State Troopers’ Temporary Restraining Order dissolved, but Judge Johnson acknowledges court may hear subsequent challenges on troopers’ allegations of Constitutional rights violations.

LSP Troopers Arrested for alleged excessive force, turning off body cameras, and lying about past arrests  (left to right):  Jacob Brown, Randall Dickerson, George Harper, and Dakota DeMoss.  (Ouachita Correctional Center and Franklin Parish Sheriff’s Office via AP).

To say that our feature last week entailing three Louisiana State Police (LSP) troopers’ successful obtaining of a Temporary Restraining Order stopping the administrative investigations of their alleged use of excessive force, turning off of body cameras, and lying entailing prior arrests was our most viewed post ever in the history of Sound Off Louisiana is no understatement!

The reason for that is directly attributable to Associated Press reporter Jim Mustian directly linking our feature with his own the next day.  Mustian’s direct link, in turn, led to many other major national publications including a direct link to our feature as well.  A few examples include this Washington Post feature, this New York Daily News’ feature, and even far-flung publications like this Aljazerra feature, which not only directly linked our feature but even moved that link to the top of their own feature.

We’re only aware of one publication which chose to publish material on the matter without so much as referencing the first word that much of its material originated from us, and that would be this Advocate feature from our own hometown of Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Of course, we guess we shouldn’t be surprised at The Advocate’s slight of us given that it took a full week for The Advocate to even run with ANYTHING concerning our original feature exposing the Ronald Greene matter.  Mustian, who is a former Advocate reporter, immediately followed up our feature on Greene and, once coverage was appearing all over the world, apparently the top brass at The Advocate decided maybe an article on their part just may be in order!

We also gained a ton of subscribers from last week’s post, so we want to welcome all of our new subscribers.  We hope you’ll be happy with our features, and we also hope you’re quite content with the price of subscribing!  We promise, you won’t EVER see ANY form of advertising on this blog because we steadfastly will not accept advertising dollars, nor will we accept donations from our subscribers.

Of course, long-time subscribers may recall one anonymous follower of our blog who did send us a snail-mail letter stating that we could expect a monthly payment in the mail if we would merely agree to refrain from casting former Louisiana Gaming Control Board Chairman Ronnie Jones in a negative light.  In the preceding feature, we expressed appreciation for the offer,  but we also let whomever sent the anonymous letter and all other parties know that we’ll shut this blog down in a second before accepting a dime from anyone!  Simply put, we intend to report on the facts as we’re able to substantiate them without any regard for advertisers (since we won’t ever have any) or donors (again, because we won’t have any).

Now, just as The Advocate chose to deploy our material for the linked feature above, we’ll invite them to do the same for today’s feature because there was no reporter from The Advocate in 19th JDC Judge Ron Johnson’s courtroom earlier today to report upon his ruling entailing the troopers’ Temporary Restraining Order.

Much of the court arguments were repetitive of the Troopers’ Appeal Brief (though LSP attorney Faye Morrison argues it’s only “couched as an appeal,” and is, in reality, a direct attempt to impede LSP’s investigation and try to keep the troopers from losing their jobs), together with LSP’s Counter Brief.  For that reason, we’re going to repeat our video of each side’s arguments in full at the LSPC meeting of March 11, 2021 in the video below:

Entirety of arguments of Michael DuBos (troopers’ attorney) and counter arguments of LSP attorney Faye Morrison at LSPC meeting of March 11, 2021 regarding whether the LSPC has the authority to stop an administrative investigation due to rules violations regarding conducting such investigations.

As we originally reported, Judge Johnson asked for submissions of Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law by Monday, March 15, 2021, and he further indicated that he would make his ruling either on Tuesday, March 16, 2021 or Wednesday, March 17, 2021.  Instead, Judge Johnson chose to utilize an already-scheduled court hearing of today (Thursday, March 18, 2021) to make his final ruling.

Judge Johnson indicated that the Court “struggled” with the issue of exactly which venue (LSPC v. District Court) is appropriate for a matter wherein the Louisiana Legislature has granted exclusive jurisdiction to a body (in this case, the LSPC) versus potential “hybrid jurisdiction” when an allegation of Louisiana Constitutional Rights violations are asserted.  The troopers assert that, because the administrative investigation was not initiated within 14 days of LSP top brass becoming aware of the incidents, their rights have been violated.

