Top Lawyers: A Hotel Project With Many Parts
Rose LeBreton relates one of her toughest cases
SARA ESSEX BRADLEY
Real Estate Law and Litigation – Real Estate
As a young girl, Rose LeBreton remembers seeing rows and rows of books lining the walls of her grandfather, Thomas Gagan’s, office. She would go to his office everyday after school and wait for her grandfather to finish his work to go home.
“My grandfather showed me the importance of staying engaged in a challenging endeavor,” LeBreton says. “He was a brilliant trial lawyer, who still practiced law at 85 years old.”
Her father and two of her uncles were also lawyers, so it was no surprise to anyone when LeBreton took up the family profession.
After graduating from Tulane University School of Law, she served as a law clerk in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana for Charles Schwartz Jr. From there she went on to practice for over 16 years at Steeg Law Firm, where she was a partner. LeBreton then joined Lugenbuhl, Wheaton, Peck, Rankin & Hubbard, P.L.C. last winter as a shareholder to expand their real estate transactions practice. She concentrates her practice on all aspects of real estate development, titles and transactions with some related litigation.
“Cases tend to end up on my desk because they are complicated either by the layers of ownership, the number of parties or the number of rights in a property,” LeBreton says.
In early 2000, she received one of the toughest cases of her career that involved all three.
The developers of the Astor Hotel, which sits at the corner of Canal and Bourbon streets, planned it as two adjacent hotels sharing certain support areas. The hotel, which is now united as one property, is situated on at least nine lots of record. The main part of the hotel is on five lots, each with a corresponding owner.
The annex building, which was originally a separate hotel property, is situated on the next four lots on Canal Street, and each of those four properties is owned by four other entities. To further complicate matters, LeBreton spent an entire summer creating and extending rights of a service alley to all the hotel properties in order for the hotel to function as a modern facility. She recalls that the real challenge was figuring out a way to make all the lots operate together, while bowing to the rights of the individual property owners, who for the most part still own the land, the buildings or both.
“This is what I call legal architecture – building a foundation of property rights that will support the project for its intended use,” LeBreton says. The Astor Hotel case closed in late 2001.
LeBreton went on to handle a case involving a group of successors to the Poitevent-Favre Lumber Company who controlled 43,500 acres in the center of St. Tammany Parish. In order to sell or make any decisions, over 60 signatures were required. After Hurricane Katrina, the group, led by Edward B. Poitevent II and William B. Rudolf, decided to modernize their ownership. LeBreton along with her colleagues worked for more than two years to reduce the number of signatures to five, which made a closing with the ownership group more efficient and at a more commercially reasonable cost.
These days she spends some of her time representing Tulane University in its riverfront project, the RiverSphere Center for Excellence in Renewable Energy Systems. Tulane’s ultimate goal is to provide a business incubator or laboratory to develop the technology to harness the energy of the Mississippi River in a way that is similar to the way the energy of Niagara Falls has been captured.
From the numerous cases on which LeBreton has worked in her more than 30 years in practice, one of the most valuable lessons she’s learned along the way is to “know your case, listen to your client and respect all the parties and the court, but most of all enjoy the people you meet and help along the way.”