Lawsuit over New Orleans DA’s subpoena record revived
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A civil rights group’s lawsuit against the New Orleans District Attorney over a 2015 public records request was revived Wednesday by a Louisiana appellate court.
The lawsuit was filed in May 2017 by the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center, which said District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro refused to turn over records documenting his use of subpoenas in response to the 2015 request. According to the court record, Cannizzaro had rejected the request as too burdensome and said the Clerk of Court would have records on file.
The issue became more complex two years after the request was made when news outlets reported that Cannizzaro’s office sometimes issued documents labeled as subpoenas that did not have court approval — thus the clerk would likely not have custody of them.
The court record also said MacArthur attorney Emily Washington learned that the District Attorney’s Office did not have a policy for maintaining records on those documents.
A New Orleans court dismissed Washington’s lawsuit in the matter on procedural grounds but the state 4th Circuit Court of Appeal revived it Wednesday, sending it back to the district court in New Orleans for further proceedings.
“For over three years, we have waited for the District Attorney to provide public records documenting his use of prosecutorial subpoena power to compel people to come to his office to be interviewed and give evidence,” Jim Craig, director of the MacArthur center’s Louisiana office, said in a news release. “Now we are entitled to the records, plus damages, penalties, and attorneys’ fees for this unjustified delay.”
An email from Cannizzaro’s public information officer said the district attorney’s office would evaluate the ruling before determining its next action.