Judge sides with LSU in student editor's lawsuit seeking names of presidential candidates

LOUISIANA — A student journalist seeking the names of Louisiana State University’s presidential candidates has lost her lawsuit against the university.

A private search consultant hired by the school’s private foundation handled the search for the university. Tuesday, a district court judge ruled “that the people who had responded to nominations from the consultant hired by LSU were not applicants under the records law that requires the names of applicants to be produced,” said Scott Sternberg, the lawyer representing The Daily Reveille Editor-in-Chief Andrea Gallo.

The judge also found that LSU isn’t in possession of the documents.

Gallo said she was seeking the names of about 35 people who “expressed a certain level of interest in the job” and who had made it through a weeding-out process. However, the judge ruled that those people were only “candidates,” and not “applicants” for the job, Gallo said. LSU argued that among the 35, there was only one actual applicant — the man who was ultimately chosen, she said.

Gallo said she was “disappointed” in the ruling but is still deciding whether to appeal.

“I think that Judge [Timothy] Kelley’s claim that LSU does not have control over the names of the, I guess ‘active candidates’ is what we’re calling them at this point, is entirely false given that LSU contracted the private search firm to find those names,” she said.

The ruling comes just days after a Louisiana newspaper won a similar lawsuit against the university, also seeking access to the candidates’ names.

“Like cases generally have like results but these were different judges, and you have to respect that,” Sternberg said.

Though he and Gallo are still deciding whether to appeal, Sternberg said he still expects the records to be made public eventually, either as a result of their lawsuit or The Advocate’s.

“We will get these records eventually,” he said.

Jimmy Faircloth, the attorney representing the LSU Board of Supervisors, said the school was happy with Tuesday’s ruling.

“We are pleased with the outcome of yesterday’s proceedings and think the ruling speaks for itself,” Faircloth said in a statement.

After The Advocate’s win against the school last week, Hank Danos, chairman of the LSU Board of Supervisors, said the school planned to appeal.

“LSU is disappointed in the ruling, but confident the decision will be reversed on appeal,” Danos wrote in a statement. “The ruling orders LSU to do something that is not possible – to produce records not in LSU’s custody or control.”

The university had already named its president by the time that ruling occurred, but Carl Redman, Advocate s executive editor, said having the names could still shed important light on the presidential search.

By Sara Tirrito, SPLC staff writer. Contact Tirrito by email or at (703) 807-1904 ext. 124.