In Manatt Appellate Senior Counsel Michael Berger’s most recent column for Daily Journal, he examined a case in which the Louisiana state government failed to compensate landowners for damage done to their property after the court awarded a combined $10.5 million judgment.
There was a serious entanglement of state and federal courts in Ariyan, Inc., et al. v. Sewerage & Water Bd., according to Berger. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans had undertaken a massive flood control project which resulted in seventy landowners suffering damage from the construction. Citing its constitution, which says that judgments against the government are only payable after the legislature expressly appropriates funds for such payment, the state government offered no compensation despite its court-ordered obligation to do so. “It may be well and good (albeit hardly moral) for the state of Louisiana to shield its governmental agencies from fiscal liability, or at least defer it until the legislature gets around specifically to appropriating money to pay debts,” stated Berger, “but that cannot rise to the level of allowing any government agency to thumb its corporate nose at a judgment enforcing a constitutional guarantee.”
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