NEW ORLEANS — A civil rights group announced Friday it’s suing the New Orleans district attorney, saying he violated Louisiana’s public records law by failing to turn over subpoenas in response to a 2015 request.
The Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center’s lawsuit, filed in state court, is based in part on news reports revealing that District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office had no system for filing subpoenas. It also noted that Cannizzaro’s office sometimes sent out documents labeled as subpoenas without getting a judge’s approval, a practice that Cannizzaro recently said has ended.
His office had no response to Friday’s lawsuit, citing a policy of not commenting on pending litigation.
MacArthur lawyers, citing reports by The New Orleans Advocate and the online news outlet The Lens, as well as its own efforts to look at the subpoenas, said the documents apparently were not maintained in accordance with the public records law.
The suit also criticizes Cannizzaro’s office for allegedly seeking and obtaining court subpoenas for documents and phone records in cases where no criminal prosecution was intended.
It also questions whether state law makes it too easy for prosecutors to legally obtain subpoenas. It says state law authorizes a subpoena for personal property based on “reasonable grounds” instead of the “probable cause.” The suit says that violates the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure.