LOGA president allowed to delay testimony on lawsuit

Louisiana Oil and Gas Association President Don Briggs was given a temporary reprieve Tuesday from testifying in the suit his organization filed against Attorney General Buddy Caldwell. Briggs submitted a doctor’s affidavit saying health problems prevented him from taking the stand at this time.

Judge Janice Clark, of the 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge, had ordered Briggs to show up Tuesday to testify in the case, which revolves around the procedures the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East followed in hiring the outside attorneys who are suing oil and gas companies for damage to coastal wetlands.

Clark had threatened to issue a bench warrant for Briggs’ arrest when he did not show up for court Monday, when the case was set for trial. Attorneys for LOGA said he was suffering from high blood pressure and noted he dealt with heart issues several months ago, but they did not provide enough evidence to persuade Clark he should be excused from testifying at that time.

Briggs is now scheduled to testify on March 10.

Among other claims, LOGA’s suit contends the flood protection authority is a state agency rather than an independent political subdivision and therefore should have followed a different procedure for hiring outside counsel. Caldwell’s office has treated the flood authority as a political subdivision and as such has approved resolutions passed by its board to hire outside lawyers on a variety of issues, including the erosion suit.

LOGA’s case, which is aimed at hampering the lawsuit against energy companies, argues that the approval of those resolutions was improper because the board is a state agency. Attorneys for Caldwell’s office and the flood protection authority both have argued that state law designates the authority as an independent political subdivision and the approval of the resolution was done properly.