Ex-Jindal aide disputes suits
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s former executive counsel, who is defending Jindal’s public school overhaul measures, said in court filings that the Legislature acted properly when it approved a bill that expands Louisiana’s voucher program.
Lawsuits by the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, among others, contend that the voucher measure and one that makes it harder for teachers to earn and retain tenure are unconstitutional because they illegally bundled what should have been multiple education proposals into single pieces of legislation.
But Jimmy Faircloth, a private attorney who is representing the state, said in legal filings on Friday and a telephone interview on Monday that the law and state rules are aimed at preventing unrelated topics from being put into single bills.
When the topics are “reasonably related” the measure is considered to have one object, the filing says.
In this case, he said, they all relate to parental choice and were properly done.
In the court documents, the state also disputed arguments that the state’s method of funding public schools — it is called the Minimum Foundation Program — was passed improperly.
The measure won Louisiana House approval 51-49, which is two votes less than a majority of the 105-member chamber.
But Faircloth, echoing the views of House Speaker Charles Kleckley, R-Lake Charles, said in his court filing that the key distinction is that the MFP is included in a resolution, not a bill.
As such, the court filing says, it is “not governed by the requirements for bills or instruments that have the effect of law.”
Faircloth said Monday he was asked by Attorney General Buddy Caldwell’s office about representing the state and that apparently someone in Caldwell’s office had spoken with Jindal’s office.
“There was some request that I be assigned to the case,” Faircloth said.
Caldwell’s office typically handles lawsuits filed against state agencies.
But Faircloth said it is not unusual for the Attorney General’s Office to hire private attorneys for unique subject matters, including constitutional challenges.
He said he has not signed a contract with Caldwell’s office or agreed on a rate.
“But before I began work, I got approval from the Attorney General’s Office to proceed,” Faircloth said.
Asked to comment, Caldwell’s office provided a statement from Laura Gerdes Colligan, a spokeswoman for the agency.
“Considering Mr. Faircloth’s prior experience and his talent in this area of the law our office thought he was a perfect fit for the job,” Colligan’s statement says.
Colligan said she did not think anyone else in Caldwell’s office wanted to comment.
Kyle Plotkin, Jindal’s director of communications, praised Faircloth and directed questions on his hiring to Caldwell’s office.
Faircloth’s law firm already has three contracts with the Attorney General’s Office totaling about $90,000, according to the Division of Administration. They include providing legal services for the state Department of Veteran Affairs, the Louisiana Tax Commission and the Board of Dentistry.
Caldwell’s agency lists 55 such contracts with outside firms totaling about $27 million, according to the division.
The LFT lawsuit has been consolidated with similar challenges filed by the Louisiana Association of Educators, which is the state’s other major teachers’ union, and the Louisiana School Boards Association.
They are being heard in 19th Judicial District Court. A hearing is set for July 10.
Mark Ballard of The Advocate capitol news bureau
contributed to this report.