NEW ORLEANS -- A criminal court clerk had his appeal converted into a supervisory writ in a funding case.
State Judge Terri Love, in the panel of the Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal, issued a six-page ruling on Oct. 3 granting the writ and affirming the Orleans Parish Civil District Court decision in the lawsuit filed by Orleans Parish Criminal Court clerk Arthur Morrell against the City of New Orleans.
In addition to the writ and the sustained decision, Love denied a request for relief filed by Morrell in the original suit.
Morrell sued the city with a writ of mandamus in order to obtain from the municipality adequate funding for the office.
As stated in the ruling, the clerk claimed the city violated state law, "by refusing to fund all 90.5 deputy clerk positions, thus improperly reducing the Clerk’s budget for 2017 after the funds were appropriated." Morrell sustained in his request that "mandamus was the proper procedural vehicle because the City’s statutory obligation to fund the Clerk’s office is ministerial in nature."
With claims that the office was funded in an adequate manner, the city filed exceptions to the writ, and the lower court denied the mandamus on Oct. 30, 2017, stating that "the Clerk’s budget had not been reduced and the annual appropriation has remained $3.726 million since 2012."
In her ruling, Love dismissed the clerk's ministerial claim, stating that "a ministerial duty is one in which no discretion is vested to the public officer," and that "the amount of money needed to fund the Clerk’s office is a factual determination and not a ministerial duty," sustaining the argument that "mandamus is not the proper procedural vehicle to determine whether the City adequately funded the Clerk’s office."
She also stated that the mandamus is "an extraordinary remedy, which must be used sparingly by the court and only to compel an action that is clearly provided by law."
The Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal Case No. is 2017-CA-1051.