A Monroe attorney's complaint that Allyson Campbell, a law clerk at Fourth Judicial District Court, shredded his filings with the court as well as the law clerk's handling of other court documents were disclosed in a Louisiana State Police investigative report recently obtained by The Ouachita Citizen.
The State Police report represented the findings of State Police Investigator Ron Huey who looked into allegations that Campbell committed payroll fraud and destroyed documents filed with the district court. Huey was tasked with assisting Inspector General Investigator Heath Humble's investigation, which began in July 2015 at the request of Fourth Judicial District Attorney Jerry Jones.
The Ouachita Citizen obtained a copy of the State Police investigative report last week through a public records request submitted to the state Attorney General's office, which supervised the investigation. Attorney General Jeff Landry's office closed the investigation of Campbell last month, concurring with Inspector General Stephen Street's finding that there was not enough admissible evidence to secure a “sustainable conviction” of Campbell for payroll fraud or document destruction.
Since the criminal investigation was closed, the Attorney General's office produced the entire State Police report, which is available online at www.ouachitacitizen.com. The Attorney General's office appeared to redact nothing but Campbell's Social Security number from the some 200-page report.
Accusations that Campbell had withheld or destroyed documents filed with the court first surfaced in Monroe businessman Stanley R. Palowsky III's lawsuit against his former business partner, W. Brandon Cork, in a lawsuit surrounding Alternative Environmental Solutions Inc., an environmental cleanup company they co-owned. That lawsuit and other revelations led to Palowsky's lawsuit in district court against Campbell and five judges — Fred Amman, Ben Jones, Wilson Rambo, Carl Sharp and Stephens Winters. The law clerk and judges, except Winters, also are defendants in a federal lawsuit pursued by Fourth Judicial District Court Judge Sharon Marchman, who claims the law clerk, judges and their attorneys retaliated against her when she tried to expose the law clerk's alleged wrongdoing and a conspiracy to cover it up.
Allegations in Palowsky's court filings as well as documents in the State Police investigative report revealed other complaints about Campbell destroying court documents or mishandling them as far back as 2010. In another instance, the State Police investigator noted Campbell had handled and distributed an undated and unsigned judge's ruling among district court judges.
Missing files in Palowsky v. Cork
In late 2014, Palowsky's attorneys, Sedric Banks of Monroe and Joe Ward of Covington, filed a motion to recuse Rambo from Palowsky v. Cork, claiming the judge had exhibited bias in favor of the defendants. Palowsky's claim that Rambo had shown bias was based on information the businessman's attorneys had gathered concerning Campbell.
“Meanwhile, information surfaced of Judge Rambo’s law clerk (Campbell) withholding and shredding court documents and causing delays in the present litigation,” stated Palowsky's motion to recuse Rambo from Palowsky v. Cork.
Palowsky and Banks told investigators they had filed a complaint about Campbell with the judges' office in August 2014 after finding a number of their pleadings and other documents missing from the court record though Cork's documents remained in the record, even memoranda filed in response to Palowsky's missing filings.
“They had gone to the Clerk of Court's office and found several documents that they had filed were not in the file,” stated Huey's State Police report.
According to Palowsky's July 2015 lawsuit against Campbell in Fourth Judicial District Court, a number of documents and pleadings were “maliciously withheld and concealed” by Campbell in Palowsky v. Cork.
The seven documents and attached exhibits included AESI's opposition to W. Brandon Cork's Motion to Strike Answer filed Jan. 13, 2014.
“Notably Judge J. Wilson Rambo stated at the beginning of the hearing on the motion to strike that he had this pleading, yet it has remained 'missing' from the record,” Banks and Ward wrote.
Among other missing documents, Palowsky's Memorandum in Support of his Motion to Clarify Protective Order filed March 14, 2014, was included in the court record, but the supporting memorandum and attached exhibits were “not in the record or in an envelope of sealed exhibits sent to the Second Circuit Court of Appeal,” according to Palowsky's July 2015 lawsuit.
One pleading — AESI's Original Opposition to Writ Application of W. Brandon Cork filed on or about July 15, 2014 — was “missing from the Second Circuit's record, which was prepared by the trial court, though Cork's application filed June 18, 2014 was included in the envelope of sealed documents filed with the appellate court clerk,” Palowsky's July 2015 lawsuit stated. Another pleading Palowsky filed Aug. 13, 2014 that added Cork's attorney — Tom Hayes with the Monroe law firm Hayes, Harkey, Smith & Cascio — as a defendant in Palowsky's lawsuit against Cork was “missing from the record sent to the Second Circuit” though Cork's memorandum in opposition to the pleading was not, Palowsky claimed.
