BUDDY CALDWELL, ATTORNEY GENERAL, DISCUSSES CONSTITUTIONALITY OF MANDATED HEALTH INSURANCE

Legal Lines with Locke Meredith

Attorney General Buddy Caldwell

Show #107

Mr. Meredith: Hello. I’m Locke Meredith and I’d like to invite you to join me on the next Legal Lines. We are very pleased to have on the show the Attorney General for the entire State of Louisiana, Buddy Caldwell. Buddy is going to talk about the petition that he just filed with the Courts seeking that the new healthcare law just passed by the Federal government be declared unconstitutional because it mandates that individuals in fact purchase health insurance. We are also going to talk about the duties and responsibilities that he has as the Attorney General for the State of Louisiana, both in representing the State of Louisiana and its citizens. So join us on the next Legal Lines with Buddy Caldwell.

 

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Mr. Meredith: Welcome to Legal Lines. I’m Locke Meredith and I am very pleased to have on the show today the Attorney General for the entire State of Louisiana, Buddy Caldwell. Buddy, thank you so much for being on the show today.

Mr. Caldwell: Locke, it’s good to be here.

Mr. Meredith: Tell the folks a little bit about yourself if you don’t mind please sir. Just a little personal history so they know where you are coming from.

Mr. Caldwell: Well, I grew up in Talluah. I played football, baseball, basketball, the things that high school kids do.

Mr. Meredith: Sure. And you were good at it.

Mr. Caldwell: Well, I felt like I was average but I went on to college and played football and ran track at Tulane. Then I went to Law School at LSU and Tulane and went back to practice in my home town in about 1973. Four years later I was elected as DA.

Mr. Meredith: You held that position for a long time.

Mr. Caldwell: Twenty-nine years. It was very interesting.

Mr. Meredith: And the term of the DA is?

Mr. Caldwell: Six years. I served five, six year terms and before the end of my last term I was elected as Attorney General. That’s really, honestly just like a big DA’s office. Instead of the local boards you have the State boards but it is very similar and the DA’s job was excellent training for the work that is needed.

Mr. Meredith: It’s interesting too because as I was preparing I read that you personally tried all of the major felony cases. Tell the folks about that.

Mr. Caldwell: Well in the small places of course you have to know the officers and the case work. It was just something that I could do. That was my strong point, going into the court room and trying these tough cases.

Mr. Meredith: We are talking about serious stuff.

Mr. Caldwell: Brutal murders, rapes, and so forth. I tried all of the murders, rapes and armed robberies. I let my assistants try a few of them and I always tried my cases and that kept me close to law enforcement, knowing how to solve a crime. Your actually, if you are good at what you do, you actually can help solve crimes. There were several murders that I was able to help get confessions by telling my law enforcement officers what to do, how to do it, and figuring out who actually committed the murders. A lot of those I had to do myself. It was only because I was close to them and knew the people in the community and had the contacts that I could do that.

Mr. Meredith: In fact, from what I read, you had a ninety-nine percent conviction rate?

Mr. Caldwell: Well, really it’s not that good. I lost a case in 1983 and I lost another in 1986 and I knew I was going to lose both of those but I had to try those cases. I say it’s not that good because a good prosecutor knows when the case is not worthy. If there is reasonable doubt, or you have some evidentiary problems you throw the case in the trash can or you get a plea on that case. That’s what is important and that is why the conviction rate is so high. For real good prosecutors it is fairly common to have a real high conviction rate.

Mr. Meredith: So from what I understood you lost two cases?

Mr. Caldwell: Yes one in 83 and one in 86.

Mr. Meredith: Because you held your position for so long and were so hands on, as I understand it the Attorney General for the State of Louisiana, while you were DA for District Six would ask you for guidance and direction or help?

Mr. Caldwell: Well I guess you could say that. I personally served as Attorney General Ad-Hoc, that’s a fancy way for saying it, well I was appointed some seventy times in twenty-nine years to serve as Attorney General on various matters including a lot of criminal cases all over the State. I had some connections and then I taught criminal law for JP’s, Constables, Assistant DA’s.

Mr. Meredith: JP’s are Justice of the Peace?

Mr. Caldwell: Yes. I trained prosecutors. I trained prosecutors for the Attorney General’s office. Take them into a Grand Jury and show them how to handle a Grand Jury and to educate the Grand Jurors was very important because people get to serve petty juries and court during the actual trial of a case. It’s are every day people that get to make these decisions. It’s a very important function.

