A Mangham contractor who claims a former Second Circuit Court of Appeal judge and his law clerk mishandled his $20-million lawsuit against the state continues to defend his subpoena for criminal investigative documents that could shed light on the controversy.
Jeff Mercer, of Mangham, made those arguments in a Dec. 11 motion filed at Fourth Judicial District Court in Monroe to oppose motions to quash his subpoenas and document requests.
He filed the lawsuit in September 2019 to annul a Second Circuit judgment that reversed a jury’s $20-million verdict for Mercer in his original 2007 lawsuit against the state Department of Transportation and Development. In his 2007 lawsuit, Mercer persuaded the jury with his claims that DOTD officials retaliated against his business when he exposed a system of bribes involving a project on Louisville Avenue in Monroe.
Mercer’s new lawsuit claims former Second Circuit Chief Judge Henry Brown Jr. and his law clerk, Trina Chu, mishandled the contractor’s appeal.
Currently, the Second Circuit as well as Caddo Parish Sheriff Steve Prator and Caddo Parish District Attorney James Stewart Sr. have filed motions to quash Mercer’s requests for certain documents and his subpoenas.
Fourth Judicial District Court Judge Wilson Rambo is expected to soon rule on the matter.
Though their offices previously marked the criminal investigation of Chu as closed, the sheriff and district attorney claimed their investigation was “open” after Mercer filed his recent lawsuit, Mercer has argued. An “open” investigation would allow authorities to claim certain privileges forbidding the disclosure of investigative documents under state law.
“When these computer records were requested of the Caddo Parish Sheriff’s Office, Mercer was told that he would need a subpoena for those computer records, and once the CPSO received the subpoena, those documents would be provided,” stated Mercer’s Dec. 11 motion.
“Mercer did just what the Caddo Shariff’s Office asked and filed a subpoena on September 27, 2019. Never once was Mercer or his counsel told that the investigation was still ongoing or open. According to the CPSO, the Chu case was closed. Captain Herring admitted on the witness stand that he had told Mercer and his counsel this.”
Brown abruptly retired from the Second Circuit in late 2018. An Oct. 1, 2018 news report by KTBS in Shreveport detailed some of the allegations surrounding Brown’s sudden retirement from the Second Circuit. According to the news report, the Supreme Court ordered Brown to vacate the courthouse, and that Brown’s law clerk had improperly accessed computer files containing a draft of an appeal opinion.
Mercer’s petition offered comments on Brown’s retirement and the circumstances surrounding his exit from the court.
“He resigned/retired due to his trying to unduly influence a judge panel to find in favor of his friend, Hahn Williams, in a case on appeal to the Second Circuit Court of Appeal where a trial jury had found her liable for over a million dollars in damages,” stated Mercer’s Sept. 27 petition. “Based on information and belief, Judge Brown threatened and attempted to intimidate Second Circuit Judge Jeff Cox, who had also been on the Mercer panel with Judge Brown. Further, Judge Brown’s law clerk, Trina Chu at that time, was fired by the Second Circuit for making unauthorized access to case file information related to (a succession case involving Brown’s friend, Williams).”
In his lawsuit, Mercer said he came into possession of investigative reports and documents that showed the Caddo Parish Sheriff’s Office had investigated Brown’s law clerk, Chu, who allegedly accessed and copied confidential files without authorization so she could send the documents to Williams.
Chu, Brown and Williams were close, according to Mercer’s lawsuit. Some of the documents allegedly copied on to Chu’s private USB drive included documents from Mercer’s original lawsuit against DOTD, he claimed.
“In the instant case, the documents requested are highly relevant, as they go directly to show the ‘ill practices’ of the Second Circuit in ruling on this matter, which were alleged in Mercer’s Petition for Nullity, namely whether Judge Henry Brown or his law clerks had ex parte communications in this case; whether Judge Brown or the panel drafted any of the opinion before oral argument and prior to the case being submitted to the court; whether the decision on the motion to recuse Judge Brown was written by Judge Brown or his law clerks before the hearing ever occurred; whether all the judges on the panel actually conducted a de novo review of the case; and whether the panel deciding whether to recuse Judge Brown and the panel on a rehearing actually ever met,” stated Mercer’s Dec. 11 motion.