Palowsky's and AESI's Memorandum in Support of Motion to Recuse Judge Rambo as well as exhibits attached to that memorandum were also missing from the court record as of July 22, 2015, Palowsky claimed. Those recusal documents were filed with the Clerk of Court, and a hand-copy was delivered to Rambo's chambers too.
“Ironically, though, shortly after the recusal motion and memo were filed, Judge Rambo held a status conference wherein he expressed his extreme displeasure to Plaintiff's counsel that Plaintiff had filed a motion to recuse without a supporting memorandum,” stated Palowsky's petition in Palowsky v. Campbell. “Counsel for AESI and Palowsky advised Judge Rambo that was exactly why they were asking him to recuse himself, i.e., because their filings were obviously being intercepted before he could read them.”
Campbell's personal relationship
with Hayes, Moore
According to Palowsky and Banks, Campbell's alleged withholding or destruction of court documents may have stemmed from her personal relationship with attorneys representing the defendant in Palowsky v. Cork, including Hayes. Campbell's relationship with Second Circuit Court of Appeal Judge Milton Moore, who wrote an opinion in early 2015 order Palowsky v. Cork be immediately settled, was also noted by Palowsky and his attorneys.
“They claimed Campbell was close to the attorneys representing the other side of the civil case,” Huey's State Police report stated.
Banks and Ward have noted in court filings that Campbell wrote admiringly of both Moore and Hayes in her social column, “On the Town,” which she previously co-wrote with Gregory Hudgins for The News-Star.
“Campbell published and declared in the Sunday edition of the Monroe newspaper The News-Star her bias, favoritism, and praise for Cork's counsel Thomas M. Hayes, III, when she wrote in her weekly 'society' column that he, as well as Judge D. Milton Moore, III, of the Second Circuit Court of Appeal, had the 'IT' factor, 'a somewhat undefinable quality that makes you and everyone else around stand taller when they enter the room, listen a little more closely, encourage you to take fashion or life risks, make each occasion a little more fun, and generally inspire you to aim to achieve that 'IT' factor for yourself,'” stated Palowsky's July 2015 petition in Palowsky v. Campbell.
Campbell denies ever working
on Palowsky v. Cork
According to Huey's State Police report, Campbell never worked on Palowsky v. Cork, contrary to information in Banks' and Ward's court filings.
“She denied ever withholding or destroying any documents that were intended to be presented to a Judge,” stated Huey's report.
Campbell repeated that claim in a March 12, 2015 letter to Jones, the court administrator, claiming Rambo would support her claim that she never worked on Palowsky v. Cork.
“One issue I would like to bring before the Court is that Judge Rambo spoke to the attorneys in the Palowsky case at issue and told them I never worked on their case,” Campbell wrote. “It was never on the docket for me to do so. Second, the attorneys making the allegations against me about withholding/shredding documents in the Palowsky case submitted a list of all motions, etc. filed and, upon inspection of the record, the Court found everything in order. Nothing was missing.”
New filing process
in Clerk of Court's office?
In September 2014, Laura Hartt, the former court administrator, wrote to Banks in response to his client's August 2014 complaint.
“Judge Rambo repeated to us that none of your filings were withheld from him by his law clerk,” said Hartt’s Sept. 11, 2014 letter to Banks. “Please know that we take concerns of this nature very seriously.”
In a Sept. 22, 2014 reply to Hartt’s letter, Banks said the “investigation as to whether Judge Rambo’s law clerk withheld documents consisted of no more than simply asking Judge Rambo which, in turn, led to the discovery of a new filing process in the Clerk’s office.”
“Perhaps more puzzling, did your investigation uncover what happened to the chamber copy of the sealed memorandum with prima facie evidence of criminal activity hand delivered to the judge’s office contemporaneously with filing originals with the clerk?” Banks said in his Sept. 22, 2014 letter to Hartt. “Said another way, is there an explanation why weeks after the court documents were hand delivered to the judge’s office, Judge Rambo admitted in a status conference he had never seen the chamber copies?”
In her letter to Banks, Hartt said Jones, then a judge at the court, investigated Bank's complaint but found no wrongdoing. The records could have been delayed in reaching Rambo because of a new filing process in the Clerk of Court's office.
