Monroe businessman Stanley Palowsky III amended his lawsuit against Fourth Judicial District Court officials last week to expand the allegations to include “illegal case fixing.”
Specifically, Palowsky claimed retired Judge Benjamin “Ben” Jones, who is the district court’s administrator, sent an ex parte communication to now-retired Judge Carl Sharp in 2015 to influence the judge’s decision in a case that would financially benefit both Jones and Sharp.
“Such acts constitute illegal case fixing through unethical ex parte communications directly with Judge Sharp which successfully changed a substantive ruling in a case in which both judges had a financial interest,” stated Palowsky’s Oct. 15 second supplemental and amended petition.
Specifically, Palowsky amended his lawsuit against court officials to seek additional damages from Jones for fraud and abuse of process, according to the amended petition.
The case in which the alleged ex parte communications took place was Palowsky’s 2013 lawsuit against his former business partner, Brandon Cork. The case, Stanley R. Palowsky III and others v. W. Brandon Cork and others, later spawned the businessman’s separate lawsuit against law clerk Allyson Campbell and five district court judges.
In the Cork case, Palowsky’s attorneys found that a handful of documents they filed at the court went missing. After trying to resolve the problem of missing documents, Palowsky filed a separate lawsuit in 2015 against Campbell as well as judges Jones, Sharp, Fred Amman, Wilson Rambo and Stephens Winters. According to Palowsky, Campbell and the five judges conspired to maliciously defraud Palowsky and conceal their activity, too.
In the amended petition, Palowsky referred to recently discovered internal court documents that showed correspondence between Jones and Sharp about a pending ruling in the Cork case in October 2015.
As reported by The Ouachita Citizen last week, internal documents from the Fourth Judicial District Court appeared on both the deep web and the open web, including a handwritten note from Jones to Sharp as well as a four-page draft of Sharp’s ruling with Jones’ handwritten notes detailed in the margins.
The judges’ correspondence concerned Palowsky’s motion to recuse en banc — or to disqualify all judges at the court from presiding over the Cork case. At the time, Sharp remained in a position to issue rulings about the recusal motion, though the Second Circuit Court of Appeal later ruled Sharp’s actions were a nullity because the recusal motion also applied to him.
“On August 20, 2015, the hearing on [Palowsky’s] motion to recuse en banc was heard before Judge Sharp,” stated Palowsky’s amended petition. “Thereafter, and unbeknownst to [Palowsky], Judge Sharp prepared a draft ruling on the motion (or someone prepared it on his behalf), which he then forwarded to Judge Jones for review. Judge Jones edited the ruling and sent it back to Judge Sharp with a signed handwritten letter advising Judge Sharp that he (Judge Jones) had made some corrective edits to the ruling. In addition, though, Judge Jones suggested that Judge Sharp should reconsider his ruling and deny the motion based on his belief that the allegations made against the defendant judges might influence the judge who would have to decide the motion to recuse.”
Sharp ultimately issued a ruling that matched the advice offered by Jones.
As previously reported by The Ouachita Citizen, Jones’ letter stated, “Carl, I made some comments that respect your decision to allow the en banc motion to recuse to stand.
“However, I think it is a mistake to allow that motion to stand and treat it as a motion to recuse you individually. Why? Because all the awful allegations contained in that motion will be on record.
“The effect may be that a judge hearing the motion would see all the allegations that do not have anything to do with you and be influenced. Frankly, I think that unauthorized motion should be dismissed. If they think they have grounds to recuse you, they should file a more narrow motion.”
In an interview with The Ouachita Citizen earlier this month, Jones confirmed the letter’s contents and defended his actions — offering advice to a colleague — as part of his duties as the court administrator. According to Jones, his correspondence with Sharp also was irrelevant in light of the Second Circuit’s ruling that Sharp’s actions were a nullity.
Jones and Sharp’s correspondence was not shared with other parties in the lawsuit, based on this newspaper’s review of court records.
According to Palowsky, Jones and Sharp had a financial interest in the Cork case because damages in the Campbell lawsuit — if any were awarded after success at trial — would be based on whether Palowsky succeeded in the Cork case. If his allegations in the Cork case failed to pan out, Palowsky’s grounds for seeking damages against Campbell and the five judges in the Campbell lawsuit also would likely falter.
“The defendants in this case have a direct interest in the outcome of the Cork case as Palowsky claims that he and AESI [Alternative Environmental Solutions Inc., his business] have been damaged, in part, by the unnecessary delay Defendants’ actions have caused in the Cork case,” stated Palowsky’s amended petition.
Jones not only helped the other defendants cover up Campbell’s activities in the Cork case but “also engaged in actions intended to directly affect the outcome of the Cork case to the advantage of the defendants in this matter [the Campbell lawsuit] and to the disadvantage of Palowsky,” according to the amended petition.
Palowsky said he would not seek damages from Sharp, who was the acting judge at the time. Because he acted in an official capacity as judge, Sharp would be shielded from liability to damages through the legal doctrine of judicial immunity.
“Though Judge Sharp clearly violated the Canons of Judicial Conduct, specifically Canon 3(A)(6), in the above stated acts, he has judicial immunity from civil damages for his participation in the acts alleged above,” stated Palowsky’s amended petition. “To the contrary, Judge Jones has no such immunity, and additional damages are being sought against him.”
Palowsky’s attorneys, Covington attorney Joseph “Joe” Ward III and Monroe attorney Sedric Banks, noted they did not need the court’s permission to file an amended petition because Campbell and the judges never filed an answer to the original petition. For several years, Stanley R. Palowsky and others v. Allyson Campbell and others has advanced slowly as parties disputed exceptions of no cause of action filed in the case.
Palowsky is expected to dispute a recent ruling in the Campbell lawsuit about whether he must present Campbell and the five judges with written questions in advance of depositions among other restrictions imposed by retired Judge Jerome “Jerry” Barbera, of Thibodaux, who is presiding over the Campbell lawsuit.