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Judge agrees to let LCG try one more time to fix lawsuit

U.S. Western District Courthouse
Posted at 12:37 PM, Aug 19, 2022

A federal judge has agreed to allow Lafayette City-Parish Government to try one more time to fix the lawsuit it filed in the St. Martin Parish spoil banks controversy.

Records show that U.S. District Judge James D. Cain Jr. gave LCG 14 days "to file a final Motion for Leave to Amend and attempt to cure the deficiencies in its claims against (St. Martin Parish Government). SMPG will then have the opportunity to oppose this motion and address the merits of the underlying claims."

Last month, the judge dismissed LCG's claim against St. Martin Parish, saying it was legally premature. The suit basically had asked the court to issue a ruling that LCG's actions in the project didn't violate any laws and were all taken properly.

After the dismissal, LCG asked the court for permission to revise its filings to try to cure the problems that led to it. In his 14-page order, the judge lists some of the issues with LCG's previous filings and says that the Motion asking for permission to amend the complaint "is subject to denial on the basis of futility. The court will, however, allow plaintiff one final attempt at curing the deficiencies identified above in its claims."

This would be the third time LCG amended its complaint since it was removed to federal court in April.

At issue is a project that LCG already has completed in St. Martin Parish, which removed decades-old levees on property partially owned by LCG. St. Martin Parish officials said that LCG did the project in the dark of night, and without permits from either the parish or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. LCG already had filed for a permit at a different location with the Corps; that permit application was withdrawn after St. Martin told the Corps that no parish permits for it would be granted.

LCG filed suit in state court, asking a Lafayette judge to rule that the project was done properly. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had it removed to federal court, which is where it was dismissed last month - with regard to St. Martin Parish. That's the dismissal that this recent ruling addresses.

The suit against the corps remains, although the corps has asked for its dismissal. That Motion is set to be considered on August 31, records show.

To read about the dismissal of LCG's claim against St. Martin Parish, click here. The day after that suit was dismissed, St. Martin Parish filed suit against LCG in state court, asking a judge to order LCG to restore the spoil banks it removed. To read about that, click here.

In their Motion to Dismiss, the Corps revealed that they had called in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to investigate "flagrant, wilfull violations" in the project. We reached out to the EPA, who told us the agency has "received this case and is currently reviewing it."

The Corps also stated that they had "issued a Cease-and-Desist Order to Plaintiff confirming (Clean Water Act and Rivers and Harbors Act) violations." To read that story, click here.

The Current has posted several stories about the process surrounding the project, including the contract - which cost $3.7 million but was never publicly bid because LCG used a $390,000 "as-needed excavation" contractor to do the work. To read that story, click here.

Today, we called Steven Oxenhandler, attorney for St. Martin, who said his client "accepts and understands the court's ruling and we await LCG's reponse."

We also reached out to LCG for any comment they might have and will update this story with whatever we receive.