The Western District Court of Louisiana is the United States federal court with jurisdiction over the western portion of Louisiana. The Western District of Louisiana has five courthouses which are located in Lafayette, Alexandria, Lake Charles, Monroe, and Shreveport. The Lafayette Division serves the parishes of St. Martin, Acadia, Evangeline, Iberia, Lafayette, St. Mary, St. Landry, and Vermillion. Below are some notable cases from the Western District of Louisiana, Lafayette Division.
- Lafayette Court Cracks Down on Cockfighting
Prior to 2003, thousands of roosters were shipped in and out of Louisiana every year as part of the cockfighting industry. But in 2003, the U.S. Congress passed a law that made it illegal to ship birds across state lines for cockfighting. The United Gamefowl Breeders Association, a national cockfighting group, challenged the law in the Western District of Louisiana arguing that it was an unconstitutional interference of commercial rights and was discriminatory against Cajuns, Hispanics, Filipinos, and others.
In May 2005, the District Court disagreed with the United Gamefowl Breeders Association and held that the law prohibiting the shipping of birds for cockfighting was constitutional. The case is UGBA v. Veneman, No. 03-970 (W.D. La. 2005). Cockfighting was later banned by the Louisiana State Legislature in 2008.
- Lafayette Court Orders School Desegregation
On November 11, 2016, the Western District of Louisiana, Lafayette Division issued a final Superseding Consent Order in a school desegregation lawsuit originally filed in 1965. The case is Thomas v. St. Martin Parish School District.
In the 1960s, the District Court held that St. Martin Parish had an intentionally discriminatory school system. Under the U.S. Constitution and Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, St. Martin Parish is required to provide educational programs and services without discriminating on the basis of race.
Since that original ruling, the District Court has entered numerous desegregation orders, but the school never earned unitary status. Unitary status is a legal term which means the school is no longer providing a dual education based on race. Once unitary status is achieved, the school will no longer be subject to court oversight.
The Superseding Consent Order set forth the remedial measures that must be taken by the St. Martin Parish School Board to eliminate the traces of the formerly segregated school system. In order to be granted unitary status, the school must eliminate discrimination in six key areas: student assignment, teacher assignment, principal assignment, transportation, facilities, and extracurricular activities.
- Lafayette Court Awards Punitive Damages to Big Pharma
In April 2015, Takeda, one of Asia’s largest drug makers, and Eli Lilly & Co., its Indianapolis-based partner, were ordered by the Western District of Louisiana federal court in Lafayette pay a combined $9 billion in punitive damages after they hid the cancer risks of their Actos diabetes medicine. The $9 billion jury award was the 7th largest in U.S. history at the time it was given. The W.D. of Louisiana court also found that the company destroyed evidence relevant to the lawsuit and acted in bad faith to preserve documents.
The $9 billion award was later reduced by the U.S. District Judgeto $36.87 million because it was in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Due Process Clause. Under the Due Process Clause, punitive damage awards cannot be grossly excessive in relation to the state’s legitimate interests in punishment and deterrence. The $36.87 million punitive award was still believed to be significant enough to deter such wrongful conduct by pharmaceutical companies in the future. The case is In Re: Actos [Pioglitazone] Products Liability Litigation, MDL Docket No. 2299, No. 6:11/md-2299, W.D. La., Lafayette Div.).