La. high court upholds LSU records ruling

The Louisiana Supreme Court left standing a lower court order Thursday requiring LSU to release the names of semifinalists and finalists in its secret presidential search.

Lori Mince, an attorney representing The Advocate and The Times-Picayune in the newspapers’ case to obtain the records from LSU’s Board of Supervisors, said the Supreme Court refused LSU’s request that it overturn or stay the trial court’s ruling.

“The Supreme Court said ‘Writ denied. Stay denied.’ As a result, records will have to be produced,” Mince said. “As long as (the board) doesn’t produce those records, (it) is in contempt.”

The university’s board of supervisors has been in contempt of court ever since it failed to produce a list of 35 presidential semifinalists following an April 30 ruling by state District Judge Janice Clark, who ordered the board to release the records.

On Aug. 14, Clark ruled LSU owes the court $500 a day for every day it has failed to produce the records since April 30, an outstanding bill that now totals more than $50,000.

However, Wednesday’s decision by the Supreme Court does not mean LSU must immediately pay the contempt fees.

“The Supreme Court did say that LSU may appeal the contempt order,” Mince said.

Jimmy R. Faircloth Jr., an attorney representing LSU in the case, interpreted Thursday’s Supreme Court action differently, saying it paved the way for LSU to have its case heard before the appellate courts.

“That’s not a comment by the Supreme Court one way or another concerning who’s right or wrong on the lawsuit,” Faircloth said about his unsuccessful bid to get the high court involved in the case. “That’s simply the court saying we’re not going to hear the case now.”

The next scheduled hearing is Sept. 9, at which time Clark will determine whether LSU will be forced to pay The Advocate’s and The Times-Picayune’s damages and attorney’s fees for the case, Mince said, adding that once that’s decided, the final judgment will be given on the case.

Faircloth said LSU plans to appeal Clark’s final judgment to the 1st Circuit Court of Appeal, and that the university would not produce the records until an appellate court ordered it to do so.

“The judgment declaring them public records is a judgment that is appealable,” Faircloth said. “You can’t be forced to comply with a judgment without the right to appeal.”

LSU’s search for a new president ended in March with the selection of King Alexander, former president of California State University in Long Beach, Calif.

Advocate reporter Koran Addo asked for public records from the search, including the names of the semifinalists the board considered.

The board denied the request, claiming it was only required to provide information on those who applied for the position and Alexander was the only “applicant.”

Advocate staff writer Jim Mustian contributed to this report.