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A plaintiff must have a real and actual interest in the action he asserts, La. Code Civ. Proc. Ann. art. 681. Without a showing of some special interest in the performance sought of a public board, officer or commission which is separate and distinct from the interest of the public at large, plaintiff will not be permitted to proceed. A public right or duty may not be compelled or enforced by a private citizen without a showing of a personal grievance or interest in the outcome. The rule in Louisiana is similar to that stated in Hawkins v. Gregory, where a plaintiff with no special interest apart from the general public was not allowed to maintain an action in mandamus. The court held that the state is adequately provided with officers to attend to matters of this sort, and even neglect of or inattention to such duties by public officials does not warrant their assumption by private litigants except where the statutes so provide.
A new system of property appraisal was established for the state. Plaintiffs League of Women Voters of New Orleans, a nonprofit corporation, and plaintiff individuals who alleged that they were a taxpayer, voter and citizen of New Orleans, complained that defendants, The City of New Orleans and its Officials, had failed to comply with the new system and, therefore, certain revenues were lost through their failure to comply with the revised La. Const. art. VII, § 23. Defendant tax assessor had asserted a third-party demand seeking an alternative writ of mandamus on third-party defendant city council to reduce the millage for ad valorem property taxes for 1979 in accordance with the disputed constitutional provision. Third party defendant city council answered the third-party petition asserting principally that they have performed their duties in good faith and their errors, if any, were caused by the fault of the Assessors, the third-party plaintiffs. The trial court dismissed defendant tax assessor’s third-party petition in mandamus, and held that the law was in favor of third-party defendants and against third-party plaintiffs. The court further ruled that the law was in favor of of the original defendants and against the original plaintiffs, entitling the original defendants to an order dismissing the petitions for mandamus filed by the latter. Both the original plaintiffs and the third-party plaintiffs applied for supervisory writs in the Court of Appeal. The court reversed the part of the trial court's judgment that had dismissed assessor's third-party petition in mandamus and ordered an entry of judgment in their favor overruling the exceptions as to the third-party petition in mandamus and remanding for further proceedings in due course. The court of appeals further held that plaintiffs petition did not state a cause of action in mandamus against defendants because the actions in question were not ministerial duties but discretionary duties. Plaintiffs sought review of a judgment.
Were plaintiffs entitled to a writ of mandamus directing various defendants to comply with the new system?
The court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded the case. The court held that access to the courts was restricted to persons with a special interest apart from the interest of the general public. The court concluded that interference by the court at the instance of plaintiffs would surpass the authority allocated to the court in the tripartite system. That, where there was no allegation that the court of appeal had erred in overruling the exceptions to the third-party petition, that ruling was not disturbed. Thus, defendants' exception of no right of action was maintained. However, plaintiffs petition was dismissed and the judgment of the court of appeals against defendant assessor was reversed. There was no judgment entered as to the third-party demand, and the case was remanded for further proceedings.