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Judge Orders State to Pay Game Industry Legal Fees in Louisiana

| 16 Apr 2007 17:35

U.S. District Court Judge James L. Brady, who ruled in December of 2006 that the Jack Thompson-authored videogame law in Louisiana was unconstitutional, has ordered that the videogame industry's legal fees be paid by the state.

The ruling came despite Attorney General Charles C. Foti's claim to both 11th Amendment immunity, and "absolute prosecutorial immunity," which would preclude an attorney's fees award ruling against him. Citing precedent in earlier cases, the judge ruled that both arguments were without merit.

The plaintiffs in the case, the Entertainment Software Association and the Entertainment Merchants Association, were awarded attorney's fees in the amount of $92000 against the Attorney General and District Attorney Doug Moreau.

As well as passing judgment in favor of the plaintiffs, Judge Brady was harshly critical of the process which allowed the law to be passed in the first place. Along with granting the award, the judge also included the following in his ruling:

"This Court is dumbfounded that the Attorney General and the State are in the position of having to pay taxpayer money as attorney's fees and costs in this lawsuit. The Act which this Court found to be unconstitutional passed through committees in both the State House and Senate, then through the full House and Senate, and to be promptly signed by the Governor. There are lawyers at each stage of this process. Some of the members of these committees themselves are lawyers. Presumably, they have staff members who are attorneys as well. The State House and Senate certainly have staff members who are attorneys. The Governor has additional attorneys - the executive counsel. Prior to the passage of the Act, there were a number of reported cases from a number of jurisdictions which held similar statutes to be unconstitutional (and in which the defendant was ordered to pay substantial attorney's fees). The Court wonders why nobody objected to the enactment of this statute. In this court's view, the taxpayers deserve more from their elected officials."

Despite the law being struck down and the strong criticism of its passage, Rep. Roy Burell (D), the sponsor of the original bill, told the KATC-3 television station that he may try to pass another similar bill in the future.

The complete ruling may be downloaded here. (PDF)

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