Councilman wants outside counsel to represent Baton Rouge in Alton Sterling lawsuit

    A Metro Council member wants to initiate a search for an outside law firm to represent the city-parish in the wrongful death lawsuit filed by the children of Alton Sterling, who was fatally shot by a Baton Rouge police officer in 2016.

    Councilman Chandler Loupe is requesting the purchasing department issue an RFP for law firms to serve as counsel to the city-parish in the pending lawsuit. His proposal will be introduced at the Aug. 28 Metro Council meeting and up for public hearing Sept. 11.

    As of now, the East Baton Rouge Parish Attorney’s Office is handling the civil lawsuit, which was filed in June 2017. The trial has been set for April 20, 2020. 

    But Loupe says the parish attorney’s office—which the Metro Council oversees—has only three or four civil attorneys and lacks the resources to handle the case.

    “I don’t think we’re equipped to do it in-house,” Loupe says. “It would be in the city’s best interest to have outside counsel.”

    At least two other council members are open to Loupe’s idea. The remaining council members, meanwhile, either had not yet reviewed the proposal or could not be reached for comment by this afternoon’s deadline.

    Councilwoman Chauna Banks says there has not been any progress made lately on the case, so she’s interested in looking into ways to help move it along.

    “It is stagnated at this time,” Banks says. “I don’t know if maybe new energy or perspectives will help. Maybe it could help.”

    Councilman Matt Watson says he’s open to the conversation of hiring outside counsel as well but hasn’t spoken to Loupe about it yet. 

    The Sterling family lawsuit is likely the most significant wrongful death suit to ever come before the city-parish, Watson says, and he’s not sure the parish attorney’s office has the experience to handle it. 

    The death of Alton Sterling—a black man who was shot and killed by a white police officer, Blane Salamoni—set off days of protests that rocked Baton Rouge in the summer of 2016.

    A year later, Sterling’s family sued the city, its police department, former police chief and the two officers involved in the deadly encounter. The wrongful death lawsuit claims the shooting fit a pattern of racist behavior and excessive force by police in Baton Rouge. 

    Parish Attorney Andy Dotson could not be reached for comment. Mike Adams, of law firm Decuir, Clark and Adams, which is representing the Sterling family, also could not be reached.

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