Five judges and a law clerk at Fourth Judicial District Court who are being sued by a Monroe businessman recently proposed that a protective order be issued in the proceedings to prevent the public disclosure of potential details that the plaintiff says might reveal graft or corruption.
The proposed protective order surfaced in a filing last week by the plaintiff, Stanley Palowsky III, of Monroe, who is suing law clerk Allyson Campbell and five judges at the district court on behalf of his company, Alternative Environmental Solutions Inc.
In 2015, Palowsky sued Campbell and the five judges — Fred Amman, Wilson Rambo, Carl Sharp, Stephens Winters and retired judge Benjamin “Ben” Jones. At that time, he claimed Campbell concealed or destroyed documents involving his company, AESI, in a separate lawsuit. He accused the five defendant judges of conspiring to cover up Campbell’s activities.
Stanley R. Palowsky III and others v. Allyson Campbell and others sparked a criminal investigation and has involved legal disputes appealed to higher courts, even to the U.S. Supreme Court. Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the five judges’ plea to overturn a state Supreme Court decision last year that gave Palowsky the go-ahead to take Campbell and the judges to trial. Since then, the parties have disputed how to proceed with discovery: the process of gathering evidence — including testimony — for a trial.
Palowsky’s attorneys, Joseph “Joe” Ward of Covington and Sedric Banks of Monroe, attached the defendants’ proposed protective order as an exhibit to a July 10 motion to fix and notice depositions of defendant judges. Palowsky’s motion and memorandum as well as the defendant judges’ proposed protective order can be found online at www.ouachitacitizen.com
The proposed protective order has not yet been considered by the court. Retired Judge Jerome “Jerry” Barbera, of Thibodaux, is presiding over Palowsky v. Campbell as an ad hoc judge.
Monroe attorney Jon Guice, who represents the five defendant judges, told The Ouachita Citizen that he had proposed the protective order while scheduling depositions for his clients.
“Thereafter, I proposed the joint protective order so that the depositions could proceed without disagreement as to the areas of inquiry which are permissible under state law and the court’s prior rulings,” Guice said.
Guice defended the proposed protective order by pointing out that some allegations in Palowsky’s original lawsuit had been struck from the record. (One of Palowsky’s original allegations — which was struck by the court, or removed from the lawsuit — claimed Campbell committed public payroll fraud.)
Guice appeared to suggest the proposed protective order would prevent depositions from broaching allegations previously stricken from the case record. Palowsky’s attorneys argued the protective order also could be used to conceal the discovery of other felony crimes or keep such details from being made public.
Under the judges’ proposed protective order, confidential information included any “testimony, documents and information” about the operations of the district court, conversations at judges’ meetings, conversations between judges and law clerks, written or oral communications between judges and their law clerks, investigations of confidential complaints, personnel records of court officials and more.
The defendant judges’ proposed protective order went so far as to suggest that any evidence of alleged wrongdoing be sealed and not disclosed in open court, according to Palowsky’s memorandum.
“Such provision is a thinly disguised prohibition against reporting misprision and any discovered evidence of other felony crimes to law enforcement, not to mention bodies of the Supreme Court charged with the duty to act on judicial misconduct,” stated Palowsky’s memorandum.
According to the proposed protective order, the judges also wanted to seal deposition videos permanently.
The judges’ proposed protective order also went “far afield” by trying to restrict who attended the deposition proceedings, according to Palowsky’s memorandum.
According to Ward and Banks, the parties in the case were “at an impasse” concerning the proposed protective order and how to proceed with subpoenaing judges for depositions. Palowsky’s attorneys wrote that they filed the motion seeking the court’s intervention to decide the matter for them so preparation for a trial could begin.
“Plaintiffs do not agree to the terms of the protective order proposed by defendants, but will agree to a protective order which protects personal financial information to the extent not reasonably calculated to lead to admissible evidence of graft and corruption,” stated Palowsky’s memorandum.
Higher courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, previously ruled that the allegations in Palowsky v. Campbell did not pertain to decisions that judges made from the bench, but to actions they took as employers of a law clerk accused of misconduct. For that reason, a protective order was not needed, according to Palowsky’s memorandum.
Some of Palowsky’s allegations were alarming.
“The higher courts reviewed the pleadings and struck certain allegations, but left intact particular allegations of malfeasance, case fixing, misprision and cover up,” stated Palowsky’s memorandum.
Concerning the alleged impasse, Guice — the judges’ attorney — appeared to agree the court would need to weigh in on the matter.
“In addition, it was felt that an agreement between the parties in advance or some guidance from the court would ultimately be needed to ensure the integrity of the judicial process and to comply with the court’s prior rulings,” he said.
Shreveport attorney Lawrence “Larry” Pettiette, who represents Campbell, objected to certain aspects of Palowsky’s memorandum, as prepared by Ward and Banks.
“Contrary to the memorandum Mr. Banks filed with his motion, my client Allyson Campbell has not ‘declined to be deposed,’” Pettiette told The Ouachita Citizen. “In fact we offered to have Allyson Campbell and Stanley Palowsky III’s depositions scheduled on the same day.”
Pettiette was referring to the memorandum, which stated the defendants, including Campbell, declined to be deposed — without a protective order.
Pettiette also claimed Ward and Banks had not yet made contact with him to schedule depositions of Campbell or Palowsky in spite of his offer.
In a lawsuit, the plaintiff — as the moving party — is usually responsible for scheduling depositions, not the defendant.
Pettiette also protested the decision by Palowsky’s attorneys, Ward and Banks, to publish the proposed protective order in a court filing. According to Pettiette, the parties had not yet discussed the protective order before it appeared in a public court filing.
“We expected that Mr. Palowsky’s counsel would provide feedback, alternatives, and suggested additions to the draft order that counsel for the judges sent him,” Pettiette said. “Obviously, we were very surprised when — instead of responding to the draft protective order or discussing in good faith — Mr. Banks filed a motion that, in our opinion, does not accurately reflect our position on discovery or the discussions of the attorneys in this case concerning a protective order. Given the facts above, we were not aware that there was a discovery dispute before Mr. Banks filed his motion last Friday which is not the normal procedure prior to involving a judge.”