St. George incorporation trial begins today

(Photo illustration by Hoa Vu)

The trial involving the lawsuit to prevent the incorporation of St. George begins today at the 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge. 

Voters who live in the proposed municipality approved forming the parish’s fifth city by a margin of 54%-46% in an October 2019 election. Mayor Sharon Weston Broome and Mayor Pro Tem LaMont Cole have sued to block incorporation.

Ad Hoc Judge Martin Coady, filling in for the recently retired William Morvant, will consider whether the incorporation petition complied with the law, whether the proposed municipality will be able to provide services in a reasonable amount of time, and whether the incorporation itself is reasonable. In determining whether creating St. George is “reasonable” under the law, the judge can consider possible harm to neighboring communities. 

The St. George movement began as a quest to create an independent school district, but expanded to include setting up a local government semi-autonomous from East Baton Rouge’s city-parish government. Supporters say their new government will be more efficient and effective than the city-parish in providing services to those living within the prospective city. 

In a pretrial hearing, Coady ruled unconstitutional a provision of the East Baton Rouge Parish plan of government limiting the number of cities in the parish, which means a parishwide election would not be necessary for incorporation if the defendants prevail and the ruling is upheld. 

The trial began at 9:30 a.m. and is scheduled to last all week.