Judge orders oil, gas group's president to appear - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Judge orders oil, gas group's president to appear

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BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - A state district judge Monday ordered the president of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association to appear in court Tuesday or face jail for contempt.
    
That's according to attorneys attending what was supposed to be a hearing on the association's effort to block wetlands litigation against some of its members.
    
NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune reports that District Judge Janice Clark's order Monday came after LOGA's President Don Briggs failed to appear at the hearing, which aimed to address the association's lawsuit seeking to rescind Attorney General Buddy Caldwell's approval of the east bank levee authority's decision to file the wetlands damage suit against 97 oil, gas and pipeline companies.
    
Briggs was in Lafayette Monday, according to his son, Gifford Briggs, who is vice president of LOGA. Briggs' attorney did not respond to a message seeking comment.
    
A secretary in Clark's office said the judge had gone home for the day and could not confirm that a warrant was issued. LOGA attorney Robert Mahtook could not be reached for comment.
    
But E. Wade Shows, an attorney representing the Attorney General's Office, said Clark issued the bench warrant after a long day in which a LOGA attorney said Briggs was too ill to attend.
    
"Mr. Briggs has been subpoenaed, which is basically an order of the court," Shows said. "Mr. Briggs failed to appear in court and the judge was not satisfied with the reason for his failure to appear. She has commanded him to come before her court Tuesday morning and respond to the subpoena."
    
Shows said LOGA's attorney submitted a note from a Lafayette doctor that expressed concerns about Briggs appearing in court.
    
"She then called the doctor on the phone and went over what the letter said and said she could allay his concerns about his ability to handle the situation," Shows said. "At that point, (Briggs) apparently went to another doctor. The second doctor didn't write a letter, but called and left a message with Mr. Briggs' attorney, and she was not satisfied with the doctor's call."
    
The LOGA lawsuit, filed in December, asked the court to rule that Caldwell's office improperly approved a contract between the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East and the Jones Swanson Huddell & Garrison LLC law firm, which is representing the levee authority in the wetlands suit.
    
LOGA also is asking for an injunction rescinding Caldwell's approval of the contract.
    
In statements before and after the suit was filed, Briggs has argued that the suit against oil and gas firms was driving companies out of the state, potentially costing Louisiana millions of dollars in lost tax revenue and hundreds of jobs.
    
The LOGA suit contends the Legislature didn't provide the levee authority the right to hire special counsel, and that only the attorney general or a special counsel hired by the attorney general can represent it.
    
If the LOGA suit were to prevail, it could result in the levee authority contract being declared improperly drawn, which might halt the wetlands suit.
    
Gladstone Jones, one of the attorneys representing the levee authority during Monday's hearing, confirmed Clark's issuance of the bench warrant for Briggs.
    
"Mr. Briggs apparently got anxiety after his deposition last Thursday and got so ill that he can't prosecute the case he filed against the attorney general that's challenging the authority of SLFPA-E to file the suit," Jones said. "You can't make this stuff up."
    

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(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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