BATON ROUGE – A district court ruled on Dec. 14 that Gov. John Bel Edwards unconstitutionally side-stepped the Legislature and created law, ruling that his recent Executive Order No. JBE 16-11 is unconstitutional and cannot be enforced.
“The attorney general brought this case to ask the judge if Gov. Edwards’ executive order was constitutional,” Ruth Wisher, press secretary for the attorney general’s office, told the Louisiana Record.
The office of the attorney general noted that the ruling was not focused on one subject area, clarifying that the ruling relates to constitutional and legal authority vested in the governor's office, the attorney general’s office, and the legislature.
From the ruling: “The disputes framed in the petitions to this court challenge the legal authority of constitutionally created elected state officers within the executive branch of Louisiana state government and whether the activities complained of by each are within the lawful parameters of authority established by constitutional and statutory law – not policy.”
The ruling confirmed that the governor cannot make law without executive orders.
“The sole purpose for the issuance of an executive order is to provide the office of the governor with a mechanism to ‘faithfully execute the laws of the state of Louisiana,'” the ruling states.
The court then noted that Executive Order JBE 16-11 “is an infringement upon the constitutional authority vested soley upon the legislature.”
It also confirmed the power to approve attorneys representing the state. The court ruled that the Constitution grants the attorney general “broad powers and authority over the state’s legal affairs,” also noting that the attorney general has approval over the appointment of private legal counsel for state agencies, boards and commissions.
From the ruling: "The attorney general is vested with the authority to use his/her discretion in approving contracts for private legal counsel to state agencies, boards and/or commissions.”
Lastly, the ruling noted the attorney general retains the right to intervene in cases. The court further reiterated the constitutional provisions that allow the attorney general the right to intervene in cases. The Louisiana Constitution, Article IV, Section 8 states: “the attorney general shall have authority (1) to institute, prosecute, or intervene in any civil action or proceeding…”
“I applaud Judge (Todd) Hernandez for basing his ruling on the law, not politics,” Attorney General Landry said in a statement. “My challenge has always been about upholding the checks and balances on executive authority as established in our State Constitution.
“In the last eight years, outgoing President Barack Obama has used a phone and a pen to advance an unpopular agenda that he could not get Congress to support. Repeatedly, courts have struck down his actions noting the president cannot simply sidestep the people’s elected representatives in Congress. Now, John Bel Edwards is using the same Washington-style politics and games here in Louisiana.
“After efforts to advance his extreme agenda failed by large bipartisan majorities in the legislature, John Bel Edwards took it upon himself to replace the people’s will with his own. Fortunately for the families and businesses in our state, the court ruled today that the governor’s executive fiat will not fly in Louisiana.
“We do not live under a king in Louisiana; we have a governor, an independent attorney general, an elected legislature, and a court system who are all involved in governance along with others. Gov. Edwards must live within the Constitution.
“I am pleased that the court has enjoined the enforcement of John Bel’s executive order. My office and I will continue to stand up for our Constitution and the democratic process.”