A judge on Monday reprimanded Lafayette City Marshal Brian Pope for “foot dragging” on his contempt-of-court sentence, which requires the marshal to perform 173 hours of instruction on public records law and the consequences for ignoring it.
The sentence stems from The Independent’s lawsuit against Pope, wherein 15th Judicial District Judge Jules Edwards found the marshal in contempt for withholding some emails from the news organization after court-ordered to produce them. Along with a seven-day house-arrest sentence, Edwards ordered Pope to teach people about records law and provide a detailed lesson plan, including information on his targeted audience, before performing the work.
Edwards called Pope to court to show why he hadn’t made a move on the remaining part of sentence.
Pope’s attorney, Joy Rabalais, said he hadn’t begun work on the year-old sentence because it didn’t take effect until November, when the state Supreme Court denied Pope’s request to review the penalty. She also said Edwards never stated any deadline in his order detailing the sentence.
Coaxed by the court summons, Rabalais and Pope did submit a lesson plan to the judge. But Edwards said it did not meet his standards.
Rabalais said she compiled the document based on a public-records class for lawyers, which she took as part of her continuing education requirements. The information was to be presented primarily to individual public officials.
“Meeting individually with public servants is not what I had in mind with the words ‘public instruction,'” Edwards said, referencing words he used when handing down the March 2016 sentence. He said the marshal should tailor the instruction to organizations who will host him in front of groups and who will provide documentation that he performed the service in front of an audience.
Edwards also said the marshal would have to create his own lesson plans, not his attorney, and could use his weekly public-access TV show, “Holding Accountable” — during which deputy marshals advertise fugitives — to produce a piece on public records law.
Pope has 14 days to provide an updated lesson plan. Edwards also ordered him to complete the community service by September 2018, which is two months before his probation term ends.
Meanwhile, Pope is scheduled for a criminal trial in September on a seven-count felony indictment that stemmed from the public records lawsuit. He faces counts of perjury and misuse of public funds.
The Independent sued the marshal when he refused to answer a public records request for emails, which ultimately showed Pope used his public office in attempt to influence the 2015 Lafayette Parish Sheriff election.