BATON ROUGE — Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards and Attorney General Jeff Landry clearly could have a better relationship.
Since taking office earlier this year both men have engaged in and ongoing public feud, which has highlighted the continuous problems of the state's legal system.
The most recent episode deals with Edwards forming a legal team to represent a group of parishes in lawsuits against the oil and gas companies claiming damages to coastal wetlands. Edwars was criticized for cronyism after tapping attorney and former state representative Taylor Townsend, who also happens to be co-chair to the group that helped Edwards get elected in the first place, to represent the state in the coastal land loss litigation.
However, the formation of the team has been seen by some as a slap in the face to Landry, as the governor has put it together the legal strategy without the attorney general's approval.
“The conflict results from the nature of Louisiana's legal system, in that there is a history of using judicial judgments to promulgate policy and redistribute resources,” Jeffrey Sadow, associate professor of political science at Louisiana State University — Shreveport, told the Louisiana Record.
Sadow’s comments ring true as Landry and Edwards continue to fight. With a potential payout in the billions and a legal team made up of friends of his campaign, many say Edwards' suit illustrates the problems in the state's legal system.
While Edwards' friends stand to make a large sum of money, critics argue the effects of a such a dynamic could have a negative impact on the state’s residents.
“Should suits succeed against oil companies for alleged damage to coastal areas, state government can use the proceeds to pay for bigger government and the energy sector will face another headwind for economic development,” Sadow said. “Both will have an impact on people in that some groups will reap greater benefits from government and economic growth will be slowed, affecting the lives of others.”
With so much at stake for the state's economy and environment, a partnership between the two parties and Edwards and Landry would likely be more beneficial for the state as a whole.
Edwards ran for governor saying that the state needed a healthy dose of common sense, but with continuous contention between governor and attorney general the state may have a long way to go in seeking improvements and growth.