LAFAYETTE — A federal magistrate judge granted in part a protective order sought by the city against plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed by current and former Lafayette police officers, ordering the plaintiffs to take down a website created in connection with the pending lawsuit.
U.S. District Magistrate Judge Patrick Hanna said the website, Real Cops v. Craft, as it is currently put together, “offends the professionalism and dignity of the court system.” He said the plaintiffs can create a new website as long as it does not demean or criticize the other party.
The website contains secretly recorded conversations of some plaintiffs and top-ranking officials within the Lafayette Police Department. It is tied to a lawsuit filed in June that alleges widespread police corruption, racial discrimination, payroll fraud, manipulation of crime statistics and harassment.
Police Chief Jim Craft, who has been named as a defendant in the lawsuit, has denied the allegations, referring to them as the product of “disgruntled employees.”
The city responded by filing a motion for a protective order, seeking, among other things, to restrict the plaintiffs from trying the case in other venues outside federal court.
Hanna denied that request, ordering that he would not prohibit the plaintiffs from proceeding with their separate but related claims in state court and with the Lafayette Fire and Police Civil Service Board.
Several plaintiffs have filed complaints with the Civil Service Board.
The plaintiffs also are seeking to force the disclosure of certain records in a pending lawsuit within the 15th Judicial District Court.
Hanna also lifted portions of a gag order that had prohibited the parties from speaking with the media.
The ruling came after a two-day hearing on the protective order, which began Friday and concluded late Monday afternoon.
“We’re very, very grateful for the ruling in all respects,” Chris Alexander, one of the plaintiff’s attorneys, said after the hearing.
Dee Stanley, chief administrative officer for Lafayette Consolidated Government, declined to comment on the ruling.
Hanna further ruled that the plaintiffs could continue to submit public records requests, although he cautioned them to limit their requests to issues involving the litigation and avoid requesting private information.
He singled out at least two requests, one of which involved a request for the amount Michael Corry, an attorney representing the city, has billed the city for legal services.
“We’re going to play by the book, gentlemen,” Hanna said.
A separate motion seeking to dismiss the case is pending before the court.
Attorney Stephen Spring said 14 current and former Lafayette police officers have signed up as plaintiffs.
He also confirmed that two plaintiffs, Scott Poiencot and Gregory Cormier, were terminated last week. A third officer, Gabriel Thompson, retired from the department, Spring said.
The allegations first surfaced May 22 when five officers filed a temporary restraining order in state court seeking to stop the department from conducting an internal affairs investigation into a leaked confidential document. The officers argued they were unfairly being targeted in the investigation.
A judge later dissolved the temporary restraining order, prompting the officers to take the matter to federal court.
Spring said he will meet with the plaintiffs to decide whether to create a new website that would satisfy Hanna’s order.