Morrison countered that there have been no Louisiana Constitutional violations but rather only alleged violations of LSPC rules regarding the conducting of administrative investigations.  She emphasized that, while the LSPC has jurisdiction over the matter, the LSPC cannot grant the specific remedy being sought by the troopers, which is for the investigations to be stopped.  She indicated that, when an alleged violation of the rules is filed (i.e. a trooper appeals any discipline imposed by LSP Colonel Lamar Davis to the LSPC), the available remedies are for the LSPC to either reduce, modify, or reverse the discipline.

DuBos, who participated in the Court hearing via Zoom, countered that Morrison’s statement that, “the LSPC cannot grant the remedy,” sought by the troopers is a tacit admission that the LSPC lacks jurisdiction and therefore adjudication in 19th JDC is appropriate.  DuBos also argued that LSP asserts that the LSPC can only concern itself with appeals of discipline.  He thus emphasized, just as he did beginning at the 8-minute mark of the above video, that, in making that assertion, LSP is essentially saying that troopers must, “Wait ’til it’s all over.  Wait until everything has all happened, and then you can clean up the mess.  Let us do the damage then………”  Morrison countered emphatically that, “no trooper has the right not to be investigated for alleged wrongdoing!”

Judge Johnson also inquired what property rights have been violated that would rise to the level of a violation of Louisiana’s Constitution.  Morrison pounced all over that inquiry like a basketball power forward who’d just been provided a perfect lob just above the basket by a point guard as she wound up for the basketball-equivalent of a thunder-dunk (yeah, it’s March Madness time!).  Morrison emphasized to Judge Johnson in response to his inquiry that, “These troopers remain on their jobs.  They are not behind a desk or on patrol, but they are at their homes continuing to be paid for up to 400 hours of administrative leave.”  Morrison’s point is that there have been no property rights violations.

Those 400 hours of administrative leave would be the “taxpayer-funded vacations” that:  1) LSP Col. Lamar Davis lamented indicating that, “the public is having an outcry because, hey, police officers are being treated special;” and, #2) Belinda Parker-Brown, founder of Louisiana United International, voicing frustration that, “taxpayers are being burdened” with the costs of keeping rogue troopers on the job and they are being allowed, “to go on taxpayer-funded vacations for murdering innocent people.”

Judge Johnson rendered his decision in open court in stating that he, “simply cannot justify not permitting the agency to gather information and facts” pertinent to the incidents.  He therefore ruled to dissolve the Temporary Restraining Order but indicated that, if troopers feel after the matter is concluded that Constitutional rights have been violated, they may return to 19th JDC to take that issue up with the Court.  [Sidebar:  We may be wrong, but we believe there’s a statute that says an appeal of an LSPC ruling must go directly to the First Circuit Court of Appeal and thus bypass 19th JDC.]

Prior to issuing his ruling, Judge Johnson stated that the original Temporary Restraining Order had already been modified so as to lift the block that had arisen on eight (8) other administrative investigations presently underway by LSP entailing matters other than the three troopers DuBos represents but which arose as offshoot investigations from investigations of those same troopers.

So, barring an expeditious action by Col. Davis, we taxpayers could be in for yet another exhausting of 400 hours (10 weeks!) of paid administrative leave, exhausting of compensatory time, exhausting of time-and-a-half compensatory time, exhausting of annual leave and, if no action is taken after all that (as was the case for Michael Satcher and Kasha Domingue, who was FINALLY terminated two days ago), potentially leave without pay.

What should be obvious to anyone with even a modicum of intelligence is that Louisiana needs to operate its state government employment (including LSP troopers) the same way so many other states have for decades, which is to be an at-will employment state.

What’s happening is that taxpayers are being raped by state employees who feel emboldened to engage in activities which would get a private-sector employee fired in a nanosecond.  Davis makes that point at the link above, and the public is beyond fed up with it, but no elected official at the Louisiana State Legislature nor Gov. Edwards (who is probably as pro-state-employee, anti-taxpayer of a Governor to occupy the Mansion in the last 50 years!) seems inclined to do anything to fix the problem!

The results of our antiquated civil service system are matters such as we’ve illustrated over the last seven days entailing these three LSP troopers, and it is WAY BEYOND time that it be remedied for the average, everyday taxpayer in Louisiana!

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