LA Supreme Court hears Catahoula Lake issue

Published: Sep. 4, 2019 at 7:27 PM CDT
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The Louisiana Supreme Court took up the issue of whether Catahoula Lake is private or public land on Wednesday. The popular duck hunting spot in Central Louisiana has recently been off-limits to public use after a Rapides Parish 9th Judicial District Court judge and the Third Circuit Court of Appeal ruled the long-time public lake was private land, which cut off public hunting in the area.

On Wednesday at 2 p.m., the Louisiana Supreme Court in New Orleans heard specifically one issue in "Steve Crooks and Era Lee Crooks v. State of Louisiana, Department of Natural Resources." The hearing was limited to “Assignment of Error No. 3”. It is the issue of whether the plaintiffs waited too long to bring the lawsuit in the first place.

Generally, the State Supreme Court could take months to make a decision.


In 2006, Steve and Era Crooks filed a class-action lawsuit against the state of Louisiana that said the landowners surrounding the lake are owners of the lake.

More than a year ago in Rapides Parish, ad-hoc Judge James Boddie ruled in favor of the Crooks' in "Crooks vs State” saying the state had unlawfully expropriated the river banks, owing the landowners $38 million in damages as well as $4.5 million in unpaid oil and gas royalties, after oil drilling has been taking place in the area throughout the years.

More than a year later, the Third Circuit Court of Appeal agreed with the lower court that Catahoula Lake is private land. The Third Circuit did make one exception by lowering attorney fees for the state.

It all comes down to what is that body of water. If it's defined as a lake, it's state property and stays public. If it's deemed a river, then it's private property. The Third Circuit ruled that it's legally a river. Which will put it in the hands of the private landowners.

The Supreme Court’s decision could take several weeks.

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