Media attorney wants judge to find LSU in contempt of court

An attorney for The Advocate and The Times-Picayune asked a judge Friday to find LSU’s Board of Supervisors in contempt of court for refusing to turn over materials related to the university’s recent search for a new president.

On April 30, state District Judge Janice Clark ordered LSU to turn over the résumés and other records reviewed by members of the Board of Supervisors or its search committee. Clark’s ruling declared the requested materials public records and ordered LSU “to immediately produce” them.

“Defendants have failed to comply with the Judgment,” the motion for contempt alleges.

“When a court orders you to do something, you better snap to it,” Lori Mince, the attorney representing the newspapers, said in a Friday interview.

On Thursday, LSU attorney Jimmy Faircloth filed a notice of suspensive appeal, a move that Mince called procedurally improper.

Clark’s judgement, which ordered LSU to produce the documents, did not issue a ruling on whether the plaintiffs could recoup damages or attorneys fees from LSU in the case. Therefore, it is not a final judgment, which is necessary for a suspensive appeal, Mince said.

The proper method of appealing Clark’s ruling would be in the form of a supervisory writ, Mince said.

“I am confident he didn’t follow the appropriate procedure,” she said. “It makes a difference because (a supervisory writ) is a way to get the Court of Appeals to pay attention to this quickly.”

Faircloth did not return a message left at his office.

LSU argued during the hearing that F. King Alexander, who eventually got the job, was the only official “applicant” and therefore the only name that LSU was obligated to release.

LSU chose Alexander after contracting with R. William Funk and Associates, a search firm.

Funk’s firm identified 100 potential candidates before narrowing the field to 35, whose résumés and other materials were placed on a secure website for the search committee members to view, Mince argued in court.

Those 35 candidates were whittled to a final group of six or seven who were worthy of more intensive interviews before King became the only name recommended to the full Board by the search committee.

The confidentiality of the search was necessary, Faircloth argued, to ensure that LSU attracted the best pool of candidates.

In a separate but closely related suit, 19th Judicial District Judge Timothy Kelley ruled against the editor of LSU’s student paper who also was seeking release of records in the search for a president.

Reached Friday, the attorney for The Daily Reveille editor Andrea Gallo, said no decision has been reached on whether to appeal Kelley’s ruling.