Lawsuit

Monroe businessman Stanley Palowsky III recently withdrew his motion to recuse ad hoc Judge Jerome “Jerry” Barbera from presiding over his ongoing lawsuit against local judges and a law clerk.

During a hearing last week at Fourth Judicial District Court in Monroe, Palowsky’s attorney, Joseph “Joe” Ward of Covington, informed the court that his client sought to withdraw the motion to recuse Barbera. Ward said recent conversations with the judges’ attorney, Jon Guice, of Monroe, had allayed his client’s concerns about ex parte communications.

“This is not a compromise,” said Ward, of his client’s decision to withdraw the recusal motion. “We got nothing.”

Palowsky sued Campbell in July 2015, accusing her of concealing or destroying documents he filed in a separate lawsuit in 2013 against former business partner, Brandon Cork. Palowsky also accused the five Fourth Judicial District Court judges — Fred Amman, Wilson Rambo, Carl Sharp, Stephens Winters, and retired Judge Benjamin “Ben” Jones — of conspiring to conceal Campbell’s activities.

In September 2019, Palowsky’s attorneys sought to recuse Barbera from presiding over Stanley R. Palowsky III and others v. Allyson Campbell and others because they believed legal invoices in the case revealed ex parte talks between Barbera and the judges’ attorney, Guice.

Barbera, of Thibodeaux, has presided over Palowsky v. Campbell since 2015. Legal bills presented by Guice in late 2015 showed Barbera collaborated with the judges’ attorneys to prevent Palowsky from obtaining testimony from district court judges in Palowsky v. Campbell as well as in the original lawsuit, Stanley R. Palowsky and others v. W. Brandon Cork and others.

In late 2015, the judges’ attorney, Guice, billed for speaking with a judge about recusals. Guice’s legal invoice did not name the judge. Palowsky claimed the judge must have been Barbera.

According to Palowsky’s September 2019 memorandum, there was no reason for Guice to speak with Barbera about recusals because there was no pending recusal in Palowsky v. Campbell at that time. Barbera only presided over Palowsky v. Campbell, not Palowsky’s lawsuit against his former business partner, Palowsky v. Cork. Guice’s conversation with “the judge” was the basis for Palowsky’s allegation of ex parte communications.

“On October 26, 2015, attorney Guice billed .4 hours (at no charge) [in Palowsky v. Campbell] for ‘telephone conference with judge regarding recusal,’” stated Palowsky’s Sept. 6, 2019 memorandum. “The entry is included in the bill that was submitted to Judge Barbera on February 26, 2016, along with an affidavit attesting that the entries represented attorney fees the defendant judges incurred related to the contempt and sanction motions pending before Judge Barbera. It should be noted there was no motion to recuse pending the [Palowsky v. Campbell] case before Judge Barbera. It should also be noted that attorney Guice typically refers to his judge clients by name or uses the term ‘client’ in his billing statements.”

The hearing held Jan. 7 to hear oral arguments in support of or against Palowsky’s recusal motion took place before retired Judge Jimmie Peters, of Jena. Peters formerly served on the Third Circuit Court of Appeal. He was appointed as an ad hoc judge to preside over the hearing to recuse Barbera so that Barbera would not preside over his own recusal hearing.

When Peters entered the courtroom, he joked about needing a wheelbarrow to carry the large volumes of documents in Palowsky v. Cork.

“Let’s sort out where we are,” Peters said. “Maybe this thing could resolve itself.”

Ward announced his client’s decision to withdraw the recusal order, though Peters noted he planned to deny the recusal motion so there would be no confusion in the court record about the fate of the motion.

“I agree with your order,” Ward said.

Ward noted that, in private conversations, Guice had argued his reputation was at stake in light of Palowsky’s recusal motion alleging ex parte talks. Ward conceded his motion was based on circumstantial evidence. According to Ward, Guice swore as an officer of the court that he did not engage in ex parte talks as alleged.

“I accept that,” Ward said.

During Ward’s recitation of the ex parte allegations, Peters interjected, interpreting Guice’s legal bills to say that “the judge” referenced was one of Guice’s friends. Peters did not reveal the source of his information.

“No, it was another judge of the court,” Ward said. “It’s not a client. It’s not Judge Barbera.”

Ward reiterated that he was not presenting any evidence that Guice or Barbera acted improperly.

“He apologized to me,” said Guice, of Ward.

Several of the allegations in Palowsky’s Sept. 6 memorandum were not addressed by Guice or Ward. For example, it was not explained why Guice sent an email to Barbera containing recusals of other judges in a separate case, Palowsky v. Cork, on the day before Barbera ruled to dismiss Palowsky v. Campbell.

An email in the court record for Palowsky v. Campbell shows that Guice sent a copy of the judges’ recusal from Palowsky v. Cork to Barbera on Nov. 4, 2015, the day before Barbera dismissed Palowsky’s Palowsky v. Campbell lawsuit. Guice’s email to Barbera stated, “I understand that the attached Orders have been filed. These orders now cover all judges.”

“This email does not explain why attorney Guice is forwarding orders from another case to Judge Barbera,” stated Palowsky’s Sept. 6 memorandum. “The only reasonable explanation is that there was some communication between Judge Barbera and attorney Guice wherein a discussion of recusals in the Cork case was had. It appears attorney Guice was asked to provide Judge Barbera [with] signed recusals in the Cork case. Obviously, Plaintiff’s counsel was not included in any such communication.”

Shreveport attorney Larry Pettiette, who was appointed by the state to represent Campbell as a special assistant attorney general, commended Barbera for his work on the case.

“He’s doing the best he can,” Pettiette said.

Meanwhile, Peters also declared it was not wrong for Barbera to preside over Palowsky v. Campbell while one of his relatives was involved in a child custody case presided over by Sharp, one of the defendant judges.

The daughter of Barbera’s brother’s wife was engaged in a child custody case at Fourth Judicial District Court that began in September 2015. Sharp was presiding over the child custody case, Danny Taylor v. Jennifer Lynn Jessup. Barbera did not disclose the connection until Oct. 29, 2015.

“The court finds no conflict in that,” Peters said. “That case is long and gone.”

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