Judge: Attorney general’s suit must make governor defendant
NATCHITOCHES, La. (AP) — If Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry wants to continue a dispute over the governor’s appointments to a water commission, he must name Gov. John Bel Edwards as defendant in the lawsuit, a judge has ruled.
Judge Lala Sylvester said Landry has 45 days to amend the lawsuit if he wants to proceed.
The Republican attorney general claims the Democratic governor improperly appointed two members to the Red River Waterway Commission instead of another appointee nominated by local officials. The governor’s office said the appointments followed the law.
Landry sued the regulatory commission in Natchitoches Parish court in September, seeking to invalidate Edwards’ appointments.
Sylvester ruled Monday that Landry must sue Edwards directly in the dispute because Landry’s court challenge involved the governor’s authority over appointments, while the commission has no such decision-making over its membership.
Edwards called the lawsuit “frivolous,” saying it wasted taxpayer dollars for “purely political reasons.”
“It is my hope that we will now move forward and remain focused on our efforts of maintaining the safety of the region and the people who rely on us to do so,” the governor said in a statement Thursday.
But Landry’s office said it would amend the lawsuit and continue pursuing it.
“The decision was procedural. The judge did not rule the governor’s actions were legal. We remain confident that we will be successful on the merits,” Landry spokesman Jacques Ambers said in a statement.
The 11-member Red River Waterway Commission represents seven parishes in northwest and central Louisiana: Avoyelles, Bossier, Caddo, Grant, Natchitoches, Rapides, and Red River. It has seven district seats and four at-large seats.
The lawsuit targets Edwards’ refusal to appoint Carolyn Prator to the water commission despite her nomination by local officials. Prator is married to the Caddo Parish sheriff who has repeatedly criticized Edwards’ criminal justice overhaul.
Edwards shuffled a board member from an at-large seat to a district seat, rather than give the seat to Prator, and then filled the at-large seat with retired Col. Michael Deville of Rapides Parish. The governor’s office said the move ensured more racial and geographic diversity. Deville is black, and his appointment gave Rapides and Caddo parishes each two seats on the panel.
Landry’s lawsuit claimed the governor wasn’t able to reshuffle the appointees like he did and was required to follow the local nomination suggestion of Prator to the board.