Mr. Meredith: And it’s an honor and a privilege and folks I hope will address it accordingly.

Mr. Caldwell: The more people volunteer and the more people come to court, the less chance they have of actually serving so its better for everyone to go.

Mr. Meredith: And it is participation in our government which is the number one most important thing. Tell the folks a little bit about, I think you come from a big family yourself. You were one of seven children.

Mr. Caldwell: Yes. I am the middle of seven kids. I had five sisters, three older and two younger sisters and a baby brother. My daddy was really an opera singer and an LSU graduate. He sang with the Metropolitan in New York and Chicago. He was asked by Governor McKeithen to come back to Columbia, Louisiana which is where we came from originally in Caldwell Parish. That is where he met my mother who was a nurse and her family was from Talluah and the rest is history.

Mr. Meredith: And what is so interesting is, as I understand it, you called it Caldwell Parish, your family has been here from the beginning.

Mr. Caldwell: Yes. That property originally came from Spain and was named Caldwell’s.

Mr. Meredith: The other wonderful thing I noted in researching and preparing is that you had the highest per capita, meaning per person, in your districts recovery of child support.

Mr. Caldwell: Well I am proud of that because we are in the poorest area in the United States.

Mr. Meredith: Those three parishes?

Mr. Caldwell: Yes. The way we did it was simply being fair to people and if someone couldn’t work and they didn’t have a job we didn’t try to gouge them for the child support. If the mother told the daddy that they couldn’t see the children and it was improper for them to tell them that, we made sure they got to see them and we worked with people to do the right thing. We helped people with traffic situations where they couldn’t afford the money, this, that and the other. To me, part of being a good public service is appropriately using the authority the law gives you. The DA is probably the most powerful position in government. The more power you have, the more careful you have to be with it and you should use it wisely. That’s how we did that.

Mr. Meredith: We talked about this before the show; I love your kind of life mission statement. It was that you want Louisiana to be a place that your kids and your grandkids want to call home. We talked about the size of your family- you have seven kids and six grandkids- and you have basically been in public service for your whole adult life.

Mr. Caldwell: Well that’s good and I’ve coached too. If you are a good parent you go film the ball game and you coach. I coached my girls, my boys and all my kids went to the public schools. If you stay involved and you extenuate the positive, how are we alike, and what can we accomplish when we focus on what we do good. When we focus on our differences that is when we lose. I did that with everything and taught my kids that and they have all done real well by that background.

Mr. Meredith: What was your inspiration? Why did you decide to run for the Attorney General for the State of Louisiana?

Mr. Caldwell: Well frankly, no one else would step up to the plate. I saw that law enforcement was going to lose the Attorney General’s office. We ran polls to be sure that we were correct and the polls showed us that 81% of the people of the State liked a candidate with my background. They didn’t know really who I was.

Mr. Meredith: Well we are glad you did it. Let’s continue that on the next segment. This is Locke Meredith with Legal Lines and Attorney General for the State of Louisiana, Buddy Caldwell. We will be right back.

 

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Mr. Meredith: Welcome back to Legal Lines. I’m Locke Meredith and again I am very pleased to have on the show today the Attorney General for the State of Louisiana, Buddy Caldwell. Again Buddy, thanks for being on the show today.

Mr. Caldwell: Ok, I’m glad to be here.

Mr. Meredith: We were talking, you ran because based on the polling and just your own experience the Attorney General needed to have the kind of background that you developed over thirty years as the District Attorney.

Mr. Caldwell: Yes. It became apparent, especially the criminal part, from what was going on in New Orleans that we needed some help. We needed our healthcare industry to feel secure with the hurricanes, etc. Everything that grew out of Katrina, some of that unrest in there, there were a lot of legal issues that were handled very poorly. I knew how to do those, that was my background. That’s what I brought to the table.

Mr. Meredith: Now that you are the Attorney General for the State of Louisiana, in essence you are the Attorney for the State, the government, agencies and boards but also the Attorney to represent the millions and millions of Louisianans.

