Looks like I was in the wrong courtroom yesterday…..

The business world always slows down in advance of the Christmas holiday so yesterday I took advantage and headed to US District Court in New Orleans and a major pretrial hearing in the Heather Hilliard civil suit against Jefferson Parish. The hearing was attended by all the finest people but before I get to that the following is spreading like wildfire in the NOLA legal community:

Judge berates lawyer in OPP case as new jail’s opening is delayed again ~ Jim Mustian

The judge also raised concerns Wednesday that the sprawling jail litigation has become “overlawyered,” noting Gusman now has two private law firms handling the case, while Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration also has engaged two firms. The city remains actively involved in the litigation because state law requires it to pay for inmate care.

Williams, of the firm Gauthier, Houghtaling & Williams, has joined attorney Blake Arcuri and the Usry, Weeks & Matthews firm in providing legal services to the sheriff. The city, meanwhile, has relied on Harry Rosenberg, a former U.S. attorney who works for the firm Phelps Dunbar, and Ralph Capitelli, of Capitelli & Wicker, in addition to the advice of City Attorney Sharonda Williams.

The mounting legal fees are being doled out even as the city and the Sheriff’s Office continue to fight over how to spend limited resources on changes at the jail. “The taxpayers are paying for it at the end of the day,” Africk said.

It’s not clear why Gusman decided to hire a second law firm, though the sheriff has faced a torrent of litigation prompted by OPP’s violent conditions, even apart from the consent decree proceedings.

Spokespeople for Gusman and Landrieu did not respond to questions Wednesday about how much the Sheriff’s Office and city are paying the attorneys.

Its only money after all folks. Maybe Judge Africk remembered this:

Lee Zurik Investigation: Sheriff’s budget bloated by mystery legal fees

Speaking of Harry Rosenberg, he was one of the finest people that attended the Heather Hilliard hearing so he had a full day there at the Federal Courthouse and appeared to be particularly juiced up for the day when I saw him yesterday morning. The Hilliard hearing, which turned into somewhat of a snoozer at times sets the stage for next month’s trial. The Parish is being capably represented by Tommy Anzelmo, an old legal salt that like me wears hearing aids. My only complaint is the courtroom acoustics in Judge Triche-Milazzo’s courtroom were bad and I had trouble hearing certain exchanges between the Attorneys and Judge Triche-Milazzo. Speaking of Attorneys Bobby Truitt is representing Ms Hilliard and we all know he does bang up work.

Now at this point I could be a very bad, wascally wabbit, but I won’t except to say that back sealing court documents rarely works. That said, it strongly appears the Consulting Group hired by the Parish to investigate the allegations of a hostile work environment evidently has no clue about the importance of basic record retention policies which makes you wonder how they could ever be hired to investigate the local dogcatcher, let alone hostile workplace allegations at a very large local government but it is what it is. However, a reasonable observer could also conclude the consultants could be taking a fall to cover for someone else as there is no denying evidence was spoilated in the case. Judge Triche-Milazzo spoke of a communication failure when she denied the related Heather Hilliard’s motion, which can be found right here on Slabbed. Because of the legal issues involved it is unclear whether we’ll ever get to the bottom of this.

The trial is set for next month and that is exactly where this case is going. There are whispers in Jefferson Parish political circles about there being very hard feelings involving Parish Prez Young and his former CAO Heather Hilliard which in turn impacts settlement possibilities. As for Ms Hilliard I visited briefly with her yesterday but there was not much she could tell me on the record. That said I came away with the impression that she is a determined litigant as well so the stage is set for trial. I’m personally hoping that mucho dirty laundry is aired next month as it is good for business here on Slabbed. Stay tuned.

9 thoughts on “Looks like I was in the wrong courtroom yesterday…..”

  1. http://www.sunherald.com/2014/12/17/5975041/srhs-brings-in-crisis-management.html?sp=/99/184/201/ Not trying to change the subject but I believe the re-spinning is beginning over in Jackson County at the SRHS. I feel certain Richard Lucas ,the in house PR man, is starting to feel the heat of speaking for others he does not quite believe in. I have spent a lifetime creating, reshaping ,improving or denigrating the images of clients and their adversaries. I would have given them some free advice if asked and this advice would have started with 1) Tell the truth no matter what 2) Do not evade employee questions with “Sorry the lawsuits do not allow us to answer” 3) Never let an attorney speak for the system in public except in the court room. 4) Hire local or instate people to do your crisis management. 5) Ask the board of trustees to not speak in public,they are just terrible and should be removed or step down. I bet the most recent move creates more problems than solutions for SRHS. Sure appears the hospital’s law firm has now taken charge of the decision making. Next they will replace LPNs with paralegals I guess.

