Louisiana hires top attorney to defend abortion restriction laws

By Chandra Lye | Feb 26, 2017

BATON ROUGE – Attorney General Jeff Landry and Gov. John Bel Edwards have agreed to hire a Washington, D.C. attorney to defend the state against a challenge to its abortion laws.

Kyle Duncan is known as a conservative attorney and the state finalized a contract with him on Jan. 13, following several months of delays.

Both Landry and Edwards have opposed abortion and there have been some restrictions to the procedure under their governance. Some of the restrictions include requiring women to wait 72 hours and to have an ultrasound before the procedure. There has also been a restriction on the dilation and evacuation procedure, which can usually involve using a vacuum aspiration and other surgical instraments. 

“Our office is committed to doing all we legally can to defend the seven pro-life laws passed by the legislature and signed by the governor,” Landry told the Louisiana Record in a written statement. “The challenge of our state laws is the largest ever filed; and the defense of these bills is one of the top priorities of our Legislature, who passed these laws in an overwhelming bipartisan majority.”

One of the hold ups to hiring Duncan was a concern the Edwards administration had with the way Landry wanted to issue payment to the lawyer.

Duncan will be earning $385 per hour, which is much higher than private attorneys in the state, who are capped at $225 per hour. Duncan’s firm has a payment cap of $50,000, but the contract could be amended allowing more to be paid out to the firm.

“Mr. Duncan is being paid based upon his expertise and experience,” said Landry. “Mr. Duncan has argued cases on behalf of the state of Louisiana, and previous contracts for his services were approved by the former attorney general and governor’s office.”

Another problem Edwards had with hiring Duncan was the attorney’s refusal to abide by the now obsolete workplace protections for LGBT people. The governor had demanded that all state contractors prohibit discrimination of LGBT in their workplaces.

When it comes to freedom for LGBT individuals, Edwards and Duncan do not agree. One of Duncan’s cases to be tried later this year includes the rights of a transgender individual versus the rights of a Virginia school district. As the lawyer for the school board, Duncan is advocating for restrictions to bathroom access of transgenders. The challenge comes by a teen who was born a girl but is seeking permission to use the boys bathroom because the teen identifies as a boy.

Duncan has already been working with the state on its defense to the challenges to abortion restrictions and his contract his retroactive from October 2016 and will expire in September.

“We cannot speculate how long the case will take; however, we are committed to seeing this defense through and ensuring the rule of law is followed,” Landry said.

Duncan was born and raised in Baton Rouge and formerly served as the state’s solicitor general. He has previously worked with the state defending the same-sex marriage ban in 2015 and for previous work done for former Gov. Bobby Jindal on abortion restrictions.

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