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Friends in High Places
Good relationships with judges may help secure favored treatment for Tulane.

When Tulane requested a delay from the U.S. Supreme Court to file a response to Bernofsky's Petition for Certiorari, it received approval essentially by return mail [1].  The Clerk of Court has authority in deciding whether or not a party will be granted an extension of a deadline.  When Bernofsky requested a delay from the U.S. Supreme Court to file a petition for a rehearing on his Petition for Mandamus, his request was denied after a nearly two-week delay [2].  The difference in response to these similar requests is unmistakable.

Tulane exploits every opportunity for extending its sphere of influence in the courts.  In this case, the U.S. Supreme Court's Clerk of Court, William K. Suter, a Tulane graduate (LLB, 1962), is featured in a Tulane video produced for the law school's 2000 and 2001 promotional CD entitled, "Something More," which is widely distributed as a recruitment tool.  Tulane's solid relationship with the Clerk of Court may be a factor in the expedient treatment it received.  Suter had been the recipient of a full scholarship to the Tulane School of Law [3].  Supreme Court clerks play a major role in selecting which cases will be heard by the Supreme Court.

The Hon. William K. Suter (2000)
Screen from Tulane Law School's promotional CD.  The legend above the image reads: The Honorable William Kent Suter '62 / Clerk of the United States Supreme Court / Major General, US Army (Ret.) Washington, D.C.

Suter retired from the Supreme Court in 2013 [14].

Privilege Above Rules

The day before the U.S. Supreme Court posted its decision on Bernofsky's Petition for Certiorari, Tulane's attorney, Julie Livaudais, received advance notice that certiorari was being denied [4].  Bypassing the usual procedure of simultaneous formal notification, the Clerk of Court was apparently anxious to share the "good news" with Tulane.

Another example of Tulane's influence over judges is apparent in the way the Fifth Circuit has provided advertising privileges for Tulane in its New Orleans courthouse.  Despite restrictions on advertising in federal buildings, the library of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals prominently displays a framed poster that advertises Tulane's law school and is easily seen from the building's main corridor.  Of the four law schools in Louisiana, Tulane alone enjoys this perquisite.

Tulane Poster in Courthouse Poster advertising Tulane, as viewed through the glass wall of the library from the corridor of the Fifth Circut Court of Appeals.  The poster reads: TULANE / SCHOOL OF LAW / NEW ORLEANS.  Poster is mounted behind glass and partially obstructed by glare.

Advertising in High Places

Tulane advertising on government property is not limited to federal courthouses.  For years, motorists in New Orleans traveling along I-10 to and from the central business district could see advertising for Tulane University's football team in letters 8-feet tall near the Broad Street overpass, painted on the prison building walls that run parallel to the highway.  Free advertising on public property at public expense for a private institution that pays no taxes is extraordinary and attests to the political influence exerted by Tulane on the responsible elected public official, Orleans Parish Criminal Sheriff Charles C. Foti, Jr. [5].

According to Foti, "[W]all art along the I-10 Expressway is one of the nation's best-known community bulletin boards" [6].  Wall art is just one of the many community service projects financed by public sources that make use of the inmates of Orleans Parish Prison.  Inmate labor has always been in high demand in Louisiana [7], and in the 30 years since 1974 that Foti was Criminal Sherriff, the prison population expanded more than 10-fold, and so has the work they have performed [8].  Inmate labor is also valued for private work projects [9].

In yet another "Community Service Announcement," Foti further extols Tulane and its football program in a half-page newspaper ad that mentions Tulane 23 times in 26 sentences [10].  The question for Orleans Parish residents to consider is whether it is proper for the Criminal Sheriff to use public funds to promote a private institution that pays no taxes.

On October 4, 2003, Louisiana voters elected Charles Foti to the position of Attorney General, whose responsibility includes writing legal opinions for the state [11].  Tulane is fortunate to have a friend in this position.  In 1984, Tulane employed the services of a judge (later convicted of financial fraud) to persuade the state attorney general to reaffirm its tax-exempt status.  Recently, Tulane's tax-exempt status has again come under scrutiny, in part because of the attorney general's opinion (March, 2003) that it is illegal to use public funds for certain private purposes [12].


Tulane's relationship with law enforcement should not be considered just a one-way street.  In 2007, Tulane provided McAlister Auditorium as the venue for the graduation ceremony for the largest class of police recruits in the history of the New Orleans Police Department.  The class was addressed by Mayor Ray Nagin, District Attorney Keva Landrum-Johnson, FBI Special Agent James Bernazzani, and Police Superintendent Warren Riley [13].

  1. Tulane's request of August 15, 2001 was approved on August 20, 2001 by the Clerk of the U.S. Supreme Court.

  2. Bernofsky's request of November 9, 1999 was denied on November 22, 1999 by Justice Scalia (Application No. 99A425).

  3. Gerard Shields, "Supreme clerk 'loves the court;' Tulane law graduate finds way to Washington, D.C." The Advocate, Baton Rouge, April 5, 2004.

  4. Personal communication from Victor Farrugia, Esq., November 13, 2001.

  5. W. Thomas Zander, "School of hard knocks?" The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, February 6, 2002, p. B-6.

  6. Sheriff Charles C. Foti, Jr., "Paid Community Service Announcement," Gambit Weekly, New Orleans, August 6, 2002, p. 8.

  7. "Plantation Days at Angola: Major James and the Origins of Modern Corrections in Louisiana," In: Burk Foster, Wilbert Rideau, and Douglas Dennis, The Wall is Strong: Corrections in Louisiana, 3rd Ed., Lafayette, LA, Center for Louisiana Studies, 1995, pp. 1-5.  See: http://burkfoster.com/plantationdays.htm, accessed 07/12/06.

  8. Barry Gerharz & Seung Hong, "Down by Law; Orleans Parish Prison before and after Katrina," Dollars & Sense, March/April issue, Boston, 2006.  See: http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2006/0306gerharzhong.html, accessed 07/13/06.

  9. Leslie Williams, "Judge disavows inmate workers; She says uncle sent them to her house," The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, July 13, 2006.

  10. Sheriff Charles C. Foti, Jr., "Paid Community Service Announcement," Gambit Weekly, New Orleans, February 25, 2003, p. 17.

  11. Gwen Filosa, "Two New Orleanians capture statewide office," The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, October 5, 2003, p. A-1.

  12. Louisiana Department of Justice, Attorney General Opinion 03-0111, March 17, 2003, p. 13.

  13. Daniel Monteverde, "Record number join NOPD; City's largest class of recruits graduates," The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, December 1, 2007, Metro, p. 1.

  14. Suter is the 19th clerk of the Supreme Court, a post he held for 22 years.  He stepped down from his position on August 31, 2013.  Suter, 75, who graduated from Tulane University Law School in 1962, said, "I owe the school a lot. Tulane gave me everything I needed to become a lawyer, and it was the best thing that ever happened to me."  From: The Tulane Hullabaloo, "Alumnus, Supreme Court Clerk Suter retires," March 14, 2013, http://www.tulanehullabaloo.com/alumnus-supreme-court-clerk-suter-retires-1.3081015, accessed 12/06/2013.

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