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B. Dexter Ryland

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Bert Dexter Ryland
File:B. Dexter Ryland portrait.jpg
Ninth Judicial District Court Judge in Alexandria, Louisiana
In office
1990 – June 28, 2005
Personal details
Born(1941-10-10)October 10, 1941
LaPorte, Indiana, USA
DiedJune 28, 2005(2005-06-28) (aged 63)
Alexandria, Rapides Parish, Louisiana, United States
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)(1) Louise Lapeze Ryland
(2) Paulette Hebert Ryland
RelationsMalcolm Hebert (father-in-law)
ChildrenFrom first marriage:

John Dexter Ryland
Robert Garnett Ryland
Julie Elaine Ryland Prender
From second marriage:
Clifton Bert Ryland
Melicia Soileau Ryland

Amelia Marydell Ryland
Alma materBolton High School

Louisiana State University

Louisiana State University Law Center

Bert Dexter Ryland (October 10, 1941 – June 28, 2005) was a state Ninth Judicial District Court judge in Alexandria, Louisiana, having served from 1990 until his death in office.

In September 1996, Ryland was nominated for outstanding jurist by the Alexandria Bar Association. He died a few weeks after being hospitalized in the Rapides Medical Center with pneumonia. Earlier in the year, Ryland issued a controversial ruling regarding the selection by the board of trustees of the new president of Louisiana College, a Baptist-affiliated institution in Pineville.

A Democrat, Ryland won the "Division E" judgeship in his state's jungle primary held on November 6, 1990, by defeating Bernard Kramer, a personal injury lawyer in Alexandria and also a Democrat. Ryland received 18,602 votes (63 percent) from 108 precincts in Rapides Parish to Kramer's 10,799 (37 percent). Ryland faced minimal or no opposition for his judgeship thereafter. All of the state judgeships in Rapides Parish are held by Democrats.

Early years and education[edit]

Ryland was born to C. Bert Ryland and the former Velma Burns (1918–1999) in La Porte in northwestern Indiana. The Rylands afterwards returned to their home in Alexandria, and he graduated from Bolton High School in the city's Garden District in 1959. Afterwards, Ryland, who went by his middle name "Dexter", attended Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. He received his Juris Doctor from the Louisiana State University Law Center in 1965, when he was the winner of the LSU Moot Court competition. In 1968, Ryland became president of the Young Lawyers Association. He was treasurer of the Alexandria Bar Association from 1974 to 1975 and a charter member of the Alexandria Young Lawyers Association.[1]

In 1987, he was inducted into the LSU "Law School Hall of Fame". Prior to his judicial election, Ryland was the first assistant district attorney for Rapides Parish from 1985 to 1990.[1]

He had served earlier as assistant city attorney for Pineville during the administration of then Mayor Floyd W. Smith, Jr. Afterwards, Ryland was assistant city attorney and then city attorney for Alexandria. Ryland was a member of the Exchange Club, Masonic Lodge, and Shriners and was an avid hunter and outdoorsman.

The Louisiana College case, 2005[edit]

On March 18, 2005, Judge Ryland upheld the actions of the Louisiana College trustees when they elected the theologically conservative, Joe W. Aguillard, a former school superintendent in Beauregard Parish, as the new president to succeed the retiring Dr. Rory Lee. Aguillard left the college presidency in 2014.

The dispute, brought forward in a suit by former LC faculty members, centered upon the election process used by the trustees. LC by-laws provided that a committee was to be appointed to review candidates and to make a recommendation to the trustees. The committee recommended Malcolm Beryl Yarnell, III, of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, who subsequently received an offer from the college. Yarnell and the trustees never reached an agreement on contract terms. As a result, the trustees expanded the selection committee from nine to seventeen members.

The change shifted the composition of the committee, which then nominated Aguillard as a candidate for the presidency. Aguillard was supported by the LC trustee faction which favored a move toward theological conservatism. He was, however, unacceptable to the LC faculty, which voted 52-12 against his appointment and also issued a vote of no confidence in the trustees.

Ryland rejected the first two arguments in opposition to the lawsuit: that the plaintiffs lacked standing and that the matter was outside state jurisdiction because it involved the exercise of religious freedom under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Judge Ryland agreed that the college had not followed the procedures outlined in its by-laws, but he concluded that the by-laws did not explicitly preclude nominations from the floor at the trustees meeting. The judge also noted that the by-laws did not require the trustees to accept the committee nomination.

In oral arguments, Ryland said that LC, which he attended in his early years, "needed a president of the college, and they needed one fast." The by-laws specifically provided that the committee could not be reconstituted until after the new president was in office, clearly indicating that the committee's nomination not be tampered with. By permitting nominations from the floor, Judge Ryland has effectively permitted the committee to be effectively reconstituted, albeit at the last moment. Consequently, Judge Ryland's conclusion that the committee structure is not inconsistent with floor nominations strikes us as being a construction that simply can’t be reconciled with the notion of a committee that can’t be altered once it is created.

Those opposed to Aguillard's accession to the LC presidency contended that Judge Ryland’s decision demonstrates why attention to detail is critical in the drafting of institutional by-laws. The opponents said that boards should draft a charter for each appointed committee, with itemization of its jurisdiction, duties, and powers.

Plaintiffs, represented by the Alexandria attorney Jay Bolen, appealed to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, but the court posthumously upheld Judge Ryland's decision in April 2006.

Ryland's last rites[edit]

Ryland was cremated. Memorial services were held on July 1, 2005, at Our Lady of Prompt Succor Roman Catholic Church in Alexandria. He was survived by his wife, Paulette Hebert Ryland (born December 23, 1952) of Alexandria; their children, Clifton Bert Ryland, Melicia Soileau Ryland, and Amelia Marydell Ryland; and three children from a previous marriage to Louise Lapeze of Baton Rouge—John Dexter Ryland and wife, Carrie Ryland of Alexandria, Robert Garnett Ryland and wife, Irina Ryland of Silver Spring, Maryland, and Julie Elaine Ryland Prender and husband, Joel B. Prender of Dallas, Texas. He was survived by a brother, Rhett Robert Ryland and a sister, Sonya Dell Ryland Millican, both of Baton Rouge. He was survived by his three grandchildren, Isabelle Burnum Ryland, Catherine Garnett Ryland, and Andrew Dexter Ryland. Ryland was preceded in death by his second father-in-law, Malcolm Hebert, an engineer and businessman who served as the last elected streets and parks commissioner of Alexandria.

Rebel Garnett Ryland (born April 22, 1953), an attorney in Columbia in Caldwell Parish died eighteen days before his older brother, Judge Ryland. Rebel Ryland had practiced law for twenty-five years, much of that time in the firm of the late Governor John McKeithen. Like his brother, Rebel Ryland was also a graduate of Bolton High School and the LSU Law School. He died of ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease.

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  1. 1.0 1.1 "In Memoriam: 9th JDC Judge B. Dexter Ryland". Retrieved June 7, 2014.

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