Sam Hanna Jr.

It’s the case that has developed a life of its own.

The case in question is a lawsuit a Monroe businessman filed in the spring of 2015 against a Fourth Judicial District Court law clerk and four judges on the court as well as the court administrator, who is a retired Fourth Judicial District Court judge himself.

In Stanley R. Palowsky III v. Allyson Campbell and others, Palowsky alleges Campbell concealed or destroyed documents he had filed in a lawsuit against a former business partner. Palowsky also alleges the five defendant judges — Fred Amman, Ben Jones (court administrator), Wilson Rambo, Carl Sharp and Stephens Winters — conspired to cover up Campbell’s alleged wrongdoing. After much wrangling in the district court in Monroe and at the First Circuit Court of Appeal in Baton Rouge, the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled last summer that Palowsky’s lawsuit against Campbell and the judges could proceed. The court specifically denied the judges’ contention that they enjoyed judicial immunity since, according to the judges, any actions they undertook as it related to dealing with Campbell were part of their judicial functions, or acts. Furthermore, the court ruled the allegations against Campbell and the judges included allegations of criminal wrongdoing and thus, could not be considered judicial in nature. Therefore, immunity for the judges and Campbell, which she had claimed as well, was out of the question.

The state Supreme Court’s ruling freed Palowsky to pursue discovery against Campbell and the judges, meaning Palowsky had been given the green light to subpoena Campbell, the judges and anyone else even remotely associated with the case to sit for depositions, or answer questions posed by Palowsky’s attorneys. All of it under oath, by the way.

Nothing transpired in Palowsky v. Campbell and others until last month when a law firm in Washington, D.C. representing the judges filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing the Louisiana Supreme Court could not cite federal case law in ruling the judges didn’t enjoy judicial immunity against the Palowsky allegations.

Furthermore, the defendant judges argued the case against them should be decided in federal court since the Louisiana Supreme Court relied on federal case law to reach its decision.

Then, last week the judges requested that the retired state district court judge assigned to preside over Palowsky v. Campbell and others order a stay, or halt, all proceedings in the Palowsky lawsuit until the U.S. Supreme Court decides whether it will entertain the judges’ appeal. As it stands now, the judges simply have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their appeal, which was a long-shot at best simply because the U.S. Supreme Court hears so few cases each year.

In their motion requesting a stay in the Palowsky lawsuit, the judges’ attorneys said Palowsky intended to conduct five days of video depositions of 13 individuals including the defendants and other attorneys and court personnel. If Palowsky were allowed to move forward in deposing the judges and whoever else, “the judges will be forced to incur significant time and expense…..,” the motion said. The motion also claimed the Palowsky lawsuit should be put on hold because the judges “should not be required to undergo extensive and potentially abusive pre-trial discovery……”

There’s a word that keeps coming to mind in this latest volley lobbed by the defendant judges in the Palowsky lawsuit. The word is “stall.”

If you think about it long enough, there may be a reason or multiple reasons why the defendants in the Palowsky lawsuit have spared no expense in moving heaven and earth to avoid going under oath to answer questions about the allegations Palowsky has lodged. Is it personal in nature? Is it criminal in nature? Are the judges concerned with what Campbell might say under oath? Or is Campbell concerned with what the judges might say about her under oath? What about the other judges at the Fourth Judicial District Court? What could they be asked under oath? What about the court employees? Do any of them have something to hide or something incriminating to say?

Anyone who is subpoenaed by Palowsky to sit for a deposition can rest assured that Palowsky’s attorneys most likely already know the answers to the questions they’ll pose. The primary purpose in putting someone under oath in a deposition — in most cases — is to determine who’s lying and who’s telling the truth. There’s not much wiggle room, especially when you’re dealing with a litigant such as Palowsky, who has given every indication he’s willing to pursue his lawsuit against Campbell and the judges until hell freezes over.

Staying, or halting, the Palowsky lawsuit would be understandable if the U.S. Supreme Court had agreed to hear the judges’ appeal. But it hasn’t and probably won’t. Accordingly, the time has arrived for the Palowsky lawsuit to move along.

Palowsky isn’t the only individual who has questions that need to be answered. The general public has a right to know as well whether any of the judges or court employees or mere lawyers practicing law at the Fourth Judicial District Court is a criminal.

Sam Hanna Jr. can be reached by phone at 318-805-8158 or e-mail at samhannajr@samhannajr.com.

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