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By Claire Juneau

Governor John Bel Edwards has sued Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry over Mr. Landry’s refusal to approve certain private legal counsel contracts. Governor Edwards alleges that Mr. Landry is the “chief legal officer of the state,” is “charged with the assertion or protection of any right or interest of [Louisiana],” and “is ethically required by the Rules of Professional Conduct promulgated by the Louisiana Supreme Court to abide by [his] client’s decisions concerning the objective of representation and to consult with [his] client as to the means by which they are to be pursued.” Governor Edwards seeks the immediate issuance of an alternative writ of mandamus compelling Mr. Landry “to perform his statutory ministerial duty to give written approval of the choice of counsel of the executive branch entities…” Governor Edwards alleges that Mr. Landry has rejected most of the contracts “on the grounds that the contracting attorneys should not have agreed not to discriminate in employment and the rendering of services in accordance with Executive Order No. JBE 2016-11.”

Governor Edwards alleges that the procedures for retention and employment of private counsel for the State of Louisiana are found in Louisiana Revised Statute § 42:262 and Louisiana Revised Statute § 49:258. Specifically, Revised Statute § 42:262(F)(1) provides in pertinent part:

In the event it should be necessary to protect the public interest, for any state board or commission to retain or employ any special attorney or counsel to represent it in any special matter for which services any compensation is to be paid, the board or commission may retain or employ such special attorney or counsel solely on written approval of the governor and the attorney general and pay only such compensation as the governor and the attorney general may designate or approve in the written approval.

And Revised Statute § 49:258 provides in pertinent part:

Notwithstanding the provisions of any other law to the contrary and specifically the provisions of any law that authorizes the state or a state agency to appoint, employ, or contract for private legal counsel to represent the state or a state agency, including but not limited to the provisions of R.S. 42:261, 262, and 263, and R.S. 40:1299.39(E), any appointment of private legal counsel to represent the state or a state agency shall be made by the attorney general with the concurrence of the commissioner of administration.

Governor Edwards argues that Revised Statute § 42:262 cannot be read alone and the discretion set forth with respect to boards and commissions is superseded by Revised Statute 49:258, which sets forth a “ministerial process for approval of private counsel, by both the Division of Administration and the Attorney General, and appointment by the Attorney General.” Governor Edwards asserts that Mr. Landry “has refused to perform” this ministerial duty.

A copy of the Petition for Writ of Mandamus can be found here:  Edwards v Landry.