Supreme Court denies Baton Rouge’s request for rehearing | St. George incorporation stands

ST. GEORGE — After battling in court the last five years, the Louisiana Supreme Court justices’ latest ruling on June 27, 2024 puts an official end to the St. George incorporation battle.

The Louisiana Supreme Court denied EBR Mayor Pro-Tem Lamont Cole’s request for a rehearing by a vote
of 4-3. The City of St. George cannot be overturned, and its citizens now turn their attention and focus on moving forward in building their city.

“St. George is moving forward with building a city that is accountable to its citizens. We look forward to working together for a better city and ultimately a better parish,” stated St George’s Interim Mayor Dustin Yates.

“This was about our right to vote, self-determination, and self-governance. Thank you to the Louisiana Supreme Court for protecting our fundamental rights and democracy,” from Andrew Murrell, St. George Spokesperson.

CHECK ST. GEORGE BOUNDARIES

Located in the southeastern part of East Baton Rouge Parish, St. George now becomes the state’s fifth largest city with an estimated 86,000 residents. The city has its own mayor, police chief and council members.

Today’s decision comes after the April 26, 2024 ruling where in a 4-3 decision, state supreme court justices found “legal error” and reversed the lower court’s rulings that prevented incorporation. The battle, which began in Oct. 2019 when 17,422 East Baton Rouge Parish voters approved St. George, has slowly progressed through the courts. Baton Rouge city leaders, including mayor-president Sharon Weston Broome, opposed the incorporation and filed a lawsuit to halt it. Lower courts struck down the proposed city’s incorporation twice, leading to a legal showdown at the Louisiana Supreme Court in January.

The legal dispute has revolved around the petition that enabled voters to decide on whether St. George could secede from Baton Rouge and establish itself as an independent city. The First Circuit Court of Appeal determined that the petition did not adhere to state law because the incorporation plan lacked clarity regarding the provision of city services. The Supreme Court ruled reversed that ruling in April 2024.

Baton Rouge City-Parish then filed a request with the Louisiana Supreme Court to rehear the St. George incorporation case claiming there were questions about the boundaries and revenues/taxes. That’s what led up to the decision released by the justices today.

This will be the last legal showdown for the St. George incorporation. The reason why the city-parish cannot appeal this to the U.S. Supreme Court is because the case only deals with Louisiana law. That means, the Louisiana Supreme Court is the highest court this case could go before.

The St. George interim government officials say the St. George Transition District will continue their work building the City of St. George and transitioning services from East Baton Rouge Parish to the new city.

The official date of incorporation until a higher court says otherwise, according to St. George leaders, is Nov. 23, 2019.

Mayor Pro Tem Lamont Cole requested the rehearing. UWK reached out after today’s ruling to Cole for a response.

Certain outcomes come with victories and others come with lessons. I am acquainted with individuals whom I collaborate with, hold dear, and cherish, and they currently reside in the forthcoming city of St. George.

As we navigate this change, I am genuinely optimistic that we can collaborate to guarantee that all residents of our esteemed parish have access to top-notch essential services.

May God bestow blessings upon us all. Wishing you the best of luck during the process of your incorporation.

Mayor Broome issues statement

We learned this morning the Louisiana Supreme Court denied the request for rehearing in the St. George case. This concludes the litigation over the incorporation of St. George. My administration will, of course, abide by this decision. However, there is no effective incorporation date of the City of St George nor is there a legal boundary to the city. Those issues must be resolved by a District Court per Louisiana law.

There has also been no request – as in none, zero – or communication from any official in the City of St George with my administration since April 26th. No official, Mayor, Councilmember, or transition board member has made a formal request for financial information, requested a meeting with me or anyone in my administration to communicate what their plans are for providing services to the citizens of St. George.

Rest assured that I will do everything in my power to keep further division from happening and to avoid future litigation. I trust that the leaders of St. George will approach this transition with the same collaborative philosophy. To that end, I have reached out to Mayor Yates and he has agreed to a meeting to discuss St. George’s plans for the future. I stand ready for the St. George leadership to present their plan to provide basic services – and to begin conversations and negotiations.

As I repeatedly said throughout this journey, as the Mayor-President representing all residents of East Baton Rouge Parish, my sole goal was to keep our parish unified. Now that the litigation is over, I will work diligently and cooperatively with the representatives of St. George to find a correct balance that is fair to everyone in our parish, ensures that services to citizens are not interrupted, and that tax dollars are not wasted.

Mayor Sharon Weston Broome

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