BATON ROUGE – New Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards is under pressure to address the three high-profile lawsuits left behind by Former Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.
The lawsuits involve controversial topics that became key issues during Jindal’s bid for the Republican presidential nomination, including Planned Parenthood, Common Core standards, and same-sex marriage.
Edwards was sworn into office on January 11. Almost immediately, news outlets began clamoring for him to tackle a host of issues, from the large raises Jindal granted to state employees to the three lawsuits.
“We also have a new attorney general,” Professor Dane Ciolino, legal ethics expert at Loyola University New Orleans College of Law told the Louisiana Record. “You can’t just focus on the governor. The attorney general has control over most of the state’s litigation, and he’s new as well.”
Attorney General Jeff Landry also took office this month. In a statement released on Jan. 26, he stated, “Previous Governors have overreached their Constitutional authority. I appreciate Governor Edwards’ recognition of the Attorney General’s role over legal issues involving the State of Louisiana.”
Two of the lawsuits the new officials will have to tackle are cases that Jindal lost, but that may be eligible for appeal.
The Jindal administration cut off Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood clinics after an anti-abortion group released videos claiming the organizational illegally sells fetal tissue. A federal judge ordered the state to continue funding health services provided by Planned Parenthood, including cancer screenings and gynecology exams.
In the Common Core lawsuit, filed in 2014, Jindal alleged that President Obama was manipulating $4.3 billion in federal grant money and policy waivers to pressure states to adopt Common Core standards and associated testing. Jindal lost this case as well.
While an appeal may be possible, later legislation provided by the Obama administration may have removed the need for one. The December overhaul of the No Child Left Behind education prevents the federal government from mandating that states adopt particular academic standards or incentivizing them to do so.
Jimmy Faircloth, the attorney representing Jindal in these cases, said that he would look to the Edwards administration for guidance on whether or not to proceed with an appeal.
“So it remains to be seen what direction both of these newly elected officials will take with regard to the handling of state litigation,” Ciolino said.“Both the attorney general and the governor are going to have to look at the pending cases and make decisions about how they’re going to move forward.”
The third case is currently in state district court, where the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Louisiana, the Forum for Equality Foundation, and six residents of New Orleans are challenging the Marriage and Conscience executive order. This order, issued by Jindal, prohibits state agencies from denying license, benefits, contracts or tax deductions because of a religious belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.
Unless Edwards rescinds the order, it will remain in place until August 2016. So far, Edwards has made no statement about his plans for the Marriage and Conscience order.