Houston-based lawyer Philip Robert Brinson, who was assigned to defend a libel suit filed by Billy Broussard after The Daily Iberian ignored the suit for a staggering 188 days and found itself at the complete mercy of District Judge Suzanne deMahy entailing a default judgment filed by Broussard for $287,163.75 against the newspaper.
Though it has been quite some time (almost eight months), subscribers and visitors to our blog may recall Billy Broussard having sued the Daily Iberian, the local New Iberia newspaper whose corporate owner is Arizona-based Wick Communications.
The suit entails what Broussard asserts is, “nothing short of journalistic malpractice” entailing a then-reporter for the newspaper, Dwayne Fatherree, having published this August 4, 2021 article in which Broussard assets the publication, on four (4) instances in that one article, falsely accused him of burning notwithstanding that, at a meeting of the St. Martin Parish Council of the prior day, August 3, 2021, Broussard (and others, including then-Parish Administrator Calder “Pop” Hebert) repeatedly emphasized that, “there has been no burning” on his property.
Fortunately, we were there to videotape the meeting, and we’re about to present (once again) the video of the discussion of an Ordinance (Article 1, Chapter 26, to enact Ordinance 26-10) which was being proposed and which was the subject matter of that segment of the Council meeting. Here it is in its entirety:
August 3, 2021 consideration of Ordinance by SMP Council in its entirety. It’s worth noting that, beginning at the 30:35 mark of the video, Broussard repeatedly stressed the fact that there has been “no burning” on the property.
Anybody watching that video can easily surmise that Fatherree simply dreamed up the four (4) instances wherein he (clearly) falsely claimed Broussard was “burning.” To put it bluntly, the video is what the video is, and it does not even remotely back up what Fatheree published entailing Broussard “burning.” It’s literally that simple!
Broussard has also repeatedly stressed the fact that, notwithstanding all the uproar that would transpire about 120 days after Fatheree’s article in and around Duchamp Road entailing his 33-acre site, as evidenced by the 30-second segment of the above video from 0:30 – 1:00, not one single person attended the meeting to voice any sentiments about his property regarding any decline in surrounding property values owned by neighbors nor any health-related issues, and Broussard went out of his way to ask if anyone was present and wished to voice such concerns.
It should also be noted that, contrary to subsequent assertions by neighbors whom Broussard has also sued, Broussard was not “opening” anything but instead merely seeking to continue what he’d been doing since his September, 2020 acquisition of the property without incident.
As is obvious from our panning of the audience in the video above, only six (6) people attended the meeting at all, and two of them were there to speak on another property (Poche Bridge on Armond Joseph Road – video of actual burning on that particular property is available on the link at the outset of this feature), but not a single person was there to speak on Broussard’s property.
Broussard contends that nothing he was doing was in violation of anything and that the passage of the Ordinance was absolutely necessary in order for Parish officials to have any legal grounds whatsoever to pursue him at all, and that they were well aware of that fact.
Upon what does Broussard base his contention? Primarily two facts: #1) SMPG sued Trevis Helaire, the owner of the Poche Bridge property just referenced with the extensive burning, on July 28, 2021, which was approximately 18 days BEFORE the enactment of the Ordinance, yet Broussard was not sued until August 19, 2021, four days AFTER the Ordinance took effect; and #2) this June 21, 2021 email from SMPG attorney Allan Durand to DEQ official Bryan Johnston openly asking if it is legal to “haul and burn logs.” In the email, Durand indicates that, if the activity is legal, SMPG was going to pass an Ordinance to make it illegal. Let’s go ahead and take a full look at that email, shall we?:
From: Allan Durand <[email protected]>
Sent: Monday, June 21, 2021 11:45 AM
EXTERNAL EMAIL: Please do not click on links or attachments unless you know the content is safe.
Dear Mr. Johnston,
I’m the Parish Attorney for St. Martin Parish.
We have a problem with commercial operations who have purchased a piece of raw land and are hauling in and then burning logs and trees on that property.
We’re going to make that illegal (absent a state DEQ permit) next month, but in the meantime, is that legal under the DEQ Air Quality regs (or any other DEQ regs)??
If it’s not legal, to whom would we address a complaint?
Broussard contends that SMPG knew it was on solid ground in suing Helaire because, in contrast to Broussard, Helaire was unquestionably burning (again, see video on initial link to this feature), and SMPG could easily prove it by video in its possession. Since Broussard was not burning (notwithstanding the Daily Iberian‘s false representations to the contrary), no DEQ permit was required, and so the Parish absolutely had to have that Ordinance passed before it could pursue Broussard.
Broussard contends that is the whole reason why SMPG waited until after the Ordinance was passed to sue him. Additionally, Broussard also contends that the fact that they waited until after the Ordinance’s passage provides proof that the Ordinance was specifically targeted at him. If true, that fact would make the Ordinance unconstitutional. That argument, in addition to others (most especially violation of the Dormant Commerce Clause) is precisely what Michael Adley, Broussard’s former attorney, stressed heavily would render the SMPG Ordinance unconstitutional in his own pleadings while representing Broussard.
