BATON ROUGE — Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards has been using a group of trial lawyers to submit legacy lawsuits against oil and gas companies for their alleged role in destroying Louisiana's coastline in order to fill holes in the state's budget with settlement money, according to the Hayride.
One of the lawyers on his team is John Carmouche of Baton Rouge-based lawfirm Talbot, Carmouche & Marcello, who has a storied history of bullying critics of his lawsuits by suing them. The law firm stands to take home a wealthy haul if the lawsuits are successful.
Now, a media outlet that has covered Carmouche and his alleged schemes, the Hayride, is the target of Carmouche's latest lawsuit against one of his critics. The publication has been critical of Carmouche's campaign finance practices and financing gubernatorial attack ads.
“Journalists play an important role in our democracy," Jim Harris, director of the Coalition for Common Sense, told the Louisiana Record. "They play a central role in informing the public about what’s happening in the world and behind the scenes. They have a right and an obligation to call it like they see it. Any effort to stifle their voices should not be tolerated."
Carmouche has also attempted to depose a Louisiana State University researcher for publishing a report critical of the economic impacts of legacy lawsuits.
The report, written by David Dismukes, associate director of LSU's Center for Energy Studies, found that the state was losing out on an estimated $6.8 billion in revenue and 30,000 created jobs because legacy lawsuits disparage investment from the oil and gas industry.
"This is not the first time Mr. Carmouche has lashed out at those who disagree with his dubious legal schemes," Melissa Landry, executive director of Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch, told the Louisiana Record. "In fact, he has a history of using questionable tactics that can only be described as bullying and intimidation in an attempt to silence critics of his litigation."
Landry recently published an editorial lambasting Talbot, Carmouche & Marcello for their legacy lawsuit practices, which have made millions on behalf of private landowners by claiming oil and gas companies polluted their properties.
In response, Carmouche said Landry should "wake up and start reading rather than running her mouth to the newspaper."
"Fortunately, we live in a state that thrives on political discussion and public debate," Landry said. "I suspect this latest effort to stifle critics will only further fuel the opposition and drive more even citizens to support the fight for legal reform in Louisiana."