UPDATE: Here’s Mary Roper’s response on why the city-parish’s response to this federal lawsuit was five month’s late: “This matter was handled by former Assistant Parish Attorney James Hilburn before he retired from the city-parish on March 26 of this year . I, along with several other city-parish officials were named as defendants in the lawsuit due to our enforcement of a city-parish ordinance. I was not acting as an attorney on the case due to my status as a defendant. Mr. Hilburn was the responsible attorney on this matter. A couple of weeks after he retired, we received a notice of a default judgment. Assistant Parish Attorney Tedrick Knightshead, was enrolled to take over the case and he immediately filed an answer. I am meeting with Mr. Hilburn this week to determine what the reason was for the delay so that we may provide this information to the judge.” – Mary Roper
Parish Attorney Mary Roper could be sanctioned in federal court because her office submitted a response on behalf of the city-parish to a lawsuit five months late.
The issue adds insult to injury for the city-parish’s lead attorney who has been under fire by some Metro Council members, accused of mismanagement of the office among other problems.
Roper, along with assistant parish attorneys Tedrick Knightshead and James Hilburn have been ordered to federal court before Judge Brian Jackson on July 8 at 10:30 a.m. to “show cause as to why the court should not issue sanctions against counsel and/or Defendants due to counsel’s failure to comply with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Local Rules of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana.”
Ernest Taylor filed the federal suit against the City of Baton Rouge and the City Police Department alleging that he was wrongfully arrested under an unenforceable city law that prohibits residents from keeping firearms in their parked cars while they are inside establishments that market alcohol.
He was pulled over leaving a bar, because he didn’t have his headlights on, and arrested after rifles were found in his car. Taylor, who had no prior felony convictions, alleges the city-parish ordinance conflicts with a 2008 Louisiana law that permits firearms in locked vehicles in “any parking lot, parking garage, or other designated parking area.”
Roper’s office was supposed to file an answer to the Taylor’s complaint in federal court by Nov. 8, 2013. But the response from the attorneys representing the city was not filed until April 17 of this year. Roper’s office also did not request an extension, nor have they attempted to provide cause for their failure to miss the deadline.
Roper narrowly avoided a termination hearing with the Metro Council last week where she was expected to appeal to keep her job. A faction of the council has sought her removal from the office, saying they’ve lost confidence in her ability to oversee the city-parish’s legal affairs. She has worked out a deal where she will accept a job as the city-parish employment retirement system legal counsel.
Last week, The Advocate detailed her employees’ various side practices, which some council members have said create a distraction from their full time job with the city-parish. Knightshead had one of the busiest private practices on the side, defending at least 99 people in his criminal defense practice since 2013.