We made public records request for anyone SMPG sued after the effective date of the Ordinance beyond Broussard and, while we got tons of material pertaining to Helaire and others (which we indicated we’d gladly accept), we did not obtain any documentation to indicate anyone has ever been sued over this matter after passage of the Ordinance except Broussard.
Had Fatherree’s article been true (entailing the burning), SMPG could have pursued legal action against Broussard much sooner than it did. In fact, in one damning text from former SMPG’s then-Chief of Administration, Calder “Pop” Hebert, who was responding to LSP Trooper Scott Lopez’s text to Hebert entailing Broussard having hauled in three loads of trees earlier that day, stated: “Continue to keep me (Hebert) updated. He is going to push it until the ordinance is in effect.” [See page three (3) of those damning texts by clicking here.] There really can’t be any stronger proof to demonstrate the fact that the Ordinance HAD to be in effect before SMPG could take action against Broussard, no? Broussard has also indicated that he can subpoena witnesses who would have to testify in court that they were assured that they would not be pursued by the Ordinance’s passage.
Broussard has made it clear to his current attorney, Heather Duhon Moore, that the unconstitutionality aspect of the Ordinance is to be driven home hard whenever Broussard opts to have his Permanent Injunction hearing before Judge Suzanne deMahy. The timing of any such hearing rests solely and exclusively with Broussard, and he has indicated that he’s not pursuing until he has every shred of evidence he deems necessary to overturn the Preliminary Injunction issued against him on May 2, 2022.
As everyone is aware, Broussard has been busy suing folk over the last year pertaining to SMPG’s actions regarding him. In addition to the Daily Iberian suit referenced above, he also sued LSP Trooper Scott Lopez on May 31, 2022 (52 days prior to the Daily Iberian suit) and he sued Melissa Dubroc and Mendy “Mob Boss” Girouard on September 20, 2022 (60 days after the Daily Iberian suit). All three suits entail alleged defamation of one form or another.
We’ve already reported upon several court hearings pertaining to the Lopez and “Mob Boss” suits, and there will be at least two more in coming weeks and months. Today we’re focusing on just how the Daily Iberian handled Broussard’s suit of July 22, 2022.
The short answer is that they totally ignored it! Actually, Lopez tried that same strategy; however, giving Lopez credit where it’s due, when Broussard served him with a Motion for Preliminary Default, Lopez took immediate action and retained Eric Timothy Haik to represent him. “Mob Boss” and Dubroc merely piggybacked upon Lopez’s action in also retaining Haik to represent them as their defense attorney.
When Broussard served Lopez with a Motion for Preliminary Default, he uncovered the fact that he’d gone through an added step which used to be required for obtaining a Default Judgment but no longer is. Broussard learned this by his near-obsession with Google searches to perform most of his legal filings and he uncovered this excellent refresher course on Louisiana Default Judgments by the law firm of Stone Pigman.
Since Broussard had confirmation that the Daily Iberian was served (just as was Dwayne Fatherree, the author of the article) and yet, neither had bothered with answering, Broussard focused in on the following paragraph from within the Stone Pigman webpage just linked:
In tort cases where defendant has not made an appearance and an attorney has not contacted plaintiff’s counsel about the suit in writing, written notice of plaintiff’s intent to take a default judgment must be sent by regular mail to the address where service was obtained on the defendant at least seven days before a default judgment can be entered.
We’ll provide a link for all of the documentation for Broussard’s litigation shortly but, for now, let’s take a look at the wording of a letter which, though he wasn’t required to send certified (see “regular mail” above), Broussard nevertheless sent certified on or around November 22, 2022 (123 days after having heard zilch from the Daily Iberian subsequent to service):
November 21, 2022
CORPORATION SERVICE COMPANY
8825 N 23RD AVENUE, SUITE 100,
PHOENIX, AZ 85021
Please be advised that, through this certified letter, and in conformity with LA CCP 1702 as amended by Act # 174 of the 2021 Regular Session of the Louisiana Legislature, entailing the following litigation pending in the 16th JDC of the State of Louisiana:
BILLY BROUSSARD NUMBER 91869 DOCKET: “B”
WICK COMMUNICATIONS COMPANY
STATE OF LOUISIANA 16TH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT,
PARISH OF ST MARTIN
For which you have to date file (sic) no responsive pleadings despite having been served via Louisiana’s Long-Arm Statute and the required timeframe for responding having long since passed, if you fail to file responsive pleadings by Friday, December 16, 2022 at noon, I will be filing for a default judgment against you.
