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Enjoy Your Last Meal, and for Dessert: A Summons and Complaint

Well this isn't your average race to the courthouse. Judge Craig Estlinbaum, on the Adjunct Law Prof Blog, brings us the news that the state of Louisiana decided to go on the offensive in response to a challenge to its lethal injection procedures. A serious offensive. The state sued each and every one of the 84 inmates currently on death row, seeking a declaratory judgment that its method of executing the condemned is just dandy, thank you very much.

The suit is described in greater detail on Solitary Watch, and, like most things you read about on the Internet, raises a few questions. Apparently, the state named the 84 inmates in "counterclaims," as part of a suit instituted by one of them, Nathaniel Code, who challenged the lethal injection protocol as a violation of Louisiana's Administrative Procedure Act. By casting the net wide enough to capture 83 prisoners who presumably were just minding their own business training for the upcoming Spring prison rodeo (I have been to the October version, and, think what you will about the concept, I must say Warden Cain puts on a hell of a show), the state seeks to have the court "formally declare, once and for all" that the lethal injection procedure is not subject to the state APA. The Corrections Department's attorney referred to it as "sort of an internal management decision." Yes, the Corrections Department manages the internal organs of its inmates in such a manner as to ensure they stop working.

Not surprisingly, the Louisiana District Attorneys Association thinks this suit is a great idea, and even gives the media a little nudge, linking to a Huffington Post story (which essentially does no more than link to the Solitary Watch post) it refers to as "predictably negative."

The comments are open for the larger capital punishment debate, without question. But, Louisiana lawyers, can y'all help me out now, y'hear, with a couple of fundamental civil procedure questions? Is it a foregone conclusion that it's proper to name all 84 inmates as counterclaim defendants in this suit? Especially in light of the fact that the plaintiff's claims were dismissed over a month before the counterclaims were filed? I understand the governor's instinct to strike first so as to prevent all those anti-death penalty lawyers and activists from clogging up the phone lines Callin' Baton Rouge, but it seems a bit strange to someone who's filed most of his papers in county courts, rather than parish courts.

Posted by Eric Lipman on February 17, 2010 at 10:46 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)


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