Most Issues in Any Legal Challenge To St. George Have Been Resolved
The decision by the 1st Circuit Court of Appeal, written by Judge Robert Downing, in the challenge to the incorporation of the City of Central, addressed most of the issues likely to be raised in any challenge to the incorporation of the proposed City of St. George.
The case, Devall v. Starns, was decided Dec. 11, 2006, by the 1st Circuit. The ruling was upheld by the state Supreme Court.
In that case, attorney Yigal Bander made some of the same racial claims against the City of Central that he is making now against the proposed City of St. George.
Some of the key language from that decision is as follows:
• Residents Outside the Municipality Have No Right to Vote on Incorporation. “We hold… that plaintiffs failed to sustain their burden of proving that the incorporation procedural statutes were unconstitutional or that the persons living outside of the area of incorporation were deprived of their right to equal protection or their right to vote, and uphold the validity of the incorporation of the City of Central.”
• City-Parish Plan of Government, Which Attempts to Prohibit Additional Cities from Incorporating, Is Contrary to Louisiana Constitution of 1974. “It is evident that after 1984, Section 1.05 of the Plan of Government prohibiting the incorporation of any additional city or town in the Parish of East Baton Rouge was superseded by the general law enacted by the legislature in Title 33 authorizing the incorporation of an area in excess of two hundred inhabitants. Moreover, Section 1.05 violated the constitutional ban on any provision of a parish plan of government prohibiting the incorporation of a city or town as provided by the general law. Thus, as of 1984, Section 1.05 was no longer a viable and enforceable provision.”
• Louisiana Law on Incorporation Is Not Unconstitutional on Its Face or as Applied. “We find that plaintiffs failed to prove that any of the provisions of La. R.S. 33:1-7, which provide a procedure for incorporating areas with two hundred or more residents to petition the governor to hold an election on the incorporation issue, are facially unconstitutional. Nor have plaintiffs demonstrated how those provisions are unconstitutional as applied. Plaintiffs failed to offer competent evidence in support of their claim that the boundaries of Central were purposefully drawn in a racially discriminatory fashion or were chosen to deprive black citizens in the area of their right to vote.”
• No Evidence That Services Could Not Be Provided or That Other Municipalities Would Be Adversely Affected. “Plaintiffs failed to establish that the petition was fatally defective, or that there was a deficiency in the certification of the registrar of voters. Instead, Mr. Starns offered evidence showing that the preliminary requirements for incorporation were in fact met. Additionally, Mr. Starns offered evidence demonstrating that public services are being provided to the citizens of Central, and nothing in the evidence indicated that such services would not be provided in the future. Moreover, there was no evidence suggesting that the incorporation would have any adverse effects on other municipalities in the vicinity, nor was there any evidence demonstrating that the incorporation of Central was unreasonable.”
• A Plaintiff Who Loses Will Have to Pay Attorney Fees and Court Costs. “For these reasons, we find that plaintiffs failed to sustain their burden of proving any of the grounds upon which the validity of the incorporation of the City of Central was challenged. In accordance with La. R.S. 33:4(E)(1), we enter judgment declaring the City of Central to be incorporated as of July 11, 2005, and having those boundaries as set forth in the legal description of the area to be incorporated in the petition for incorporation. In light of this ruling, all requests for relief raised in plaintiffs’ answer to this appeal are denied as moot. Trial court costs and costs of this appeal are assessed to plaintiffs/appellees.”
As a result of this decision, any challenge to the incorporation of St. George could have a difficult road.