Agreement between levee board and private attorneys questioned

The Louisiana Oil and Gas Association (LOGA) has recently claimed Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell does not have the authority to approve and authorize an agreement between the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East (SLFPA-E) and private attorneys who represent them.

LOGA noted in its letter that only the Attorney General's office can represent SLFPA-E in its lawsuit, which accuses nearly 100 oil and gas companies of harming and destroying coastal wetlands. Further, the lawsuit alleges that the dredging activity and pipeline construction has increased the erosion of Louisiana's coastline, and as a result of the erosion, SLFPA-E's cost to have flood protection systems in place has markedly increased.

LOGA indicated that it believes that the AG's office erred in approving the agreement and the lawsuit. The legal issues at hand were the circumstances under which a levee board such as SLFPA-E can sue, and who can legally represent them. In the past, officials in Governor Jindal's administration have referenced and cited other state laws stating that SLFPA-E had to get the governor's approval before hiring a private attorney or outside firm. However, SLFPA-E president stated that they complied with the law and noted that they did seek the AG's approval in hiring private counsel.

In general, the AG's office reviews such contracts to ensure that private lawyers are licensed to practice law and that the fee structure is reasonable. However, the AG's office does not review the actual contents of the lawsuit. LOGA claims that only the AG's office can represent SLFPA-E. The governor's office has also objected to this agreement and further stated that levee board is exceeding its authority by not seeking the permission of the governor's office.

When disagreements of this nature arise between parties, it often is the result of a poorly or vaguely worded contract. As a result, one must always take the necessary steps when entering into such a contract to ensure that one's business interests are protected and that all rules, laws, and statutes are interpreted correctly.

Source: The Advocate, "Oil and gas association want Caldwell to reverse lawsuit approval," Jeff Adelson, Sept. 7, 2013

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