“(Hartt) was told that Judge Ben Jones looked into this and it was a process problem between them and the Clerk of Court's office,” Huey's State Police report stated.
According to Hartt's letter, the Clerk of Court's office no longer delivered new filings to the judges' office but held all new or additional filings until older filings checked out by the judge were returned to the Clerk of Court's filing system.
In his July 2015 lawsuit, Palowsky said Ouachita Parish Clerk of Court Louise Bond told his attorneys there was no “new filing process,” as referred to by Jones.
“Nevertheless, the Clerk of Court advised counsel for Palowsky that the 'new filing process' referenced by Judge Jones did not exist,” stated Palowsky's July 2015 petition in Palowsky v. Campbell.
Cody Rials' complaint
shredded his judgment
According to the State Police report, investigators interviewed local attorney Joey Grassi about a conversation between Campbell and Grassi in a Monroe bar, “where she stated she had destroyed court documents in a civil case being handled by Cody Rials.”
In August 2014, Judge Wendell Manning asked Rials, a Monroe attorney who worked at the time with Dimos Erskine LLP, to file a formal complaint with the court about Campbell.
In an Aug. 18, 2014 letter to Hartt, Rials detailed the background of a child support case in which he represented the mother. The case went to trial before Sharp on May 15, 2012, and when it concluded, Sharp asked both attorneys to submit briefs. Rials and counsel for the defendant each filed a memorandum with the court in late May. Those memoranda were submitted by hand delivery with copies sent to counsel as well.
“Neither memorandum was filed into the record at that time,” Rials wrote.
In July 2012, Rials encountered Campbell in the courtroom during a pre-trial conference on another matter. He asked Campbell about any forthcoming decision in the child support case.
“I thought my inquiry to be polite, but Ms. Campbell instructed me that since the briefs were not filed with the Clerk of Court that the Court would not consider them,” Rials wrote. “I was told that this was the 'rule.'”
Rials returned to his law firm's offices and discussed the matter with two other members of the firm who previously served as judges at Fourth Judicial District Court, and who told Rials to get clarification of the “rule” from Campbell. Rials called Campbell, but the conversation became heated, he wrote. Rials and opposing counsel filed proposed judgments into the court record for Sharp's consideration. After Sharp signed the defendant's judgment, Grassi approached Rials and informed him that he heard Campbell say she took “great pleasure” in “shredding” Rials' proposed judgment submitted to Sharp, according to Rials' letter. Grassi told Rials he had informed Sharp of Campbell's comments, and Rials reiterated his concern about those comments to Sharp during a chamber conference.
At that time, Sharp advised Campbell to refrain from making remarks about cases, referring to the reported comments she made in the bar.
“(Sharp) stated he did not find any bias on Campbell's part but wrote a letter to Rials advising that Campbell would no longer work on any of his cases,” Huey's State Police report stated.
Sharp's letter said Rials' concern was “reasonable” and suggested a safeguard by removing Campbell from any case involving Rials.
“You were concerned about the possibility that one of the Court's law clerks, Allyson Campbell, is personally biased against you,” Sharp wrote in his Nov. 28, 2012 letter to Rials. “I have discussed this matter with Ms. Campbell and have decided that your concern is reasonable. Accordingly, she has been instructed to remove herself from any involvement or work on any case in which you are counsel or otherwise involved. She will not discuss this matter or any other court related work in which you are involved with anyone except court personnel. I hope that this action is satisfactory.”
Sharp's letter to Rials was copied to Campbell and to Rambo, who served as chief judge in 2012.
Later, the incident resurfaced, Rials wrote, when he read Campbell's Aug. 10, 2014 social column — at that time regularly published in The News-Star's Sunday edition — where she said she loved “...to be at/in/above/the direct cause of/barreling toward the heart of a juicy, ripe scandal...” or to kindle scandals and “[s]end it out — lies, half-truths, gorilla dust, whatever you've got.”
Rials said he believed her remarks concerned her handling of his case, so he took the matter directly to Sharp to protect his client. He said he spoke to Sharp about the matter since Campbell was not a licensed attorney and thus not subject to the Louisiana Disciplinary Board.
“Her recent comments regarding 'scandal' in her column lead me to believe that her feelings towards me personally had a direct and adverse effect on one of my clients,” Rials wrote. “I realize that purported safeguards have been put in place to keep this from happening again on one of my cases, but I can't help but wonder if this type of conduct has happened in other cases.”
