Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Outcome of Oyster Suit an Opportunity to Save Louisiana’s Coast, Activist Says

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(PRWEB) December 8, 2004 -- By Andy Crawford - Mark Davis had mixed emotions when the state Supreme Court threw out the $1.3-billion award in the Caernarvon oyster lawsuit. (Victory, J.:2003- C-3521 Albert J. Avenal, Jr., et al. v. The State of Louisiana and The Department of Natural Resources (Parish of Plaquemines))

“We were not surprised — but we were pleased,” the head of the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana said.

The court’s decision, handed down in October, effectively put an end to the oystermen’s attempts to make the state pay exorbitantly for its efforts to save the marshes southeast of New Orleans. “It clearly settled once and for all that the state has the right to protect itself, but it went on to state that the state has a duty to protect the coastal areas … vital to the survival of our way of life,” Davis said. “In that way, I think the case is truly tone-setting.”

Davis said his only regret is that it took years for a court to take action to end the case. “The amount of confusion the lower courts sowed in this case is unfortunate,” he said. “The lower courts did not do (the plaintiffs) any favors by creating in their minds the hope that the law was anything other than what the Supreme Court said it was.”

And that was, to Davis, the whole point of the case.

“This was not about putting anybody in their place,” he said. “If the state was correct in the law, we thought that as a matter of law, (oyster fishermen) were not due anything. “It’s not to say that people should not be treated fairly, it’s a matter of what you ought to do compared to what you are legally obligated to do.”

The Supreme Court decision sets up the state for aggressive action. “It basically gave the state as much rope as you want to give it,” Davis said. “We can’t be paralyzed by doubt and undue liability if we’re going to save this place.”

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