGINBOTHAM, AND PENZATO, JJ.

          WHIPPLE, C.J.

         This is an appeal from a judgment of the Twenty-Second Judicial District Court in St. Tammany Parish, granting the defendant's exception of no cause of action and dismissing the plaintiffs' suit with prejudice. For the following reasons, we affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand with instructions.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On February 9, 2018, Anthony Misita and Glenn and Linda Torres ("collectively referred to as "plaintiffs") filed a "Petition for Mandamus, Penalties, and Attorney's Fees," naming the St. Tammany Parish Government ("the Parish") as defendant. Plaintiffs' mandamus claims are related to separate claims for damages asserted by plaintiffs against the Parish and other defendants regarding alleged flooding issues on their properties in St. Tammany Parish. In their mandamus petition, plaintiffs asserted that they were entitled to certain documents sought pursuant to a public records request relevant to the flooding issues, but that the Parish had failed to produce the documents as required for compliance with the Public Records Act.[1] Thus, plaintiffs sought writs of mandamus ordering the Parish to produce the requested records.[2]

         In response, the Parish filed various exceptions, including a peremptory exception raising the objection of no cause of action. In support of its exception, the Parish contended that plaintiffs were not entitled to institute this action because the Parish had not denied plaintiffs' request for records or refused to respond, but instead timely provided an estimate of the time reasonably necessary to respond. Additionally, the Parish contended that it had previously reproduced or made available for inspection many of the requested records in response to a 2014 public records request by plaintiffs, which earlier request contained many identical or very similar requests as plaintiffs' public records request that forms the basis of this mandamus suit.

         At the hearing on the exceptions, counsel for the Parish argued that plaintiffs' petition did not allege that plaintiffs had been denied records and, further, that the Parish had in fact complied with the Public Records Act when it responded to plaintiffs that collection and review of the requested records would take an estimated six months.[3] At the conclusion of the hearing, the trial court stated that it would sustain the exception of no cause of action, finding that the Parish had complied with plaintiffs' public records request by providing a deadline within which it would respond. Thus, by judgment dated March 21, 2018, the court sustained the Parish's exception of no cause of action and dismissed plaintiffs' petition with prejudice.[4]

         From this judgment, plaintiffs now appeal, contending that the trial court erred in: (1) failing to utilize the proper standard for consideration of an exception of no cause of action, which led to the erroneous granting of the exception; (2) failing to offer plaintiffs an opportunity to amend their petition to correct any alleged defect; and (3) failing to state clear reasons for the granting of the exception or to state why plaintiffs were not offered an opportunity to amend their pleadings.

         In connection with their appeal, plaintiffs filed a Motion to Supplement the Record on Appeal, attaching certain documents they purportedly received from the Parish in response to the public records request, including "determination letters" dated September 14, 2018 and October 19, 2018. Plaintiffs assert that the Parish's responses in the correspondence are inconsistent with the pleadings and oral representations made by the Parish to the trial court ...


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