Before submitting an official complaint with the court, Rials emailed Vicki L. Green, the court's hearing officer, on Aug. 10, 2014 and expressed his frustration with Campbell's social column as well as with the alleged incident involving his proposed judgment.
“I've gone as far as I can go, and am likely paying the price with her (Campbell's) family members,” Rials wrote. “If no other members of the bar will speak up, she'll be there forever — without a license and in my opinion doing far more harm than good.”
After receiving Rials' complaint with the court, Manning, who was chief judge at the time, asked then-Judge Jones and Hartt to look into the matter.
“Jones advised the reported missing documents in the Rials matter were in the file and were not missing,” stated Huey's State Police report.
Concerning Rials' August 2014 complaint, Campbell wrote in an Oct. 28, 2014 letter to the court — in bold letters — “I would like to reiterate that the allegation was determined to be unfounded by Judge Sharp, no Judgments were shredded and no delays were caused by me.”
Campbell's claim was reiterated in a November 2014 email correspondence between the law clerk and Sharp. The exchange of emails began when Campbell asked Sharp to declare, on the record, that Rials' accusation was unfounded. It began with an email from Campbell to Sharp on Nov. 3, 2014 at 10:33 a.m.: “I would like to confirm this allegation (from Rials) was determined by the Court to be unfounded and without merit.”
Sharp replied later that day at 2:06 p.m., claiming the court never investigated Rials' complaints. Sharp told Campbell he handled Rials' complaint himself and did not consider it a “serious matter.” Contrary to Rials' complaint, Sharp told Campbell there was no misconduct alleged by Rials.
“The question of whether or not you shredded a Judgment in connection with that Cody Rials matter about two years ago never was considered by the Court; I was the only Judge who looked into an allegation against you,” Sharp wrote. “It was suggested that you had somehow kept me from considering a Judgment submitted by one party. But I knew that this was not true as I had forwarded both Judgments to you for some work. I came to the conclusion that someone had perhaps misinterpreted a 'catty' remark. I did not consider it a serious matter; no misconduct was indicated. It seemed to me that there was some personal friction between you and the complaining party. (You told me that you had no significant contact with the complaining party; in your words, you did not 'know him'.)”
After sending that email to Campbell, Sharp followed it up with a second email at 2:15 p.m., and said, “Supplementing my earlier response to your email: No, you never shredded anything.”
According to a Post-It Note in Campbell's personnel file, Hartt said court personnel were unaware of the incident involving Rials and Campbell when it occurred in 2012.
ruling in judges' office
“A reporter with the Ouachita Citizen learned of the investigation concerning Campbell and filed a public records request (in March 2015),” stated Huey's State Police report. “The Judge's office filed a lawsuit to prevent the Ouachita Citizen from obtaining the personnel records of Campbell. An 'ad hoc' judge ruled in favor of the Judge's Office but forgot to sign the ruling. Deputy Clerk, B.J. Graham, stamped the ruling but then noted it had not been signed. She contacted the Judge and arranged to have it signed. Campbell obtained a copy of the unsigned ruling and distributed it around the Judge's office between June 8 & 10, 2015. The actual ruling was not signed until June 11, 2015.”
The Ouachita Citizen published a news report on the unsigned, undated ruling in a July 8, 2015 report, “Questionable handling at the court,” in which Bond said Campbell had insisted on getting a copy of the judgment.
In The Ouachita Citizen's interview with Jones, the court administrator told the newspaper he saw the unsigned, undated judgment written by ad hoc Judge Anne Simon of New Iberia about “week prior to the 11th (of June),” which were earlier than the dates disclosed in Huey's State Police report. However, at the time, Jones denied that a copy of the ruling had been distributed around the judges' office as revealed in the State Police report.
“If Ms. Bond says to you that her office released a copy of the unsigned judgment, I think you can take her at her word, but nothing came to me — the court administrator — or to the chief judge who was out of town,” Jones said. “In fact, nothing came to the judges’ office. I still haven’t seen a copy of the signed judgment.”
At the time, Jones would not reveal who gave him the document though he later said he learned about the ruling through Campbell.
“I do remember who personally handed me a copy (of the unsigned ruling) but I will not say who it was,” Jones said at the time. “Frankly, it was through her (Campbell) that I was made aware the (ruling) had been filed. Apparently, she had regularly checked.”