BRIEF: Court keeps paywall on digital records in effect for now

Guillory administration officials at a council meeting
M-P Josh Guillory has made clear the charges are intended to slow press scrutiny Photo by Travis Gauthier

The gist: LCG can continue charging $1 per page for digital copies of public records pending another hearing or council action, a district court judge ruled Wednesday. 

Two strikes. Judge Marilyn Castle sided with LCG on only two matters before the court. Not resolved yet is whether LCG’s new fees are “reasonable,” according to state law. That matter is pending another hearing expected before the end of the year. 

LCG attorneys attacked the news organizations’ credibility in defending the case, saying attorneys for The Advocate and The Current misrepresented facts in their petition. Because Advocate reporter Megan Wyatt ultimately paid for a batch of visitor logs, Castle said there was no pressing issue before the court. 

Castle denied a request to pause charges to give the councils time to pass ordinances setting fees. In a purely legal discussion, she found M-P Josh Guillory was within his authority to assess the fee. Gary McGoffin, attorney for The Current, disagreed. “The council has that authority,” he said. “Not the mayor-president.”

“Now the issue of reasonableness [of $1-per-page digital fee], we have not decided yet,” Castle said. 

Council members may act on their own. Castle noted while Lafayette’s charter and state law may not preclude the M-P from setting a charge, it likewise allows the councils to overrule him by ordinance. McGoffin says City Council members may take up that charge.

“The City Council is interested in doing so on an expedited basis and making sure we do it right, with an open process to get input from the people affected by it,” McGoffin says.