NEW ORLEANS - A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit by a Louisiana Supreme Court justice against his fellow Supreme Court justices, saying he can't sue them because they have immunity under the 11th Amendment.
The ruling is a major development, not only in Justice Jeff Hughes' fight against his fellow Supreme Court jurists, but also in the larger battle between landowners and oil companies over damage allegedly caused to private lands and public coastlines.
Hughes was elected to the Supreme Court in 2012, in large part thanks to large contributions from a political action committee created by John Carmouche, a Baton Rouge attorney who represents more landowners and parish governments in lawsuits against oil companies than any other lawyer.
That's why other Supreme Court justices had Hughes barred from sitting in judgment on two of Carmouche's appeals that were supposed to come before the court. Hughes sued, arguing it violated his constitutional rights.
Vance said the only way Hughes could bring the case against his fellow justices is if the alleged violations of his rights were ongoing.
As it happens, oil companies recently filed a motion to recuse Hughes from another case before the court, this one involving plaintiff lawyer Rock Palermo, who gave money to Carmouche's pro-Hughes PAC, Clean Water and Air PAC. Carmouche said they plan on filing for a rehearing before Vance to argue the violations of Hughes' rights continue.
In addition, if the ruling stands it could set new precedent for challenging judges based on who donated to their campaigns. A new Carmouche backed PAC, Restore Our Coast PAC, has already spent $200,000 to help Judge Jimmy Genovese in his race against Judge Marilyn Castle for an open Supreme Court seat.