What’s ironic about the Daily Iberian apparently feeling so indifferent about Broussard’s having sued them is that he’d even emailed one of the company’s big wigs, Francis Wick, notifying him of the litigation and several articles on it published on this blog. Let’s take a look:
Sent from my iPhone
On Aug 8, 2022, at 4:03 PM, Billy Broussard <[email protected]> wrote:
Sent from my iPhone
On Aug 1, 2022, at 8:06 AM, Billy Broussard <[email protected]> wrote:
Sent from my iPhone
On Jul 26, 2022, at 5:02 PM, Billy Broussard <[email protected]> wrote:
If you have any questions don’t hesitate to call Billy Broussard 337-316-6193
Sent from my iPhone
As if ignoring Broussard’s lawsuit against the Daily Iberian had not been adequately demonstrated by all of the above, when Broussard served them with notice of his intent to seek a Default Judgment against them, this is the formal response he got from Wick Communications via email:
I just received your notice from Corporation Service Company regarding a suit against Dwayne Fatherree.
First, my apologies that you haven’t received a response as it appears you have sent this before. Secondly, please be advised that Mr. Fatherree left employment with us on October 19, 2021.
If you require any additional information, please feel free to contact me.
Director of Human Resources
Wick Communications Co.
All we can say is that, if Ms. Marple can’t recognize that the litigation is against BOTH Faterree AND Wick, oh well! It’s tough to find good help these days, or at least that’s what we’re told!
At any rate, given that it was beyond obvious that the Daily Iberian had zero intention of filing any sort of responsive pleadings to Broussard’s litigation, on January 12, 2023, Broussard filed this Reasons for Default Judgment and Default Judgment. Broussard also told us that he was careful to, not only follow, but even go above and beyond what is required by LA CCP 1702 as amended and as referenced in his Default Letter to Wick.
Legal experts whom we consulted indicated that Broussard did in fact appear to have dotted every i and crossed every t entailing obtaining a Default Judgment. Thus, Wick Communications better be very thankful to 16th JDC Judge Suzanne deMahy because she apparently had the discretion to simply sign the Default Judgment.
What she opted to do instead is to issue an Order that, “in accordance with LA CCP 1702(B)(2), additional evidence in the form of oral testimony be presented to the Court on February 28, 2023 at 10 a.m. before Judge Suzanne deMahy before any entering of a default judgment.”
Let’s examine the exact wording upon which deMahy opted to convene a hearing:
The court may, under the circumstances of the case, require additional evidence in the form of oral testimony before entering a default judgment.
The important word above is “may” rather than “shall.” The Daily Iberian therefore needs to be eternally grateful to Judge deMahy for not simply signing that $287,163.75 Default Judgment.
What happened overnight (literally) from Judge deMahy issuing the order was the next morning (January 31, 2023) that Wick Communications (apparently having been informed of the status of the matter at warp speed), after an astounding 188 days from being served, deployed attorney Daphne Lancaster, who is with the law firm of Gordon and Rees et. al.
That’s a law firm which touts the fact that, “in 2019, we became the first and only law firm with offices in all 50 states.” Lancaster promptly (as in, that very same day) filed an Answer with Affirmative Defenses to Broussard’s suit.
Immediately thereafter, citing Diversity of Citizenship, Lancaster filed this Notice of Removal to Federal Court, Western District of Louisiana. [This link has the totality of all State-level litigation as the Court subsequently ordered Defendants to file all of that material with the Federal Court].
Not long thereafter, Lancaster’s colleague, Philip Robert Brinson, who is out of Gordon and Rees’ Houston, Texas office, enrolled to represent the Daily Iberian in the case.
In Brinson, the Daily Iberian appears to have gone from ignoring Broussard’s suit completely to deploying a high-powered defense lawyer who apparently specializes in representing much, much bigger names than Broussard. From the preceding link:
He [Brinson] is also a producer on several completed and pending film projects, in addition to his work as a legal adviser for music festivals. Mr. Brinson is the Practice Group Lead for at his firm, Gordon & Rees, for the Entertainment and Recreation Law and Cannabis, CBD, and Hemp Law practice groups. His representation has included Patti LaBelle, Experience Hendrix, Don Mischer Productions, Billboard, and many others. He spends a substantial amount of time traveling between his offices in Houston, Austin, Nashville, and Los Angeles, when he is not working on his ranch, Bad PR Ranch, in Central Texas.
Imagine that! Going from ignoring a pro se lawsuit to deploying such a high-powered attorney to defend it! We can only assume that near-misses on near-$300,000 Default Judgments can have strong reactions! Others may want to take note of the pitfalls of merely ignoring being sued by a pro se defendant!
We’ll update our subscribers on the latest developments in Broussard’s other lawsuits in the near future.
If you would like to be added to our Sound Off Louisiana email list to be notified of future posts, simply go to our home page and scroll to the bottom (mobile devices) or to the top of the right-hand column (desktops). Supply your email address within the subscribe box. You’ll then receive an automated email from Word Press, and all you have to do is click on the blue “confirm follow” bar contained within that email, and you’ll begin receiving great posts such as the preceding one above.