Letter: Newspapers should join LSU appeal

As chairman of the LSU board, I am writing in response to The Advocate’s Aug. 15 editorial to provide our perspective on the LSU’s pending public records litigation.

After the selection of the new LSU president, three lawsuits were filed by media representatives seeking the names of other persons considered by the LSU Presidential Search Committee. Two of those cases were consolidated and tried before District Judge Janice Clark, who ruled in favor of the plaintiffs. The other suit was tried before District Judge Tim Kelley, who found that LSU had complied with the public record laws.

Since these conflicting rulings were made, LSU diligently has sought to appeal Judge Clark’s decision so that this important issue involving the proper interpretation of Louisiana Public Records Law can be resolved by the appellate courts. LSU asked Judge Clark to stay her judgment pending appeal. However, Judge Clark denied a stay and instead held LSU and its board chairman in contempt for failing to produce the documents, imposing a $500 per day sanction.

Judge Clark’s rulings places LSU in a “Catch 22” situation. If LSU complies with Judge Clark’s judgment by producing the documents, LSU will lose its right to appeal. Prior cases have held that, once the documents are produced, the legal issue of whether they were required to be produced no longer exists on appeal.

LSU is committed to pursuing all available appellate relief to obtain a judicial resolution of a critical issue that can have substantial impact on the recruitment of the best-qualified person for academic and other leadership positions throughout the state. LSU respects Judge Clark’s judicial authority, but LSU also believes it is entitled to appellate review of her decision.

By opposing LSU’s efforts to achieve prompt appellate review, The Advocate and Times Picayune have prolonged the case and forced LSU to spend precious resources. The editorial board is correct, taxpayers should be upset because this procedural contest is both unnecessary and expensive. The newspaper should join LSU’s effort to move this case as swiftly as possible through the appeals process and stop promoting their judicially disputed view of the public records law as a reason to disregard LSU’s constitutional right to an appeal.

Hank Danos, chairman

LSU Board of Supervisors