Monroe businessman Stanley Palowsky filed a motion earlier this week to disqualify the Second Circuit Court of Appeal from presiding over his challenge of a protective order that blocks him from questioning judges he’s suing without prior notice of the questions.
Palowsky says the eight judges serving at the Second Circuit should not entertain any appeal in his lawsuit against law clerk Allyson Campbell and five judges at the Fourth Judicial District Court.
That would be the case, he argues in a May 3 motion to recuse en banc (“on the bench,” or full court), because the Second Circuit’s chief judge, Milton Moore III of Monroe, has admitted bias against Palowsky and acted on that bias, too.
Palowsky is seeking damages from Campbell, whom he claims concealed or destroyed documents he filed in a racketeering lawsuit against his former business partner, Brandon Cork. Instead of disciplining or terminating Campbell, several judges conspired to shield Campbell from any consequences and have sought to conceal details of the matter from the public, according to Palowsky’s lawsuit.
Besides Campbell, the five judges named as defendants in Stanley R. Palowsky III and others v. Allyson Campbell and others are Fred Amman, Ben Jones, Wilson Rambo, Carl Sharp and Stephens Winters. Amman, Jones and Sharp have since retired from the bench, though Jones now serves as the court’s administrator.
Palowsky’s en banc recusal motion at the Second Circuit centered on the argument that Moore, the chief judge, could influence any panel of judges that might consider appeals in the Campbell lawsuit.
The most recent appeal in the Campbell lawsuit was decided by the First Circuit Court of Appeal in Baton Rouge because so many of the Second Circuit’s judges recused, citing bias or personal knowledge of the controversial litigation.
During a recent deposition, a local judge testified that Moore called First Circuit Court of Appeal Judge Michael McDonald and scolded him for ruling in Palowsky’s favor during an appeal decided in April 2018.
Additional testimony from Fourth Judicial District Court Judge Sharon Marchman indicated Moore supposedly made that telephone call to McDonald at a time when the First Circuit judge was presiding over a pending motion submitted by Campbell, the law clerk, in the Campbell lawsuit.
“If Judge Moore had the temerity to call and chastise Judge McDonald while this case was pending at the First Circuit, then he likely would have no qualms about pressuring the three un-recused judges who are under him,” stated Palowsky’s memorandum.
In April 2016, seven of the nine judges at the Second Circuit recused themselves from hearing an appeal in the Campbell lawsuit and transferred the case to the First Circuit. Three of those seven judges continue to serve at the Second Circuit: Moore, Judge Frances Pitman and Judge Jeanette Garrett.
“I am personal friends with Brian Crawford who represents parties in this case,” Moore wrote in his 2016 recusal, referring to one of Campbell’s attorney.
“I have a personal relationship with the parties in this case,” Pitman wrote in her 2016 recusal.
“One of my office employees worked at the 4th Judicial District Court during the relevant time periods and has personal knowledge about this case and related cases and personal relationships with many of the parties and witnesses,” Garrett wrote in her 2016 recusal. “Under these circumstances, it would not be appropriate for me to sit on this matter.”
In 2018 and 2019, six judges at the Second Circuit recused themselves from presiding over an appeal in Palowsky’s separate racketeering lawsuit, Stanley R. Palowsky and others v. W. Brandon Cork and others. Five of the six judges serving at that time currently serve at the appeal court.
In his recusal from the Cork case, Moore elaborated on his reasons to personally recuse from Palowsky’s litigation by referring to the state Code of Civil Procedure. Specifically, Moore cited the code’s statement that recusal was mandatory when a judge was “biased, prejudiced or interested in the cause or its outcome or biased or prejudiced toward or against the parties or the parties’ attorneys or any witness to such an extent that he would be unable to conduct fair and impartial proceedings.”
In response to the appeal in the Cork case, Pitman and Second Circuit Court Judge Jeff Cox also recused, citing personal relationships. Garrett echoed her previous reasons for recusal. And Second Circuit Judge Jimbo Stephens, of Baskin, recused because of “pending matters in other litigation and to avoid the appearance of impropriety.”
In his May 3 en banc recusal motion, Palowsky claimed his attorneys discovered the Second Circuit changed its internal policies and procedures to allow it to keep cases even if only one judge could preside over the matter.
Under such a scenario, the state Supreme Court would appoint special judges to complete a three-judge panel instead of assigning the case to a randomly selected panel of Second Circuit judges.
The Second Circuit changed its policies on case assignment in April 2019, after the court recused from Palowsky’s case and handed it over to the First Circuit.
In a deposition for the Campbell lawsuit, Marchman, the district court judge, testified she spoke with McDonald, the First Circuit judge, in April 2018, when Campbell’s application for a hearing in the Campbell lawsuit was pending before the First Circuit.
“I was introduced to Judge McDonald at a retirement party for Judge Tony Marabella, who was a judge on the Nineteenth JDC,” Marchman said. “I was introduced to Judge McDonald and he volunteered to me that Judge Moore had contacted him and chastised him for his ruling in that case, finding that Ms. Campbell did not have immunity.”
Later, Marchman added that, “What I recall him saying was that Judge Moore chastised him for his ruling finding no immunity. I recall that he said they were law school classmates. I recall that he was surprised at the call.”
According to Palowsky’s en banc recusal motion, Marchman also has testified that “Judge Moore had been at the country club ‘talking about how he was going to ensure that Mr. Palowsky’s case didn’t go forward.’”
“All this being said, it is abundantly clear that Chief Judge Moore has a strong bias against Palowsky and in favor of Campbell in this matter,” stated Palowsky’s en banc recusal memorandum. “Given that he tried to interfere with the First Circuit’s decision in this case, it is entirely plausible (if not highly likely) that he, as Chief Judge, would try to influence the three un-recused judges if this Court were to retain this matter.”