I think I’ll stick with the newspaper biz for now

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 18, 2008

By Kevin Chiri

I’m now 53 years of age and I’ve definitely figured out what I DON’T want to be when I grow up.

A lawyer!

Yup, got that all straight this past Tuesday when I covered the day-long court case involving the Garyville incorporation business, and their battle with local industry about whether they will be included as part of the town or not.

Anyway, it only took eight hours of being in a courtroom to absolutely convince me that I did not want to have anything to do with coming to a court for hours at a time.

I’ve covered a lot of things in my time, but sitting through eight hours in that courtroom was perhaps the worst newspaper day of my life.

In a word….BORING!

There have got to be a lot of attorneys out there right now shaking their heads and wondering where I am coming from. I mean, it is obvious that a lot of people want to be lawyers.

Is it the money? Is it the recognition from getting to stand in front of a room of people, including a judge, and be the center spotlight?

I don’t know. But what I do know is that I about went crazy sitting through a day of “objection!” and listening to endless questions to witnesses that seemed to take forever to get to the point.

One example was when a surveyor, who was put on the stand as an expert, was actually made to read an entire legal description off a piece of paper. Think that was bad enough? Then he had to read another one!

Somehow it just seems any good lawyer would find a way to get to the point a lot easier than reading legal descriptions of properties!

And what about the same questions being asked over and over and over?

This kind of stuff went on and on, but for all those lawyers up front, they seemed to be enjoying it. I never saw one of them drop his head into his hands and try to take a nap—which I did—and they just seemed to go along with the whole thing as if it’s their normal course of a day.

You can have it!

St. John Parish President Bill Hubbard was one of a host of folks who had been called as a witness, and when he took the stand, I could just see this big showdown coming.

Here was Hubbard on the stand, and in the corner against him was Geri Baloney with the Garyville Incorporation Committee. This was a great setup, I thought.

Hubbard has mostly stayed out of the picture with this industry vs. Garyville controversy, but he hasn’t been shy about making a few comments showing his dissatisfaction with certain aspects of it. This past week was the first time he really came out strong against the tactics of the campaign, with a long press release he gave to the media expressing his dissatisfaction with a number of things the committee has done.

So here was the chance, I thought, for Baloney to really let him have it and give him a hard time on the stand.

Did it happen? Heck no. Instead, one of Baloney’s assistant lawyers headed the questioning and things continued just about as dull as they had been the whole day. Oh well.

One pair who did do some sparring was Baloney and St. John Parish Attorney Jeff Perilloux, the man who has probably been the most outspoken, and sharpest critic, of the Garyville incorporation campaign.

Perilloux has said all along that he has no problem with people voting for incorporation, but he has constantly been more than just a little critical of Baloney and her comments on some matters.

While Baloney has continued to stand firm in believing that industry will, in fact, be paying a decent amount of money to the town of Garyville, should it even get formed, Perilloux believes she has constantly made misleading and untruthful statements.

Of course those kinds of jabs and counter punches have been going on from both sides since this thing got started. And the thing I have to say about Baloney is that through it all, she never seems to get flustered, but just keeps a smile on her face as she states, restates, and restates…just what she believes regardless what anyone else says.

But once in court, Perilloux did seem to take advantage of an opportunity to directly attack the Garyville team of lawyers, seldom sitting still when any opportunity came up to object or question their approach during the entire day’s proceedings.

So for those two, yes, there was a little bit of sparring that did go on….all, of course, under the guise of just doing a day’s work in the courtroom.

But the great kudos of the day had to go to none other than St. John Parish Clerk of Court Eliana DeFrancesch.

I don’t know how many of you have been to the parish courthouse. Probably a lot. But for many who have perhaps never been there, it is a place on the West Bank in Edgard that is…well, not really close to much of anything else.

You can pray very quickly if you need to since the beautiful St. John Catholic Church is next door. But heaven forbid if you want a sandwich, or….A CUP OF COFFEE!

Yessir, there is no coffee sold anywhere that I know of within a 15 minute ride. And after the judge took a break about 5 p.m., I was finally dying for a cup of coffee, as were a number of the legal team members.

I started hunting around and saw Eliana, trying to close up her office and leave. I slipped into the front office and came right out and asked if she knew where I could get some coffee.

What did one of the nicest people in St. John say?

“Here, I’ll make you some with our coffee pot.”

How nice was that? And sure enough, she made an entire pot, helped me get creamer and other supplies, and brought it out into the hall for whoever the lucky ones were to get it.

Now that, my friend, is the person who should have won the trial!

Kevin Chiri is Publisher of L’Observateur and can be reached at (985) 652-9545 or at kchiri@bellsouth.net