Monroe businessman Stanley Palowsky III should not be allowed to conduct video depositions and question judges, attorneys and employees at Fourth Judicial District Court in Monroe until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the judges’ appeal to overturn a state Supreme Court favorable to Palowsky.
That was the thrust of a motion to stay discovery filed last week at Fourth Judicial District Court by five district court judges who could be liable for damages in Palowsky’s lawsuit against several court officials.
Palowsky sued law clerk Allyson Campbell and the five judges — Fred Amman, Wilson Rambo, Carl Sharp, Stephens Winters and retired judge Benjamin “Ben” Jones — in 2015. In his lawsuit, Palowsky accused Campbell of destroying or concealing documents he filed with the court in a separate lawsuit against his former business partner, Brandon Cork.
The original lawsuit, Stanley R. Palowsky III and others v. W. Brandon Cork and others, centered on Palowsky’s claims that his former business partner, Brandon Cork, and others cheated him and his company, Alternative Environmental Solutions Inc. (AESI), out of millions of dollars in a racketeering and money laundering scheme. AESI provided environmental consulting services to oil and gas exploration companies.
In his follow-up lawsuit, Stanley R. Palowsky III and others v. Allyson Campbell and others, Palowsky claimed the five judges conspired to conceal Campbell’s activities, including the alleged tampering in Palowsky v. Cork.
The state Supreme Court ruled in June 2019 that Palowsky could sue Campbell and the five judges because none of the defendants enjoyed the protection of judicial immunity. Judicial immunity is a legal concept shielding certain figures in the judicial system from lawsuits when they undertake official actions on behalf of the court. The principle of judicial immunity did not apply to Campbell or the five judges, the Supreme Court ruled.
In February, the five defendant judges appealed the Supreme Court’s ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. The state Supreme Court should not have issued a ruling but turned over the case to the U.S. Supreme Court since the court’s ruling relied on past decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court, the defendant judges argued.
Last week, the defendant judges asked the court to stay discovery, or suspend it, until the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on their Feb. 3 writ of certiorari. Retired Judge Jerome “Jerry” Barbera, of Thibodeaux, is presiding over Palowsky v. Campbell as an ad hoc judge.
“Furthermore, the Judges will almost certainly face irreparable harm should pre-trial discovery and proceeding continue without a further review of the threshold immunity issues in this litigation,” stated the defendant judges’ motion to stay.
If the Supreme Court grants a hearing or rules in the defendant judges’ favor, any pre-trial discovery would be unnecessary, the defendant judges argued.
According to the defendant judges’ motion, Palowsky planned to hold “five full days of video deposition during March 2020 alone.”
“Thirteen deponents, all current or former judges, attorneys and court employees have been identified by Mr. Palowsky,” stated the judges’ motion.
Answering Palowsky’s depositions, responding to them and defending against them would be irreversible, according to the defendant judges’ memorandum.
The defendant judges’ memorandum incorrectly represented the status of Palowsky’s original lawsuit, Palowsky v. Cork, to the court.
In the defendant judges’ memorandum, they argued that Palowsky would not be injured by a delay of pre-trial discovery partly because the outcome of his lawsuit against the judges would not give him any relief in the original lawsuit.
The defendant judges’ description of the Palowsky v. Cork case, however, was false.
“Nevertheless, Mr. Palowsky has since settled a portion of his claims in (the) underlying lawsuit, while his remaining claims have been dismissed on exceptions,” stated the judges’ memorandum.
“As a result, no relief in his underlying case is predicated on or impacted by the progress of his lawsuit against the Judges.”
Palowsky’s original lawsuit, Palowsky v. Cork, though complicated by spin-off lawsuits and numerous defendants, is ongoing.
Only some parties have settled. Palowsky apparently reached a settlement with his former business partner, Cork.
Only some parties have been dismissed. The court dismissed Palowsky’s claims against some defendants, including Monroe attorney Thomas “Tom” Hayes III, Monroe attorney Brandon Creekbaum and the Monroe law firm Hayes, Harkey, Smith & Cascio.
The court also dismissed Palowsky’s claims against Anadarko Petroleum Corp., though Palowsky appealed the court’s decision to the First Circuit Court of Appeal in Baton Rouge. The First Circuit has not ruled on whether Palowsky may continue his lawsuit against Anadarko.
Contrary to the defendant judges’ memorandum, the Palowsky v. Cork case still involves pending claims against a handful of defendants. Other defendants in Palowsky v. Cork are Anthony White and his company OHC Services LLC of Webster Parish; Michael L. Holder and his company TP Environmental and Pipeline Services of Oklahoma; and Anadarko employee Dana E. Howard of Texas.
According to documents in Palowsky v. Cork, White and his company, OHC, as well as Holder and his company, TP, acted with Cork to overbill Anadarko for certain work, including work performed at an environmental remediation site in Wyoming, also referred to as the Carpenter project. According to filings in Palowsky v. Cork, Anadarko allowed overbilling on some projects in exchange for downgrading the company’s environmental remediation costs on other projects, sometimes dropping costs from $1.4 million to some $386,000 on a single project site.