On Friday the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association filed suit against Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, claiming he illegally approved a New Orleans flood protection board’s contract with lawyers suing 97 oil, gas and pipeline companies over coastal wetlands loss.
|Photos by Robin May|
|LOGA's Don Briggs||AG Buddy Caldwell|
The Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East's suit against oil companies was filed in July. Now LOGA is asking a state court in Baton Rouge to declare invalid Caldwell’s approval of the contingency-fee contract with the firm of Jones, Swanson, Huddell & Garrison.
“LOGA believes the process by which the contract was approved violates the law. The Attorney General acted outside his authority in allowing the board to hire these attorneys," LOGA President Don Briggs says in a Monday press release announcing the suit. "Finally, the Constitution requires that any funds from such a judgment must be received by the state treasury, not the board itself. This lawsuit attempts to correct those violations of law and reverse the Attorney General’s approval of that resolution.”
Caldwell maintains that his office’s role was simply to review the contract and ensure the lawyers are qualified to practice in Louisiana. He also was charged with determining whether the fees charged are “within the parameters normally paid by Louisiana agencies under similar circumstances.” He says the suit meets all the criteria.
|Photo by Robin May|
|This aerial photograph shows canals oil and gas companies cut through Louisiana's wetlands. The SLFPA-E's suit claims the companies ravaged the state's coastal landscape, which is the first line of defense for South Louisiana's communities against the destructive forces of hurricanes.|
In an August letter to the AG on LOGA’s behalf, the law firm Mahtook & Lafleur asked Caldwell to withdraw his approval of the resolution approving the contingency fee contract. Caldwell refused.
LOGA’s suit seeks declaratory judgment and injunctive relief.
“Our members collectively believe that, as the state’s head lawyer, Attorney General Caldwell is responsible for directly hiring and compensating special counsel, rendering his sign-off of hiring and compensating counsel by the SLFPA-E board improper,” Briggs says in the release. “Caldwell acted outside his authority in approving the resolution. The law expressly names the Attorney General as counsel for that specific levee board, and the Legislature has never granted any authority to the board to hire its own counsel.”
View LOGA's suit here.