Four Fourth Judicial District Court judges and a former judge were sued for damages last week, joining law clerk Allyson Campbell as defendants in a lawsuit brought by Monroe businessman Stanley R. Palowsky III.
Palowsky’s attorneys, Joe Ward of Covington and Sedric Banks of Monroe, filed a lawsuit against Campbell on July 22, accusing her of destroying or concealing court documents in civil lawsuit brought by Palowsky against his former business partner and others. Ward and Banks contend Campbell’s actions resulted in monetary damages to their client.
The accusations of destroying or concealing court documents leveled at Campbell partly prompted a criminal investigation of Fourth Judicial District Court, initiated by the state Inspector General’s office. Fourth Judicial District Attorney Jerry Jones’ office is assisting the Inspector General in its investigation of the court. Louisiana State Police is investigating, too.
Besides the allegations involving the destruction or concealing of court documents, an audit released by the Legislative Auditor’s office earlier this year raised the specter that some court employees were possibly paid for hours not worked. That issue, too, is under investigation by the Inspector General, Jones’ office and State Police.
On Friday, July 31, Ward and Banks amended their original petition against Campbell to include chief Judge Stephens Winters, Judge Carl Sharp, Judge Wilson Rambo, Judge Fred Amman and former Judge Ben Jones, who now serves as court administrator. Jones retired from the bench in December. In March of this year, he returned to the court as its administrator. He now draws his retirement as well as a $70,000 annual salary as court administrator.
Banks and Ward state in the amended petition that the “Defendant Judges are liable in solido to Palowsky for damages he has suffered as the result of their aiding and abetting Campbell by allowing her free rein to do as she pleased and then conspiring to conceal Campbell’s acts which compounded the adverse effects of her acts on Palowsky.”
A hearing date of Aug. 20 has been set to hear a motion filed by Ward and Banks to recuse every Fourth Judicial District Court judge from Palowsky’s lawsuit against his former business partner, Stanley R. Palowsky III vs. W. Brandon Cork and others. In Palowsky’s latest filing Friday, the petition reveals that Judge Sharp, who is now presiding over the case, “has informed all counsel in writing that he is not going to allow any testimony to be submitted during that (recusal) hearing.”
“Such refusal to hear evidentiary testimony is a clear violation of Palowsky’s rights of due process and meaningful access to courts and is being done for the sole purpose of continuing the cover up,” Ward and Banks wrote in the amended petition.
Ward and Banks also noted in their amended petition the issue of payroll discrepancies at the court that were raised in the audit released by the Legislative Auditor.
“Not only were Defendant Judges complicit in Defendant Campbell’s payroll fraud, but they also schemed and conspired with her to conceal the fraud from the tax-paying public,” Ward and Banks wrote.
Ward and Banks claim in their initial lawsuit against Campbell that she, a law clerk for Rambo, “maliciously and intentionally harmed” Palowsky in his suit against his former business partner, W. Brandon Cork. Rambo presided over that lawsuit until Ward and Banks filed a motion to recuse him from the case. Ward’s and Banks’ allegations against Campbell were at the heart of the recusal motion.
Palowsky’s accusations against Campbell in Stanley R. Palowsky III vs. Allyson Campbell claim Campbell “spoliated, concealed, removed, destroyed, shredded, withheld and/or improperly ‘handled’ court documents such as memoranda of law, orders, pleadings, sealed court documents and chamber copies of pleadings filed with the clerk and hand-delivered to the judge’s office.”
“Campbell’s wrongdoing has been reported time and again by different attorneys in different cases and investigated time and again by this Court but nevertheless has been allowed to continue,” Palowsky’s lawsuit says. “It is now painfully apparent that she has been unsupervised and uncontrollable for years.”
The Inspector General’s investigation of court also was partly prompted by a criminal complaint filed with the district attorney’s office by The Ouachita Citizen. The newspaper filed the complaint after the district court refused to release public records that could have shed some light on allegations that Campbell had destroyed court filings. The newspaper’s complaint also stemmed from the audit of the district court that referred to payroll discrepancies among court employees. The district court sued The Ouachita Citizen for declaratory judgment over whether the public records requested by the newspaper could be lawfully released. An ad hoc judge ruled the public records were protected from release because Campbell’s right to privacy outweighed the public’s right to know.
In the lawsuit against Campbell, Palowsky’s attorneys requested a jury trial. They also requested that all Fourth Judicial District Court judges recuse themselves from the matter since Campbell is an employee of the court.
Palowsky is seeking to be compensated for any and all damages he and his business, Alternative Environmental Solutions Inc. (AESI), have “suffered as the result of Campbell’s fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud, abuse of process, destruction or concealment of public records, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and violation of his Louisiana constitutional rights of due process and access to the courts.” In his lawsuit against his former business partner, Cork, Palowsky claimed he and AESI lost millions of dollars because of criminal acts allegedly committed by Cork and others.