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Courtroom Roundup: Supreme Court reverses Carter ruling

Last Modified: Friday, June 14, 2013 9:00 PM

By Johnathan Manning / American Press

The Louisiana Supreme Court ruled Friday that non-capital defendants must show a need for funding for investigators or experts before a stay of proceedings may be granted.

The state’s high court reversed a ruling by 14th Judicial District Court Judge Wilford Carter that granted a stay of proceedings in Andrew Kyle’s theft and battery cases.

Kyle’s state-appointed attorney, Shane Hinch, was seeking funds for overhead costs.

Hinch was one of 240 attorneys in Calcasieu Parish appointed to work cases for free as the Public Defenders Office dealt with a money shortage.

The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Carter’s ruling, but Calcasieu prosecutor Carla Sigler took a writ to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court said Carter was premature in granting a stay “at the outset on a generalized undifferentiated request” for funding.

The Supreme Court did rule, though, that in capital cases a district court may issue a stay of proceedings if funding is not available to private attorneys from the outset.

It said doing so would keep attorneys from undertaking a “considerable financial burden with no promise of repayment and would help avoid a claim of ineffective assistance.

“I think it’s a victory for lawyers who practice capital defense and I think that individuals charged with capital crimes should have the same resources as the state whenever the state is seeking to deprive them of their life,” Hinch said. “I’m disappointed that the Supreme Court has, in my view, jurisprudentially created a rule in which the cost of having a law license is indentured servitude — working for free.”

Hinch said he plans to request a re-hearing because the Supreme Court “relied on some things that weren’t in the record.”

Hinch said he was requesting overhead costs such as staff fees, paper and pens.

The Supreme Court closed the ruling by saying that if the need for investigators or experts in non-capital cases was needed “and funding does not appear forthcoming, the trial court may then consider other appropriate alternatives, including a stay of the proceedings, until funding is made available.”

Jay Dixon, head of the Public Defenders Office, confirmed Friday that his office will be taking back the cases doled out to private lawyers.

“This might be where it ends, but until I’m formally relieved I’m going to file a motion for re-hearing because I think the issue is, Kyle was the case that allowed the procedural vehicle,” Hinch said. “Maybe the court will deem it moot, I don’t know, I’ll have to look at it.”

Hinch said even though the PDO may be retaking cases, the issue of indigent defense funding “is not dead.”

The ruling came down late Friday and the district attorney’s office could not be reached for comment.



Bond decreased for man accused of child pornography

A 14th Judicial District Court judge decreased the bond of a Vinton man accused of child pornography, a court official said.

Judge Wilford Carter lowered David Massey’s bond from $125,000 to $75,000, but said he must wear a GPS ankle bracelet and not leave Calcasieu Parish, Holly Carter, District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman, said.

Prosecutors were asking for an increase to $250,000, she said.

Massey, 33, is represented by Derrick Kee.

Massey faces charges of aggravated incest, child pornography and cruelty to a juvenile.

Authorities said the charges relate to “inappropriate sexual contact with three juvenile family members.”

Authorities said they began investigating Massey in July 2012, but weren’t able to locate him.

He was indicted in July 2012 and was arrested in Orange, Texas, in May.



Court of Appeal dismisses Varsity Events Management appeal

The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal by Varsity Events Management in its fight with the Louisiana High School Athletic Association, but said Varsity can resubmit the appeal as a writ.

Varsity was asking the court to overturn a ruling by 14th Judicial District Court Judge Ron Ware that granted the LHSAA a jury trial. Varsity is seeking more than $400,000 from the LHSAA, claiming breach of contract.

Varsity, co-owned by Mary Ann Tice and former LHSAA employee Rob Owens, entered into a contract in June 2011 to manage the high school association’s state championship events. The groups parted ways in December 2011.

The case was filed in Calcasieu Parish. Varsity’s attorneys have until July 12 to file a writ with the 3rd Circuit.

“They didn’t think I should file it in the form of an appeal,” Adam Johnson, an attorney for Varsity, said. “They thought I should file it as a writ.”

The LHSAA contends the initial contract between the two groups was not legal and that LHSAA Executive Director Kenny Henderson and Tice agreed to end the contract during a Dec. 16, 2011, meeting.

In November, Ware said the two sides could proceed with arbitration, but also granted the LHSAA a jury trial.

“We think the jury will decide the case correctly, and we think the jury will decide the case is not one that should be arbitrated,” said Bradley Lewis, a Bogalusa attorney representing the LHSAA.

Lewis said Ware’s ruling was not appealable because “it doesn’t decide the issue in the case.”

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