      1. Yikes!

        Here’s why you hire crisis managers. To prevent further embarrassments. Also to quickly buy a clue.

        Harrison County Utility Authority board welcomes the spotlight

        Marlin Ladner, who represents the Harrison County Board of Supervisors on the board, welcomed the attention. In fact, he said, perhaps if the media had been more attentive, there would have been less temptation to break the law.

        He said as hundred of millions in federal money came to the authority to rebuild and update sewer systems in the wake of Katrina, reporters showed up on only a couple of occasions.

        “When they hear the rumors, they show up,” he said. “Then it’s too late.”

        Talk about blame shifting.

        1. Talk about blame shifting is not in the quote. It is additional commentary supplied by me, and due to a fat finger error does not belong where it appears above.

          It was supposed to look like

          Talk about blame shifting.

            1. HCUA has been on my back burner for so long I can’t remember what most of my unanswered HCUA questions were. Now between the indictments and this purported Gulf Coast Glasnost, maybe I’ll be reviewing and following through.

              Post HCUA indictment a quick review confirmed my recollection was correct concerning a certain matter I believe I had posted on earlier. Perhaps other memories may be refreshed. OCR errors left as present in the version I excepted from

              REPOST (IIRC)

              August 6, 2009
              Be it remembered that a meeting of the Harrison County Utility Authority Board of
              Directors was heici on August 6, 2009 at 9:00 am. at the Harrison County Utility
              Authority Board Room, at 10271 Express Drive in Gulfport, Mississippi. In
              attendance were:
              BOARD AND STAFF:
              Mayor A. J. Holloway, City of Biloxi, Director
              Supervisor Kim Savant, Harrison County (1), Director
              Supervisor Marlin Ladner, Harrison County (2), Director
              Mayor George Schloegel, City of Gulfport, Director
              Mayor Chipper McDermott, City of Pass Christian, Director
              Mayor Rusty Quave, City of D’lberville, Director
              Mr. Kamran Pahlavan, P.E., Executive Director, HCUA
              Mr. James Athanaelos, Comptroller, HCUA
              Mr. Paul Vanderfin, Compliance Officer, HCUA
              Ms. Merri Ann Testa, Procurement Specialist, HCUA
              Ms. Kristen Stanovich, Administrative Assistant, HCUA
              Mr. Bart Clover, Project Coordinator, HCUA
              Mr. Len Biackwell, Blackwell’s Attorneys, Esquire”

              One section of the minutes of above described meeting (count the indictees and agencies involved in some of the various schemes):

              “d) Letter to DEQ — Scott Walker’s Request – Mr. Pahlavan said Mr.
              Scott Walker gave a presentation at the July 9, 2009 Board Meeting regarding
              underground mapping of sewer lines. Mr. Walker requested that the Board
              authorize Mr. Pahlavan to send a letter to MDEQ to support this program.
              After discussion, Mayor Schloegel made a motion to table this until further
              information could be obtained seconded by Supervisor Savant.
              Supervisor Savant requested that someone from the Utiiity Authority research not
              only what Mr. Walker‘s company does but research the possible uses of any
              surplus funds other than this. After discussion, Mayor Schloegel withdrew his
              motion. The Board decided not to respond to Mr. Waiker’s request at this time.”

              View for yourself at http://www.hcua-ms.us/minutes/09-0806Minutes.pdf

              Here’s hoping a spirit of openness ensues wrt HCUA and blog/media scrutiny of same.

          1. I am going to have to send my business card to Marlin. He is a tightly wound individual who thinks he is more intelligent than a spider monkey. He oversees a part of the county that allows for his rougher around the edges personality. I am also glad to give him some free advice. 1) Shut up 2) Take some blame for not knowing what Savant was up to (if you didn’t) 3) Be very careful with the spending of the public’s money 4) Do not act like you really love the attention a federal investigation and indictments bring 5) read #1 again. All of the HCUA directors should have been able to see the annual escalation in dollars paid to SH Anthony was way over the top except Al Gumbo of D’Iberville (that is how you pronounce it) who was too busy flying around with Scott Walker and Gentry Williams trying to find some dirty laundry.Hell he could have stayed home and found plenty .

  2. I have known Richard Lucas for years thru professional organizations. His credibility is now near zero and I feel certain he is not replying to anyone without the permission of the SRHS lawyers. I do not think Slabbed.org may is on the preferred list of news outlets along with all of the others who are hammering them,rightfully so.

  3. Reasons:
    1) The sheriff is funding a friends & family plan contributor, Williams.
    2) You’d think that the Gauthier scum would handle the victims of “OPP’s violent conditions,” but then it’s far, far better to draw a weekly paycheck than trying to collect from a government entity, du verstanden?

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