The Second Circuit Court of Appeal in Shreveport recently reversed a ruling by a local district court judge who ordered the town of Sterlington to pay attorney fees and court costs to a utility company.

Fourth Judicial District Court Judge Alvin Sharp erred by ordering Sterlington to pay Greater Ouachita Water Co. for attorney fees and court costs stemming from the town’s failed lawsuit to expropriate the utility company’s infrastructure, according to the Second Circuit.

That would be the case because the judiciary cannot usurp the powers constitutionally provided to the executive and legislative branches of government, the Second Circuit ruled.

“Such branching and separation provides the inherent basis that no one branch may infringe or usurp the powers of the others,” stated the Second Circuit’s ruling.

Second Circuit Judge Jay McCallum wrote the April 10 opinion on behalf of a three-judge panel also including Second Circuit judges Frances Pitman and Milton Moore, of Monroe.

The matter came before the Second Circuit after Sharp granted a writ of mandamus directing Sterlington to pay attorney fees and court costs.

Sterlington opposed the writ of mandamus, arguing Sharp did not have the authority to grant the writ because the town had not yet appropriated any funds to pay the court judgment imposed in the expropriation lawsuit.

If Sterlington already had the funds available to expropriate water infrastructure, the town could be ordered to turn over the funds to Greater Ouachita in the form of attorney fees and court costs, the utility company argued.

“However, although the statute dictates the specific fund from which the judgment shall be paid, it does not expressly state that the judgment shall be paid immediately nor does it strictly mandate that any specific public official pay the award,” stated the Second Circuit’s ruling.

The Second Circuit ruled Sharp overstepped the court’s constitutional authority. Half of the appeal costs were assessed to Greater Ouachita. In a unique turn, the other half of appeal costs were not assessed.

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