Judge tosses lawsuit seeking third vote on Llorens’ contract at Southern

Advocate staff file photo by HEATHER McCLELLAND -- Southern University Chancellor James Llorens Show caption
Advocate staff file photo by HEATHER McCLELLAND -- Southern University Chancellor James Llorens

Student cannot force board to third vote

Baton Rouge lawyer and Southern University student Author “Hannibal” Joiner is “little more than an interested bystander” and had no right to sue the school’s supervisory board to try to force it to vote a third time on outgoing Chancellor James Llorens’ contract, a judge ruled Monday.

State District Judge Mike Caldwell threw out the lawsuit Joiner filed March 31 after hearing arguments from Joiner and Southern Board of Supervisors attorney Winston Decuir Jr.

Joiner said afterward he’ll likely ask the state 1st Circuit Court of Appeal to review Caldwell’s decision.

Llorens’ three-year contract is set to expire June 30.

The board voted 9-6 on Feb. 8 not to renew Llorens’ contract. The board then voted 8-7 on Feb. 24 against extending the contract for a year.

Joiner, a Southern Law School alumnus now pursuing a master’s degree in business administration from Southern, contends the Board of Supervisors breached Llorens’ contract by not dealing fairly with the chancellor.

Decuir argued Monday that the contract is between the board and Llorens.

“(Joiner) hasn’t shown how he has a real legal interest,” Decuir told Caldwell.

Joiner countered that, because he is a student at Southern, he will be substantially impacted by the board’s decision.

“I am an MBA student at Southern. Anything Southern does affects my prospect at employment,” he argued. “I’m a student. I’m affected.”

Caldwell acknowledged that Joiner has valid and passionate concerns for Southern but said Joiner has no legal foot to stand on.

“He has no real, legal interest in this case,” the judge said.

Joiner, 60, said outside Caldwell’s courtroom that his fight is probably not over.

“More than likely I will appeal,” he said. “I love my school.”

Joiner believes Llorens has done a great job at Southern and that it is in the school’s best interest that he remains chancellor of Southern’s Baton Rouge campus.

That campus has been on shaky financial footing for the past several years because of falling enrollment and year-after-year state budget cuts to higher education.

In a May 2 message to “the Southern University Community” posted on the school’s website, Llorens acknowledged the tough times faced during the past few years but pointed to a more than 40 percent increase in the fall 2013 incoming class size.

The board’s decision to let Llorens walk was met with a outcry from Llorens supporters and students who organized a rally, circulated an online petition and staged a sit-in to support the chancellor.