Updated December 14, 2017
The ACLU of Louisiana sued Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro for refusing to provide public records identifying the lawyers in his office who have issued or authorized false subpoenas, or documents that claim to be subpoenas but were not issued by a court. The suit seeks to compel the District Attorney to respond to an inquiry, sent on May 5, 2017, which requested documents sufficient to show the names and Louisiana bar numbers of those lawyers.
In response to the letter, Cannizzaro’s office said that his office “does not maintain” those records, suggesting that it would require a review of documents stored off-site. “The District Attorney should know what his lawyers are doing, and he must be able to find out if he wants that information,” said Marjorie R. Esman, Executive Director of the ACLU of Louisiana, who sent the May 5 letter. “We didn’t ask for the fake subpoenas; we asked for the names of lawyers who had issued them. Surely the District Attorney can find out what his employees are doing with a simple search of e-mail and document servers, if not by asking them directly.”
The denial letter sent by Cannizzaro is similar to denials sent to The Lens and to the MacArthur Justice Center, organizations which requested related but different information. The lawsuit seeks to compel Cannizzaro to supply the information, as well as reimbursement for attorneys’ fees and costs.
On July 11, 2017, the New Orleans Civil District Court today ordered Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro to turn over public records from the past five years identifying the prosecutors in his office who have issued or authorized false subpoenas, or documents that claim to be subpoenas but were not issued by a court.
DA Cannizzaro subsequently appealed that order.
In December 2017, following DA Cannizzaro's agreement to turn over public records to the New Orleans City Council regarding fake subpoenas issued by his office, the ACLU of Louisiana's public records case (Esman v Cannizzaro) was dropped.