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UPDATE: St. Martin Parish alleges technical, legal and factual issues with LCG suit

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Posted at 10:33 AM, Apr 08, 2022

St. Martin Parish Government's response to an LCG lawsuit alleges that Lafayette City-Parish Government made so many mistakes in filing it that it shouldn't go forward.

At issue is LCG removing decades-old spoil banks from the Vermilion River, allegedly under cover of darkness and without permits. The project currently is under investigation by the US Army Corps of Engineers, to determine if corps permits were required - because none were granted. St. Martin Parish already has alleged that required parish permits weren't obtained and was preparing to file suit. But last month, LCG filed a Petition for Declaratory Judgment, asking the court to rule that a US Army Corps permit wasn't required and the ordinance requiring a St. Martin Parish permit is unconstitutional.

LCG's Petition, which you can read for yourself here, singles out Parish President Chester Cedars for several allegations, implying that he was slow to act and that LCG needed to move forward. The Exception refers to that, describing it as "abusive, insulting, unwarranted and demeaning personal attacks permeating its petition."

The Exception also says that LCG's actions, and even the allegations in its Petition, shows "LCG's clear belief that it is above the law."

The Exception alleges that LCG's lawsuit should be dismissed for numerous technical issues and that, if it isn't dismissed, LCG should be required to correct the errors and omissions in it before St. Martin is required to file an Answer.

The first issue in the list of declinatory, peremptory and dilatory exceptions alleged by St. Martin is a simple one: venue.

Because all of the work occurred in St. Martin Parish, which is in the 16th Judicial District, the suit should be filed there, the Exception alleges. Additionally, because St. Martin Parish Government is a government, the suit against it must be filed in its judicial district.

Louisiana law provides that "all suits against a political subdivision of the state...shall be instituted before the district court of the judicial district in which the political subdivision is located..." the Exception states. St. Martin Parish alleges that LCG filed the suit in Lafayette Parish because there's a belief that a local judge will just let them violate an ordinance and then say they didn't need to comply because it's not constitutional.

"Presumably, LCG belives the Court will simply rubber-stamp LCG's own legal determination, after the fact, as that in LCG's apparent estimation, is the proper role of the judiciary," the Memo in Support states. "In this case, LCG has determined for itself the laws it will and will not obey, and seeks judicial approval of its admitted repudiation of a law it finds inconvenient."

The Exception also lists various "erroneous legal conclusions" on the part of LCG and alleges that Lafayette's actions were "willful, complete, utter, arrogant and intentional disregard" of St. Martin Parish government's ordinance.

The LCG lawsuit alleges the ordinance requiring a permit was enacted exclusively to stop LCG's project, but the Exception says that it was passed six months before LCG even bought its interest in the property where the spoil banks were removed. And, although LCG knew about the ordinance, it never challenged it in court before performing the work, the Exception alleges.

The Exception also alleges that LCG's references to the spoil bank project - and a previously planned project that apparently was abandoned after the permit application was withdrawn - are too vague. LCG alleges that the second project didn't disturb any wetlands - but doesn't say how that conclusion was reached, the Exception alleges.

The Exception alleges that the LCG petition is incomplete in that it leaves out facts that are required for the court to make a decision and that, although LCG alleges it complied with all laws, it doesn't say which ones or how it has complied. It also alleges that, since the ordinance in question was never challenged or struck down before the work was done, LCG can't get a Declaratory Judgment for work that may have violated it.

The Exception states that St. Martin Parish can't even draft an Answer to LCG's lawsuit because it lacks specifics and facts that explain exactly what LCG is alleging.

"In summary, LCG's Petition is completely vague as to the specific matters for which it seeks a Declaratory Judgment," the Exception states. "LCG fails to allege each and every one of the "regulations, ordinances, rules, procedures and laws" with which it allegedly complied" and LCG fails also to state what it did to comply with those laws, and even fails to explain why a Corps permit wasn't required.

Thursday's filing follows an executive session with Cedars at the St. Martin Parish Council, which happened on Tuesday. In Louisiana, it is legal for public bodies to hold discussions behind closed doors if they involve strategy in a threatened or pending legal matter. This case would qualify because LCG already had filed suit naming St. Martin Parish.

If you'd like to read the Exception - and the Memorandum in Support of it - for yourself, here they are: