Judge grants parish attorney day in court
BATON ROUGE - A judge granted the East Baton Rouge Parish Attorney Mary Roper a day in court, but only a portion of her lawsuit will move forward.
Friday, Judge Michael Caldwell ruled that he would not tell the Metro Council how to conduct its termination hearing for Roper, but that he would examine whether she can be fired, simply because the council wants to replace her or if they must have reasonable grounds to do so.
Murphy Foster is representing the Metro Council.
"We're pleased that he granted the part that he did," Foster said. "And were hopeful that he will grant the rest of our exemption after next Friday's hearing."
"The council's attorney's have argued that [Mary Roper] is at-will," said Roper's attorney, Wade Shows. "The judge said he's going to have a hearing on that, that's a win for Ms. Roper."
If the judge sides with Roper and determines she is not an at-will employee, the Metro Council will need to provide substantive reasons to fire her.
"The fate of the parish attorney can't be at the whim of a group of people without having reasons to terminate them," Shows said.
But public displays of distrust have counselors wondering why the attorney wants to remain in office.
"What's unusual," Foster said. "Is for a lawyer to sue their client demanding they remain their lawyer."
"Mary Roper wants to continue to serve the people of East Baton Rouge Parish and continue to do her job." Shows said.
Roper first came under fire in 2009 when an audit was requested by Councilman Chandler Loupe. Since then, the attorney has been under the microscope, and council members say the worst breach of confidentiality was sharing privileged, information with her husband.