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Judicial activism at its worst? State judge rules law prohibiting levee authority’s wetlands damage

The Times-Picayune reports 19th Judicial District Court Judge Janice Clark ruled Act 544, a law passed by the 2014 Legislature to halt the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East’s wetlands damage lawsuit was an unconstitutional violation of separation of powers because it attempted to reverse the judge’s March 10 ruling that the levee authority is an independent political subdivision. In her brief ruling — only 10 sentences long — Clark confirmed her Oct. 6 verbal ruling that the SLFPA-East “is an independent political subdivision and not a state agency,” and thus Act 544 does not apply to it. In addition to the separation of powers violation, Clark found that the law violates the constitution’s “public trust doctrine,” by blocking the ability of the levee authority to “redress issues with coastal restoration particularly insofar as those are related to hurricane protections.”

Several legal observers noted that the ruling is unusual because Clark addressed constitutional issues involving the state law after already finding that the law’s language problems resulted in it not applying to the authority. Shannon Bates, deputy communications director for Governor Jindal said, “We disagree with the ruling. It was improper for the court to decide this important issue in an unrelated case – one that was filed months before this law was even passed. The law is constitutional. For these reasons we expect the ruling to be reversed on appeal.” Gladstone Jones, the lead attorney for the authority in the case said, “We respect the court’s decision. We anticipate an appeal to the Louisiana Supreme Court and we will be prepared to protect our clients interests in that forum.”

Read the full report online here.

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