Mr. Caldwell: Yes. There are a lot of things we do just on behalf of the State. We file suits on behalf of the State where they are needed, for example, to get Medicaid money. We’ve done that and succeeded. We may defend the State in a road hazard case or where there may have been some malpractice of some kind. We try to get money back that may have been taken from State lands. A lot of legal issues. Any problems that your listeners would have, a legal problem is going to be similar for the State. We represent the State. Then we represent the citizens too in consumer protection. Price gouging issues, contracting issues, and we have taken a different view to bring people to the table is what I’ve tried to do. Bring the different parties to the table and give them a voice instead of just suing them or putting them on the six-o-clock news like what happened to the Assisted Living places who basically do a good job. Some employee is going to do the wrong thing. So when I started the dialogue with the people I found that they appreciated it and it helped us to do so much more.

Mr. Meredith: It’s a lot easier to do it voluntarily then forced. Let me ask you this because in that capacity recently as we know, most folks are going to know. The Federal government, the Congress, the United States Congress has passed this new healthcare law that mandates that individuals, every United States citizen has to purchase health insurance. You, on behalf of our State, have filed a law suit stating that law is unconstitutional.

Mr. Caldwell: Well the Governor asked us to consider that. What we would have to do, anytime the Governor of the State of Louisiana asks you to look at something as long as it has merit to it we are duty bound to file or do whatever. In that particular case I wanted to make sure we didn’t cost Louisiana any more money so we do what, say sign on to what another State is doing. That happened pretty quickly. It is not a political thing. That particular case is not about the President as some people want to think. It’s about the Congress and a lot of Congressional issues. It’s not unusual for Congress to try and overreach as we say it. That case, the legal issue was: can an individual be forced or mandated to buy something, whether it’s health insurance or something else? That’s a complex legal issue. I do want to stress that we agreed it did have some merit so instead of putting Louisiana to the financial burden we just signed on with another state, which we have done in, I don’t know, a hundred other cases.

Mr. Meredith: Let’s explain to folks, kind of give them the big picture of how this works and the reasons the position is being taken that it is unconstitutional. My understanding is that the Constitution starts out with We the People, the citizens of the United States of America has the power. It granted to the Federal Government by the Constitution specific, numerated, express powers.

Mr. Caldwell: Well people talk about Constitution issues and that simply means that it is protected. One of the issues there that would be contested and looked at is does the commerce clause of us going from State to State like we know. Insurance is regulated from State to State. The question is the extent of it. Can they force you to buy insurance or should it just be that you have the option not to take it? That’s called opting out. It’s a good legal issue. Do we force people to do it or is it an improper tax? There’s a lot of issues concerning that. Since it is in litigation I can’t comment much further. I can tell you that it is not political. It’s not about the President. It’s about the people and the people in this state. Mandating insurance may affect what a lot of small businesses do. It’s the power of the Congress and how far it goes. The Governor felt like he wanted to address it, whether we did or not and I said its cheaper for us working for $30 an hour than to pay someone $400 an hour to file it in the State of Louisiana where it costs us an arm and a leg. Let’s just join up with someone else as long as it’s good and as long as that’s the law. This is a normal type of legal issue and I know it’s going to get a lot of press and people are going to be crying and raising sin on both sides. I can’t help that, I just want to do my job and that’s if the Governor asks me I’m duty bound to follow it. That’s simply all I am doing.

Mr. Meredith: Okay and so as I understand it because the Constitution is the people granting power to the Congress it also chops up powers between Congress, the Administration, meaning the President and the Judiciary. In the tenth amendment, what it says is whatever power we do not give to the Federal Government, the States and the individual citizens retain that power.

Mr. Caldwell: Yes. That’s the tenth amendment that the powers are reserved to the States. Most every Attorney General reflect on all kinds of issues. That was simply one of them. We did the same thing with EPA. Louisiana is an oil and gas State. Our chemical industries, we need to make sure that the Federal Government doesn’t just take all of the power and do everything. The same way the NFL wanted to take the Who Dat, that was the same way with the Federal Government. There’s a big interest with nearly every Attorney General, most cases we don’t want the Federal Government taking over everything. That I guess you could say is a prejudice and in the healthcare thing of course that is unfunded mandate.

Mr. Meredith: The States got to pay.

Mr. Caldwell: Which means the States got to pay for it and that’s an interest that everyone should be interested in that regardless of which side.

Mr. Meredith: Well we will continue this on the last segment. This is Locke Meredith with Legal Lines and the Attorney General for the State of Louisiana, Buddy Caldwell. We will be right back.

