May 19, 2016 03:06 PM

Newspaper continues to seek mystery motion Pope’s attorney worked on the day Troyce Thorla intervened in Sheriff-elect Mark Garber’s divorce.

Lafayette City Marshal Brian Pope

Lafayette City Marshal Brian Pope says he looked all around his office and just couldn't find the motion he paid attorney Charles Middleton $750 to draft on Nov. 16 and 17, so on June 2 at 4:30 p.m. The Independent and the marshal will be back in court.

As part of its ongoing public records battle with the city marshal, The IND will ask 15th Judicial District Judge Jules Edwards to compel Pope to produce the legal document.

It's never easy with Marshal Pope when it comes to public records. Rather than just obtain a copy of the motion from Middleton in order to comply with The IND’s May 5 official public records request for it, Pope simply responded that he can’t find it. The work Middleton did for Pope on those two days last year coincides with the legal assistance Broussard resident Troyce Thorla says Pope and his lawyer provided to help him file a motion in district court to open the sealed divorce file of Sheriff-elect Mark Garber.

Thorla told The IND he picked up the motion in an envelope from Middleton’s law office and filed it at the Lafayette Parish Clerk of Court’s office on Nov. 17.

The IND is taking Pope back to court in an effort to ascertain whether what Thorla picked up is the motion Pope paid for with taxpayer dollars. Middleton disclosed that he performed the work in response to The IND’s request for Pope’s legal bills but redacted from the bill what the motion was for.

“A custodian must produce documents within his control,” IND attorney Gary McGoffin says. “Marshal Pope certainly controls his attorney of record who was paid from the City Marshal Expense Account for the preparation of that motion.” (BTW, on Friday we will update readers on Pope's legal and related fees so far in this matter, all of which he has been paying from the marshal's office. He is also represented by criminal defense attorneys Kevin Stockstill and Katherine Guilbeau Guillot. The legal and expert fees and court costs he owes The IND, which totaled $107,000 at this writing, must be paid by him personally per the public records law.)

We should know on June 2 whether Pope has gotten himself in even more hot water over his vengeful effort to go after a political adversary, one Pope hoped to recall from office pending some sort of salacious video in the divorce file — a video the since-unsealed divorce file proves never existed.

At the June 2 hearing, The IND will also ask the judge to review all of the redacted Middleton invoices to determine if the attorney-client or work-product privileges have been properly invoked by Pope and Middleton.

In the meantime, Pope, who is being investigated by District Attorney Keith Stutes for abuse of office, malfeasance and perjury, is moving ahead with his appeal of Edwards’ January decision that he failed to adequately respond to The IND’s public records requests, ordering him to pay $100,000 in legal fees and penalties. Pope is also appealing Edwards’ February criminal contempt of court ruling ordering him to serve jail time, make public presentations and pay thousands in fines.
Criminal appellate attorney Mark Plaisance of Thibodaux is now the fourth attorney Pope has hired in his public records dispute with The IND.

Pope, this newspaper learned this week, has added to his trio of local legal counsel Mark Plaisance of Thibodaux, a high-profile criminal defense attorney who has written and argued appeals in all five Louisiana appellate courts, the Louisiana Supreme Court, the U.S. Fifth Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court.

It's also quite interesting that Plaisance, who also serves as the district defender in Lafourche Parish, is a former journalist. “Mark is known for handling numerous high-profile and complicated appeals,” his website bio reads. “Mark’s first career in journalism provided him a great foundation. Success as a reporter, editor, and publisher is a matter of gathering facts and screening for truth with the goal of communicating a message that can be understood.”

Read The IND’s motion and memorandum to compel the public records here.