BATON ROUGE – In light of the recent historic floods in Louisiana, authorities on Aug. 16 issued a curfew of 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. in East Baton Rouge.
On Aug. 19, East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Sid Gautreaux announced the lifting of the curfew after Jarrett P. Ambeau, lawyer with the Ambeau Law Firm, delivered a federal lawsuit against the state.
"I personally brought the sheriff the copy of the federal lawsuit around 11 o'clock in the morning on the day that he withdrew the curfew,” Ambeau told the Louisiana Record. “And he held a news conference within 90 minutes and withdrew the curfew. Now, that could just have been happenstance, for sure. One may not have been related to the other. And again, after having been given service of the federal lawsuit, he may have decided that it was time to lift the curfew."
Ambeau said he filed the lawsuit because plaintiffs believed the curfew was a "deprivation of liberty” and a violation of constitutional rights, keeping Louisiana residents from helping each other.
"I think the sheriff's intent was good,” Ambeau said. “I think that the mayor's intent was good. I think that the governor's intent was good … I just thought that the use of the curfew at that time was interfering with the citizens' right and ability to make money to pay for this difficult situation."
That potential consequence of the curfew drove his decision, Ambeau said.
“And, really, that was the issue," he said. "That was the reason we filed the lawsuit. We felt like there was collateral consequence to what was ... probably a matter put in place for good reason, but there was a collateral consequence that people hadn't considered that should've been considered when keeping the curfew in place for an extended number of days.”
Ambeau said the plaintiffs had dropped the lawsuit not because they had changed their viewpoint on the curfew but because the end goal was for the parish not to have a curfew.
"We withdrew the lawsuit because ... our goal from the beginning was to have the curfew lifted and let everybody go back to work,” he said. “And when that happened, then there was no reason for us to continue to go forward.”
He said that because of the curfew some “damages” may have occurred – loss of business and loss of revenue – but that they were not as substantial as the larger losses tied to the flooding.
“[The damages] don't outweigh the loss – the profound loss – of quality of life for so many people on the parish. There wasn't ever a balance between, 'Hey, we lost a few bucks and these people lost their home.' It wasn't that kind of thing. It was, 'Hey, give us an opportunity to make money, give these people an opportunity to come to work and make money and give our employees an opportunity – don't take that away from us.'”
In the end, Ambeau said he and the plaintiffs wanted the best for the parish during the current difficult situation.
"There's no reason for us to continue with the suit,” he said. “Our goal has been accomplished here.”