 

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Mr. Meredith: Welcome back to Legal Lines. I’m Locke Meredith. Again, I am very pleased to have on the show Buddy Caldwell. He is the Attorney General for the State of Louisiana. Again Buddy thanks. We were talking that a lot of times you as the Attorney General are having to file suit to protect the States power and the States interests against any attempts that the Federal Government takes that might harm our citizens or the businesses of the State of Louisiana. That is kind of what the healthcare issue is falling into. Tell the folks other duties and responsibilities or other areas where you have done that.

Mr. Caldwell: Well Chinese drywall has been a big one. Here we are getting hit with all of these hurricanes in Louisiana so we have contracting, fraud issues, price gouging during the terms of the storm. You have all the trees falling over so you have to get a contractor to get the tree off of your roof. The consciousness in the last few years with the storm damages and the natural disasters we have brought a new consciousness especially across South Louisiana but North Louisiana too. I think that the whole State has been better for that.

Mr. Meredith: Kind of brought unity I guess in a way.

Mr. Caldwell: It really has and they say us Louisiana people are the happiest in the United States. I think indeed we are. We have a wonderful State. Our athletes, our food, our cooking, everything is wonderful in Louisiana.

Mr. Meredith: Proud to be Southern.

Mr. Caldwell: We are even happier since we won the Super bowl. I was in New Orleans and of course I had to fight with the NFL over who owns Who Dat. We all know that we have seen fleur de lis before our life times. We know it has been on the St. Louis Cathedral and a lot of other churches in this State for two hundred and fifty years. It’s kind of ridiculous for someone to be claiming that they own it.

Mr. Meredith: That’s in essence what the owners of the NFL were saying. We own the phrase “Who Dat”.

Mr. Caldwell: That’s right. It was real important because there were a lot of families real excited about our Saints you know, and after all of these years I was there when they played the first game in Tulane Stadium, that’s where I played ball and we all got free tickets to the Saints game. It’s been a long haul for our Saints. Well here comes the big bully, I had to with my staff, get on the conference the NFL, and I asked them do you own black? No. Do you own gold? No. Do you own Who Dat? No. Do you own Who Dat Nation? No. Do you own the fleur de lis? No. Well what are we talking about? I mean it’s ridiculous. They admitted it and we had enough time so our folks could take advantage of that.

Mr. Meredith: I remember a lot of folks who purchased that merchandise took it off the shelves because they were scared they were getting sued.

Mr. Caldwell: Our Athletics have brought us together. That’s why I said it’s when we start looking at our differences that we have a problem. I think it is why people in Louisiana are so happy. It’s because we are enjoying life, we are in a warm climate, and it’s just a wonderful State.

Mr. Meredith: So not only are you helping the State government operate legally and efficiently but you are also suing corporations or entities that are screwing up or harming our citizens. You are obtaining or settling judgements in the billions I was reading. Explain that to the folks.

Mr. Caldwell: Well we have actually done that. There are some companies that had drugs that were ineffective for example so Medicare and Medicaid got ripped off. We got their money back plus millions of dollars over and above that. We want to take that money and help run our office to do the other things that are necessary for the State. The biggest victim of predator law suits is not our oil companies it’s the State of Louisiana. They go for the deep pockets and everyone thinks the State has all the money. In a lot of these cases that do not have the merit to get into a local venue and you get a big judgment that is the thing to do. We are fighting that real hard and the best way to do it is with good staff. We work for thirty dollars an hour in the Attorney General’s office.

Mr. Meredith: No one is earning that on the private side.

Mr. Caldwell: A regular Lawyer is not going to do that. We are very fortunate to have put together a great staff.

Mr. Meredith: I want to direct the folks also to the website. It’s amazing the services and programs that the Attorney Generals office provides. You provide protection for consumers so they can complain, you provide protection for the elderly, you warn them about child predators, about the internet porn, all that kind of stuff.

Mr. Caldwell: Buddycaldwell.com is where they can go to get that information. We can push one button and go tomorrow and execute four thousand search warrants across the country for people engaging as internet predators on our people in Louisiana.

Mr. Meredith: That’s incredible. Buddy, thank you so much for being on the show.

Mr. Caldwell: My pleasure.

Mr. Meredith: This is Locke Meredith with Legal Lines and the Attorney General for the State of Louisiana, Buddy Caldwell. Thank you for being with us.

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