All nine judges at the Second Circuit Court of Appeal in Shreveport recently recused from presiding over an appeal in a Monroe businessman’s ongoing racketeering lawsuit, including two judges who previously signed an order to liquidate the businessman’s company.
Among the judges who recused from the appeal filed by Stanley Palowsky, of Monroe, was Second Circuit Court of Appeal Judge Milton Moore III, of Monroe, who declared that his bias, prejudice or interest in the case would prohibit him from conducting a fair and impartial hearing. Moore’s written reasons for recusal appeared at odds with a previous ruling he wrote in Stanley R. Palowsky III and others v. W. Brandon Cork and others.
The recusal of Moore and the other eight judges at the Second Circuit led to the transfer of Palowsky v. Cork to the First Circuit Court of Appeal in Baton Rouge.
In his appeal to the First Circuit, Palowsky is arguing that retired Judge Dee Ann Hawthorne, of Natchitoches Parish, erred in blocking him from pursuing his lawsuit against Anadarko Petroleum Corp.
In early 2018, Palowsky amended his lawsuit — which has been ongoing since it was first filed in 2013 — to claim that Anadarko blackballed his environmental remediation company (Alternative Environmental Solutions Inc., or AESI) as retaliation for exposing the oil and gas company’s alleged scheme to artificially inflate its stock prices. Palowsky alleged Anadarko paid kickbacks to environmental consultants and contractors who reduced cost estimates for the remediation of the company’s oil and gas project sites.
to First Circuit
In a Jan. 8 order of recusal, Second Circuit judges Felicia Williams (who is now the chief judge), Shonda Stone and Jay McCallum recused themselves and declared the appeal court unable to comply with the random allotment of judges. That would be the case because judges at the Second Circuit are normally assigned to three-judge panels, but only three judges were available to be assigned in Palowsky v. Cork after the appeal court’s other six judges recused.
“Six judges have individually recused themselves in this matter, leaving three judges who can be assigned to this case,” stated the Second Circuit’s Jan. 8 order. “In order to abide by our Court policies and procedures regarding the random assignment of judges to panels, we the undersigned judges are constrained to recuse.”
State Supreme Court Chief Justice Bernette Joshua Johnson signed an order reassigning Palowsky v. Cork to the First Circuit Court of Appeal in Baton Rouge.
The Ouachita Citizen obtained the Second Circuit judges’ written reasons for recusal from Palowsky v. Cork through a public records request.
This was not the first time the Second Circuit has recused from presiding over an appeal in a case involving Palowsky as the plaintiff. In August 2016, the Second Circuit gave up presiding on an appeal in Stanley R. Palowsky III and others v. Allyson Campbell and others, which was a spin-off lawsuit from Palowsky v. Cork. In Palowsky v. Campbell, Palowsky alleged that Allyson Campbell, a law clerk at Fourth Judicial District Court, had concealed or destroyed some of the pleadings he filed with the court as part of the Palowsky v. Cork litigation. Palowsky v. Campbell led to a criminal investigation of Campbell, and the Palowsky v. Campbell lawsuit is currently on appeal at the Supreme Court.
Judge Moore unable
to conduct fair hearing
Moore, of Monroe, recused from presiding over any appeal in Palowsky v. Cork on Nov. 27, 2018.
“Reasons for recusal in this matter are based in the grounds set forth in La. C.C.P. art 151(A)(4),” Moore’s Nov. 27, 2018 order stated.
Under the Code of Civil Procedure article cited by Moore, a judge shall recuse when he is “...is biased, prejudiced, or interested in the cause or its outcome or biased or prejudiced toward or against the parties or the parties’ attorneys or any witness to such an extent that he would be unable to conduct fair and impartial proceedings.”
In Palowsky v. Campbell, Moore’s written reasons for recusal were: “I am personal friends with Brian Crawford who represents parties in this case,” referring to the Monroe attorney who represents Campbell in Palowsky v. Campbell.
Though Moore disclosed his bias, prejudice or interest in the case as the reason for his recusal from Palowsky’s appeal in November, Moore did not recuse from an earlier appeal in Palowsky v. Cork in February 2015.
At that time, the Second Circuit issued a Feb. 26, 2015 ruling — written by Moore — that ordered the immediate liquidation of Palowsky’s company — an outcome sought in a separate lawsuit filed by Palowsky’s business partner, Brandon Cork, who was a defendant in Palowsky v. Cork.
