Lafayette City Court Judge Doug Saloom has retained an attorney to represent him in a recent public records request submitted by Citizens for a New Louisiana.
On November 1, 2021 Citizens for a New Louisiana directed three pubic records requests regarding leased vehicles in the Lafayette City Court Budget. Those requests were directed to the custodian/co-custodian of the records: Judge Doug Saloom, Judge Michelle Odinet and the City Court Administrator. Judge Odinet responded cordially requesting a brief extension of time to respond. However, by November 5, 2021, she had already provided documents responsive to the request.
Judge Saloom responded on November 2, 2021 by indicating he was forwarding the message to the Lafayette City Court Administrator and requested that any future request be sent to her attention. Whether Judge Saloom is confused or is unaware that he may be a co-custodian of records is uncertain. In an approach quite different from Judge Odinet, Judge Saloom indicated that his response would “take longer than the allotted 72 hours” mandated by the law. Judge Saloom made no cordial request for additional time to respond. Rather he completely disregarded the time limits found in the law. We wonder how he would respond to a defendant in his courtroom who told him they didn’t care about the time limits imposed by the law?
“Persons of the age of majority”
Judge Saloom concluded his letter by referencing Louisiana Revised Statute 44:32 and stating that they are limited “to persons of the age of majority” and that it “authorizes the public agency to obtain the age and identification of the requesting party.” Judge Saloom then stated “you have not provided that information as part of your request and that [information] will be required before the examination or transmittal of the requested documentation.” In reply Citizens for a New Louisiana pointed out that the request was sent to him (Judge Saloom) as a co-custodian and that a separate request was sent to the City Court Administrator. Citizens for a New Louisiana asked Judge Saloom if he had any documents responsive to the request and pointed out that Citizens for a New Louisiana is a juridical entity in the state of Louisiana and as such is entitled to the same rights, privileges and immunities of a natural person.
Citizens for a New Louisiana then received a letter from Gary McGoffin with the firm of Durio, McGoffin, Stagg, Shelton and Guidry on November 4, 2021 indicating that our request to the City Court of Lafayette had been forwarded to him by Judge Saloom for response. Attorney McGoffin carefully points out that he “reviewed the record of Secretary of State of Citizens for a New Louisiana” and found that it doesn’t reference the requestor. Even though the request came from our official email domain (NewLouisiana.org), attorney McGoffin following the lead started by Judge Saloom. “Please provide your full name, and confirmation that you are eighteen years of age or that you are authorized to make this request on behalf of New Citizens of Louisiana [sic].”
It’s déjà vu all over again.
If the name Gary McGoffin rings a bell, it may because he was the attorney who handled a dispute over public records on behalf of the Independent Weekly, LLC against then City Marshal Brian Pope. In that very case, McGoffin took the opposite position and the court ruled in his favor. The right to pursue a claim under Public Records Law “was not limited to natural persons; although Public Records Law referenced ‘person of the age of majority’ twice, the word ‘person’ included body of persons, whether incorporated or not, reference to person made sense as a corporation could only inspect documents through its representatives, and provision concerning enforcement of Public Records Law referred to any person without age restriction.” [Independent Weekly, LLC v. Lafayette City Marshal Pope, App. 3 Cir.2016, 201 So.3d 951, 2016-282 (La.App. 3 Cir. 9/28/16), writ denied 212 So.3d 1172, 2016-1942 (La. 12/16/16)]
What remains unclear is whether Attorney McGoffin is representing Judge Saloom, the City Court of Lafayette or both. If representing both there could be a potential conflict of interest at hand. But the ultimate question is why a response to our records request is being obstructed and unnecessarily delayed?
As of this writing, November 15, 2021, neither the City Court of Lafayette Administrator, Judge Saloom nor his attorney have provided any documents or a timeline of when documents might be made available.
Don’t just sit there, do something!
Citizens for a New Louisiana is the only organization in Louisiana dedicated to reforming local government. With the help of numerous volunteers we are making some progress. However, there’s much more work we could be doing. Making a difference will take a little more than reading an article every now and then. Your community doesn’t need another spectator. They need someone willing to step onto the field and become a real part of the solution. Will you join us?Help us to achieve the vision of creating a new, propserous state by becoming a Citizen of a New Louisiana. Become a Citizen