The patience, calm and wisdom displayed in Courtroom C in Shreveport rivaled any great courtroom, anywhere in the world. Professionalism, rational discussion and points of law were picked in a manner the framers of the constitution may have been proud to view.
Judge Emanuel forces the parties to step through most of the issues in chambers from 9:45 until almost 11:30. Just after this time the parties resume their arguments in open court to determine the action brought by Dog Park Coordinator and plaintiff, Cynthia Keith, to demand (Mandamus) that the mayor sign to accept the Red River Waterway Commission money as a unanimous resolution of the Shreveport City Council demands of the mayor.
The specific action brought against the mayor is a Mandamus, or action from the court to demand that the mayor perform a prescribed duty of his office. This along with other claims were discussed and the judge quickly resolved the others, specifically that the mayor could not be held liable as an individual, as he was acting in an interpretation of his duties as mayor.
In terms of the mandamus, the discussion concerned the city charter and the role of each of the three branches of city government. The defense suggested in their argument that Black’s Law Dictionary defined the role of the mayor in addressing ministerial duties and particularly the “resolution” of the city council.
The use of Black’s was also used to address the role of the council, and particularly the failure of the city charter in requiring the mayor to perform certain duties. The defense clearly suggested that the mayor could interpret, at his discretion, which actions of the council he would enforce, sign into law or ignore.
Emanuel addressed these suggestions by focusing on the fact that the city council had overridden the mayor’s veto, and he asked what power this had. Perhaps slowing the defense’s arguments, Emanuel further prodded by asking if they votes of the council as having substance.
Keele’s response to these issues was to point up the fact that the council override suggests that the mayor had to sign the document or now, if a mandamus is issues by the court, the mayor must show cause as to why he is ignoring the law.
Emanuel pointedly asked Joseph “did the council act properly with their resolution?” Joseph answered affirmatively, so Emanuel pressed, “after the mayor’s veto, did the council override have any significance?”
Joseph suggested that if the override was significant it meant that the council was getting into the executive branch’s work. The judge pressed Joseph to explain if the language was the issue. Joseph retreated somewhat.
The judge then asked if the council’s resolution was a valid action, and if so, must it be carried out by the mayor. And so the question became did the council have the power or authority to create a park or regulate one. And at this point the issues began to clarify for the audience. This was clearly an issue the council picked to make a point, and the mayor has chosen to take a stand on principle.
The judge was leading the parties through the division of powers, and forcing them to draw lines where the powers lay. In this particular case, it appeared clear that the city council had clear intent that the park was something they not only wanted, but they felt unanimously that the mayor should accept the money and proceed with construction of the park.
The facts that the park was included in the mayor’s long-term plans for the city were not weighed. The next step for this process is to determine if the mayor will be required to accept the “will of the council” in this single vote. This outcome, even if it favors the park proponents, guaranteed nothing, as the mayor could still create roadblocks such that the park is never completed during his term of office.
Sections of the city charter, 5.0.2, and others were quoted. But the decision will be rendered, barring no interim mediation or other resolution, or more legal wranglings, on May 16 at 9AM in the same courtroom. So, stay tuned, and we can hope that some justice will be meted out for all parties to find resolution. (updated 5/8/2013)