26 November 2011

fascinating public records lawsuit from 1997: charles joseph yeager et al vs judge ross foote and other judges of the ninth judicial district court

in this 1997 La. R.S. 44:1 et seq., public records lawsuit, the plaintiffs charles joseph yeager and damion cooks are, according to the petition, attempting to get public records relating to "the correspondence of the judges with the idb [indigent defender board] and its members, or received from the idb, 1984 - june 1, 1994, and the correspondence of each of the chief judges for the years 1992 - 1996."

you can tell from mr. yeager's opening petition and its accompanying memorandum that he was one pissed off white man.

we especially enjoyed this passage:

Only in Alexandria, Louisiana, are judges so powerful and important that they consider themselves above the rule of law, and violate the law ex propio (sic) motu. The people of Alexandria are truly blessed to have jurists who do not require law to be just.
anyway, the judges argued (1) that the records that mr. yeager wanted were not public records and (2) that in any case the open meeting law and public records law didnt apply to the judiciary due to the "inherent powers doctrine" of the judiciary to regulate its own affairs and cited: imbornone v early et al 401 so. 2d 953 (la 1981) as well as attorney general opinion 96-229 as proof.

despite that however, the judges eventually did give mr. yeager as many of the records that they had (a lot were inexplicably missing):
Although still asserting that they are under no duty to comply with the Public Records Law by constitutional right, in the interests of justice and to protect the honor and reputation of the Ninth Judicial Court and the magisterium of the Court, for the benefit of the people and their necessary trust for the integrity of the Court, the judges have voluntarily and formally complied with the Public Records Law nonetheless, tendering the correspondence requested and affidavits of verification required by that law, in the desire to amicably settle this litigation.
interestingly, the judges either couldnt get or didnt trust any alexandria attorneys to represent them. they were represented by shreveport attorney larry feldman, jr., of the weiner, weiss & madison law firm.

Yeager vs Foote
click here to download 61 page .pdf [1.85 mb]