Judicial watchdog group lobs 'activism' charge against Louisiana Third District Court of Appeals

By Kyle Barnett | Oct 24, 2013

Melissa Landry, executive director of Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch

BATON ROUGE –The Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch group has released a report alleging “judicial activist” decisions coming out of the judiciary at the Louisiana Third District Court of Appeals in Lake Charles.

The Third District is one of five state appeals courts, but Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch (LLAW) reports that it has the highest rate of cases overturned of any state circuit appeals court and account for 40 percent of all cases overturned by the state Supreme Court.

“The Louisiana Supreme Court has rebuked the 3rd Circuit for erring in amending jury verdicts and repeatedly ignoring the latest expression of law from the state’s high court, in order to achieve a desired outcome,” LLAW Executive Director Melissa Landry said.

LLAW’s report identifies multiple cases in which the Third District’s ruling that were later overturned by the La. Supreme Court.

“Taken together, these cases serve as strong evidence of the court’s tendencies toward judicial activism,” Landry said.

In LLAW’s examination of the Third Circuit’s decision to restore a $6.2 million dollar verdict in Oliver v. Magnolia Clinic, LLAW found that the court had blatantly gone against state law capping medical malpractice cases at $500,000, something which was later backed up by the Louisiana Supreme Court.

In another example, Arabie v. CITGO, LLAW shows the court’s decision to uphold the assessment of punitive damages against CITGO for an oil spill that injured 14 workers despite Louisiana disallowing the awarding of punitive damages. In that case the court relied on a Texas law allowing punitive damages and the award was later overturned by the state's high court.

Landry said such decisions that ignore state law are a clear indicator of judicial activism on behalf of the court.

“The implications of the Third Circuit’s march toward judicial activism are far reaching for Louisiana and the business community in particular as it is apparently becoming increasingly difficult for civil defendants to receive a fair shake in court,” Landry said.  “This is of particular concern given the unprecedented amount of new investments that are pouring into southwest Louisiana at the moment.  We hope our report may help shed some light on the current legal landscape and inspire discussion about how we can improve it.”

Click here to download the full report.

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