Nov. 21, 2016 03:33 PM

Photo by Dominick Cross

It’s not often that a legal term of art — “inferior constitutional officer” — so perfectly and eloquently aligns with reality as it does in this case.

Republican state Attorney General Jeff Landry, ever eager to grandstand on any issue that he thinks will position him to run for governor in three years, has appointed himself the state’s culture warrior-in-chief over the issue of LGBT rights. In doing so, Landry has cast himself in opposition not only to Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards but also to Republican President-elect Donald Trump.

In a post-election interview with 60 Minutes, Trump was asked directly about the issue of marriage equality. “It’s irrelevant because it was already settled,” Trump said. “It’s law. It was settled in the Supreme Court. I mean it’s done.”

For emphasis, Trump added, “These cases have gone to the Supreme Court. They’ve been settled — and I’m fine with that.”

It’s more than a tad ironic that Trump, who’s notorious for speaking in vague generalities, is schooling Landry on the fine points of constitutional law, but irony has always been lost on a showboat like Landry. He’s too busy looking for the cameras.

The AG’s latest publicity stunt is a lawsuit seeking to block the governor’s executive order banning discrimination by the state and its contractors against LGBT people. Edwards’ order tracks executive orders by other Louisiana governors dating back to 1992.

Before filing suit, Landry cited his role as attorney general to block dozens of contracts with outside lawyers because the contracts contained the anti-discrimination language. In a preliminary court fight, a judge sided with Landry on technical grounds without addressing the merits of the case.

Last week, Edwards filed a countersuit asking a judge to clarify — on constitutional and statutory grounds — the proper role of the state attorney general vis-a-vis the governor. The AG is the state’s chief legal officer, but the governor effectively is the state’s chief client. Attorneys have a legal duty to serve their clients’ interests, not their own.

Indeed, Edwards’ executive counsel Matthew Block drove home that point in one of his filings: “The political aspirations of an inferior constitutional officer cannot impede the ability of the chief executive officer of the State of Louisiana to exercise his proper authority.” It’s not often that a legal term of art — “inferior constitutional officer” — so perfectly and eloquently aligns with reality as it does in this case.

Interestingly, when a deputy tried to serve Landry with official notice of Edwards’ countersuit, no one was at the AG’s office to accept service — at 3:30 p.m. last Monday. Turns out the staff was deliberately absent in hopes of dodging service, a tactic more commonly associated with deadbeat dads and other grifters. The obvious question is why: Why would Landry dodge service in a case that he initiated?

The obvious answer is that his office was ill-prepared to argue the merits of the case at a scheduled hearing three days later. When lawyers for both men showed up in court, they conferred privately with the judge for almost two hours before agreeing to a Nov. 29 hearing date.

One can only imagine what new gimmick Landry will trot out by then.

Clancy Dubos is publisher of New Orleans' Gambit.


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