Friday, September 11, 2009

Louisiana Justice Institute Wins In Court!

Last week, the Louisiana Justice Institute won our battle in the Louisiana State Supreme Court, against New Orleans City Council efforts to silence us and have LJI director Tracie Washington disbarred.

Briefly, here is the full story: In October 2008, LJI launched Project Transparency. We did this because access to information, especially about our government and its activities, is part of our common heritage as US citizens, and it is a human right. Members of the public demand access to unclassified documents their tax dollars have been used to produce.

In December 2008, LJI made a request for the emails of several city council members, their staff, and members of the Nagin administration. Our intent? To support research and provide information to the public. And our research proved what we suspected all along: roving quorums of councilmembers, divided along racial lines. The reason New Orleans local government has become ineffective and growth stymied is due in no small measure to the racial tension exhibited amongst City Council members, petty bickerings, and tribalism one would expect in viewing Survivor – not local government.

But our councilmembers and their attorneys fought Louisiana Justice Institute at every step of the way – all the way to the State Supreme Court - to keep you from having full access to these records. Their battle against LJI cost us time and resources.

Last week, the Louisiana State Supreme Court agreed with the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board's (LADB) Hearing Committee Report and Recommendations, which found absolutely no grounds to the charges against Tracie and LJI. In fact, one LADB Hearing Committee member wrote, in this case “New Orleans City Government is using its influence to attempt to crush an opponent with ethical charges when the real battle is over its own incompetence and ineptitude. With scant evidence of any harm caused by the public release of three emails that bear no resemblance to privileged documents and with no evidence of future harm posed by Tracie Washington, the LADB, by its prosecution of this matter, has become a weapon of the city government and an instrument of harm to the public.”

The New Orleans City Council, in its petition to the Louisiana Office of Disciplinary Counsel, submitted misleading statements and outright lies to the Supreme Court of the State of Louisiana, all in an effort to ‘punish’ Tracie and Louisiana Justice Institute for daring to challenge these government officials’ obsession with secrecy, closed government, and good ol’ boy politics of the 50’s and 60’s.

When LJI opened its doors on April 1, 2007, we took on the responsibility of serving as the first statewide civil rights legal advocacy law firm with a mission to foster and support social justice campaigns for poor communities and communities of color throughout the state. This work has been both challenging and exhilarating. We work with some of the most exceptional people and partners in both urban and rural communities, where the promise of our nation for true social justice reform has been ignored. Our enthusiasm for these campaigns is bolstered daily by the many calls for assistance and gratitude for our intervention, as individuals and, increasingly, community leaders understand it is only when we raise the standard of living for our most marginalized residents that this state will prosper.

We have no intention of giving up. In fact, the opposition and attacks we have faced only mean that we will fight harder.

We need your generous support now more than ever as we work to ensure our citizenry is not only fully informed, but motivated and mobilized to participate in the rebuilding and renewal of this great city. Your donation will make a real difference in sustaining and expanding Project Transparency and our other work areas, and in reinforcing the message that government belongs to the people – ALL THE PEOPLE – and we will demand accountability from those we elect.

Please make your contribution today. You can visit our website –, and contribute directly online.

PS: Please remember that your donations are tax deductible as LJI is registered with the Internal Revenue Service as a non-profit organization with 501c(3) status.

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