Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Lafayette's day in Court

Signing in late but with passion from the parking lot of the La Quinta Inn in Del Rio, Texas. (The road sign says "La Quinta is Spanish for high speed Internet.")

Well oral arguments were heard yesterday in the bond/loans case that is before the State Supreme Court. As has become the norm you can get versions from both the Advertiser and the Advocate. Both are interesting and both cite remarks from the judges that hold out hope that the court will seriously question whether the plaintiff's (and the 3rd Circuit's) positions make any sense in the context of a law that claims to make competition possible. From the Advertiser:

Justice Jeanette Knoll asked if Baudin's position would be the same if LUS secured a loan from a bank instead of its electric, water and sewer divisions.

He said it would not change because state law allows no loans once the bonds are issued.

"Would they ever be successful?" Knoll asked. "That scheme is self defeating."

"Ms. Naquin didn't draft this act," Baudin replied. BellSouth, the city and others participated in drafting the Local Government Fair Competition Act "and it was poorly drafted," he said.

From the Advocate:

Chief Judge Pascal Calogero Jr. asked about a provision of the law that prohibits LUS from cross-subsidizing its communications business with tax revenue or “below market-rate” loans.

“Doesn’t that mean it’s OK?” Calogero asked Baudin. “If they’re not below market rate?”

It is a basic point of legal interpretation that laws should be interpreted as though they were internally consistent and in service of the declared purposes. The Third Circuit, in my judgment violated this principle; it is apparent that the Supreme Court is at least asking the right questions.

While the Advocate sticks close to explicating the issues at hand the Adverstiser gives us a few little extras that usefully spice up the story. On the mysterious Ms. Naquin it reports:

At one point, the justices asked questions some Lafayette residents have been asking about the case.

"Who is your client?" Chief Justice Pascal Calogero Jr. asked Baudin, who replied Naquin.

"I thought it might be BellSouth," Calogero added.

Indeed, that's what lots of us think it might be. Though Cox could be the bad boy here as well, given the history of these suits. It seems very unlikely that Naquin and Eastin--as unlike a pair as you are likely to encounter--met and searched out a law firm across the basin to engage in lawsuits that benefit nobody but the incumbents without some sort of help. (Eastin has resigned this suit but remains involved, as far as I know, in another and has also refused to explain his actions or how he got involved.)

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