Monday, March 30, 2009

LJI Prevails in Standoff

Pursuant to the City Charter of the City of New Orleans, the City Council, the Mayor, the City Attorney, and a host of other senior appointed officials are required by law to complete the City of New Orleans Financial Disclosure Form by July 31st of each year. Moreover, upon taking the oath of office, newly elected officials are required to file the Financial Disclosure Form within sixty (60) days.

LJI made its public records request for these documents on March 24, 2009. The City Attorney is required to maintain and disclose these records immediately upon request.
Instead, on Monday, March 30th Penya Moses-Fields refused to release the records of the City Council members because Council Attorney Steven Lane insisted he be allowed to redact information from the forms, or completely withhold the counsel records.

"Not everyone who attends law school should practice law," stated frustrated LJI Managing Director Tracie Washington. "The law is clear, and plain enough for a second grader to understand. Lane was prohibited by law from obstructing these disclosures. So what happens when the normal ‘Joe' or ‘Jane' asks for these records? Will Lane continue to block good-government, transparency efforts?"

LJI has embarked on Project Transparency ( "We started this project so our community will have complete, unfettered access to the records they pay for and are entitled to by law," states LJI Co-Director Jacques Morial.

We invite the public to review these disclosures, and make comment on LJI's blog, The documents produced are the only ones presently maintained by the City Attorney. You will note, several disclosure forms are missing, and Mayor Nagin 2007 disclosure form was not executed until March 30, 2009.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

LJI Resists Government Intrusion

In the case of The Council of the City of New Orleans vs. Tracie Washington and the Louisiana Justice Institute, the city council failed to confiscate LJI's computers, hardware, and network for examination.

The Honorable Judge Lloyd Medley Jr. heard arguments from LJI's counsel, Clarence Roby, and the City Council's attorney as well as the City Attorney in his courtroom this morning. Attorneys from the opposition requested that the court order LJI to relinquish possession of LJI's computers, emails, and server. In addition, the opposition also requested that the court order LJI to turn over any and all information obtained as a result of LJI's legal and valid public records request filed on December 3, 2008.

Judge Medley ruled that LJI is not responsible for turning over any information to the City Council. In turn, Judge Medley ruled that the information received via the public records request be turned over to him in camera for his team of legal clerks to determine if any of the information could be deemed privileged.

Rebuffed, opposing counsel made a final attempt to discredit the integrity of LJI by requesting that the court bar our organization from altering any metadata pertaining to the information that was received. Judge Medley declined to do so, saying that LJI and its counsel had complied to each of the court's requests and he has no reason to believe that LJI would not continue to act in good faith.

From the entire LJI family, we thank our local, state, and national network of advocates and friends who have offered their support via telephone messages, emails, and who appeared in court this morning en masse. Our friends and allies packed the courtroom and spilled out into the adjoining hall.

This is not LJI's fight alone. It is a battle over free and open access to our government and our ability to hold elected officials accountable. The City Council and the City of New Orleans attempted to stifle our voices. So far, they have failed. This fight is far from over. LJI will continue to resist the government's attempt to raid our offices and our computers to examine our work product and, more importantly, the files of our clients and partners.

Stay tuned as we continue to update you on the progress of these proceedings.

Yours in the struggle,

The LJI Family