Records of Court Hearings, Case and Party Monitoring, Political Relationships & Campaign Activities

Margot Herster filed this request with the Chief Judge Orleans Parish Civil District Court of New Orleans, LA.
Awaiting Acknowledgement


From: Margot Herster

Dear Judge D'Souza,

Pursuant to the Public Records Act of Louisiana, R.S. 44:1 et seq., I request the following records:

1) All audio recording of the judicial proceedings of Judge Bernadette D’Souza, K-2, Orleans Parish Civil District Court, that took place on September 28, 2020 in Room 206, CDC, 421 Loyola Avenue to include the all audio recording of the proceedings of 2019-1117 and 2020-08107 that took place from 9:00am to approximately 5:15pm.
2) The complete “internal file” maintained by Judge Bernadette D’Souza and her clerks on the cases 2019-1117 and 2020-08107 and on the parties to include all emails; copies of court records and filings; research; prints or screenshots of news, websites or social media; evidence; notes of Judge D’Souza and CDC staff; and any other documents contained therein.

On Thursday, October 1, 2020, I requested these records in person at the location where they are maintained by employees of the Civil District Court, division K-2 court reporter (as to item 1) and the law clerk of Judge Bernadette D'Souza (as to item 2), who asserted that they had these records in their custody and control. The law clerk referred to documents I am requesting as the “internal file,” which she had in her hands and immediately available. Both the court reporter and law clerk described in detail the material properties of the requested files, as well as their substantive contents. Both asserted that these records were available (not in current use) but refused to present them for inspection. Neither presented an alternative preferred method for requesting records, aside from the court reporter stating that I could order a transcript based upon the recording and providing me information on how to order. I followed up with a formal letter detailing my request and delivered it by email on October 5, 2020 to all clerks and the court reporter in D'Souza's chambers, division K-2, and by fax to Judge D'Souza at (504) 523-8193.

To date, I have received no response at all to my October 2020 records requests, nor to any other subsequent records requests, I made to Judge D'Souza.

I reiterate my request above and add the following request for records:

3) All emails, letters, text messages or other communications related to or discussing cases 2019-1117 and 2020-08107 and/or the parties in these cases (names redacted here) sent by or received by Judge D'Souza and chambers staff including Veronica Rompleman, Rita Mendoza, and court reporters from August 2019 to present. Include correspondence to or from any of the attorneys in the matter (Lacy Smith, Mark Winsberg, Mark Gramble, Sara Ford, Tracey Powell, Shandy Arguelles, Dixon Brown), people associated with the 2020 election or campaign team, family members, Judge Bruno and his campaign staff, Judge Barial and her chambers staff, Clerk of Court staff, Sheriff's deputies/staff from August 2019 to present. Please be sure to include the correspondence that Judge D'Souza presented in open court via Zoom on Nov. 2020, that contained Facebook posts of a party in this matter.

4) Audio recordings of the following court days of all proceedings and activities of the court in Division K-2 presided by Judge D'Souza:
---January 15, 2020
---February 22, 2020
---July and August 2020 [date(s) unknown] - Include recordings for hearings on attorney withdrawals for Tracey Powell and Shandy Arguelles and on motions to compel discovery in case 2019-1117 and all other proceedings and activities of the court recorded on the days of these hearings.
---September 28, 2020 - expanding upon request in aforementioned request #1 and all other proceedings and activities of the court recorded
---November 20, 2020

5) All emails, letters, requests, text messages, or other correspondence relating to the personal or professional backgrounds, political activism, and/or political relationships of the parties, their families and/or employers; security services, monitoring or surveillance related to the parties, their families and/or witnesses; and media coverage/press related to the case and/or impacts on Judge D'Souza's and/or Judge Bruno's election campaigns from June 2020 to present.

Section R.S. 44.01.2(a) defines public records as, “All books, records, writings, accounts, letters and letter books, maps, drawings, photographs, cards, tapes, recordings, memorandum, and papers, and all copies, duplicates, photographs, including microfilm, or other reproductions thereof, or any other documentary materials, regardless of physical form or characteristics, including information contained in electronic data processing equipment, having been used, being in use, or prepared, possessed, or retained for use in the conduct, transaction, or performance of any business, transaction, work, duty, or function which was conducted, transacted, or performed by or under the authority of the constitution or laws of this state, or by or under the authority of any ordinance, regulation, mandate, or order of any public body or concerning the receipt or payment of any money received or paid by or under the authority of the constitution or the laws of this state, are "public records.”

Under the provisions of R.S. 44:32, if you raise a question as to whether the record requested is a public record, you are required to notify in writing the person making the request of your determination and the reasons, including the legal basis, therefor. Said notice shall be made within three days of the receipt of the request, exclusive of Saturdays, Sundays, and legal public holidays.

The requested documents will be made available to the general public, and this request is not being made for commercial purposes.

In the event that there are fees, I would be grateful if you would inform me of the total charges in advance of fulfilling my request. I would prefer the request filled electronically, by e-mail attachment if available or CD-ROM if not.

Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation in this matter. I look forward to receiving your response to this request within 3 business days, as the statute requires.


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