The Second Circuit’s February 2015 ruling also was odd, because it was based on facts beyond the scope of the appeal at that time. Moore took note of this fact when he wrote, “This court granted the writ because we noticed, on our own initiative, that the applicant, Cork, has filed a petition for dissolution of AESI in the Fourth JDC. We find that the outcome of that suit will likely resolve the instant dispute over the authority to represent the corporation.”
At the time, Palowsky’s attorneys — Joseph “Joe” Ward III, of Covington, and Sedric Banks, of Monroe — also criticized the Second Circuit’s ruling in February 2015 because it ordered a resolution unrelated to the matter at hand. The appeal to the Second Circuit in early 2015 stemmed from a defense attorney’s pleading to remove Banks as an attorney in the case.
In the appeal in early 2015, Thomas “Tom” Hayes III, with Hayes, Harkey, Smith & Cascio, argued that Banks could not serve as Palowsky’s personal attorney as well as the attorney for AESI, which was at the time believed to be co-owned by Palowsky’s former business partner, Brandon Cork. (Cork is no longer a defendant in the case, and he no longer claims 50-50 ownership in AESI with Palowsky either.)
Instead of simply removing Banks as an attorney in the litigation, the Second Circuit opinion written by Moore ordered the removal of Banks as well as the immediate liquidation of AESI.
Moore and Hayes were each previously named in a motion to recuse Fourth Judicial District Court Judge Wilson Rambo from Palowsky v. Cork. Palowsky’s allegations that Campbell concealed or destroyed his filings in Palowsky v. Cork first surfaced in the motion to recuse Rambo. The motion to recuse Rambo also detailed Campbell’s public admiration for Moore and Hayes as part of a social column she once wrote for The (Monroe) News-Star.
In one of her published social columns, Campbell described Moore as her “first boss,” a likely reference to Moore’s tenure at Fourth Judicial District Court. In another column, she wrote that she had the “best time catching up with” Moore, who looked “debonair” at the occasion. During a Jan. 28, 2016 interview with authorities, Campbell said she had known Hayes and his wife, U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Karen Hayes, since she was a child. During the same interview, Campbell and her attorney, Crawford, defended her remarks about Moore and Hayes as just some of the “nice things” she wrote about everybody.
The other two Second Circuit judges who signed the Feb. 26, 2015 order to liquidate AESI included Frances Pitman and John Larry Lolley.
Lolley, of Monroe, died in February 2018, within a year after taking early retirement from the Second Circuit.
Pitman’s written reason for recusing from the current appeal in Palowsky v. Cork stemmed from her relationship with one of the parties in the case.
The six judges’ individual written reasons for recusal are reprinted below.
Second Circuit Judge Jeanette Garrett recused herself from the case on Dec. 17, 2018.
“One of my office employees worked at the 4th Judicial District Court during the relevant time periods and has personal knowledge about this case and related cases and personal relationships with many of the parties and witnesses,” Garett’s order stated. “Under these circumstances, it would not be appropriate for me to sit on this matter.”
Pitman recused on Dec. 17, 2018.
“I have a personal friendship with one of the parties,” stated Pitman’s order, recalling the nearly identical written reasons for recusal she gave in Palowsky v. Campbell.
Retired Judge Joe Bleich, who served as judge pro tempore at the appeal court, recused on Nov. 27, 2018.
“The record in this case contains references to a person who served as an ad hoc law clerk to me on several cases during my service on the bench in the 4th JDC,” Bleich’s order stated.
Second Circuit Judge James “Jimbo” Stephens, of Baskin, recused on Nov. 27, 2018.
“Due to pending matters in other litigation and to avoid the appearance of impropriety,” Stephens’ order stated.
Second Circuit Judge Jeff Cox recused on Nov. 27, 2018.
“I have a personal and professional relationship with members of the law firm of Palowsky Law LLC,” Cox’s order stated.
Palowsky Law LLC is managed by Stacy Palowsky, an attorney in Covington. Stacy Palowsky is Palowsky’s sister.
Moore, of Monroe, recused from the case on Nov. 27, 2018.
“Reasons for recusal in this matter are based in the grounds set forth in La. C.C.P. art 151(A)(4),” Moore’s order stated.