Palowsky, attorneys ask appeals court to intervene
Facing sanctions and contempt of court charges, a Monroe businessman and his attorneys asked the Second Circuit Court of Appeal in Shreveport last week to postpone an early March hearing until a final judgment is reached on whether they can present evidence in court to counter the allegations.
Stanley R. Palowsky III and his attorneys, Sedric Banks of Monroe and Joe Ward of Covington, stated in a Feb. 18 petition to the Second Circuit that ad hoc Judge Jerome J. Barbera III erred by forbidding them from presenting evidence when the sanctions and contempt of court charges are taken up in court on March 4.
Since last year, Palowsky and his attorneys have tangled with Fourth Judicial District Court officials over allegations that law clerk Allyson Campbell destroyed or concealed court documents and that five judges helped cover up her actions. Those judges include Stephens Winters, Wilson Rambo, Carl Sharp, Fred Amman and retired Judge Ben Jones, who now serves as the court’s administrator.
Through attorneys Banks and Ward, Palowsky claimed Barbera made several errors while presiding over Stanley R. Palowsky III v. Allyson Campbell and others.
Banks and Ward claim Barbera scheduled the March 4 hearing before appeals were heard on other aspects of the litigation, a move that could hamper Palowsky from presenting evidence in court to defend himself.
In a Dec. 11, 2015, judgment, Barbera dismissed Palowsky’s lawsuit against Campbell and the five defendant judges on the grounds of judicial immunity, which he said shielded the law clerk and the judges from being held liable for actions they took in their capacities with the court. Barbera also granted the defendants’ motions to strike from the record several allegations contained in Banks and Ward’s voluminous petition.
“Importantly, though, the trial court (Barbera) specifically limited the sanctions issue to the inclusion of certain paragraphs in Palowsky’s amended petition which the trial court struck when it granted Defendants’ motions to strike,” Banks and Ward wrote in their petition with the Second Circuit.
At a November 2015 hearing, Barbera agreed the defendants’ motions for sanctions against Palowsky and his attorneys would not be considered in court until the appeals on the defendants’ motion to strike was final. A transcript of the November hearing confirmed Barbera said he would wait until an appeal of his ruling had been upheld or denied before scheduling a hearing on the sanctions against Palowsky and his attorneys.
The appeal process has not been completed, Banks and Ward said in their petition.
However, Barbera set a March 4 hearing for the defendants’ motions for sanctions against Palowsky and his attorneys. In his order setting the March 4 hearing, Barbera said the “case for sanctions (would) be limited to the inclusion in the pleadings of the matters the Court found immaterial and irrelevant and ordered struck in the Judgment of December 11, 2015.”
“The Court is not concerned with the truth or falsity of those allegations, merely with their inclusion,” Barbera wrote.
Until the Second Circuit rules on whether Barbera erred by granting the defendants’ motions to strike, Barbera should not consider the motions for sanctions and contempt, Banks and Ward argued.
“In other words, the trial court is permitting Defendants to have their cake and eat it, too,” Banks and Ward wrote. “They are allowed to sanction Palowsky and his counsel for including ‘irrelevant and immaterial’ allegations, yet the evidence and truth of these allegations is suppressed as, ironically, being ‘irrelevant’ to the issue of sanctions.”
By allowing the March 4 hearing on sanctions before an appellate court ruled on Barbera’s prior judgments, Palowsky and his attorneys would face difficulty in presenting evidence in court to prove their innocence, Banks and Ward wrote. Banks and Ward pointed out that sanctions and contempt of court charges are serious offenses with severe penalties.
“In other words, if Defendants have their way, Palowsky’s lawyers will be ‘furnished no key’ and cannot truncate any punishment by promising not to repeat the alleged offenses,” Banks and Ward wrote. “Consequently, Defendants are seeking criminal punishment, and as such, Palowsky’s counsel are entitled to full constitutional due process protections, including the right to present evidence, or ‘proof,’ of their innocence.”
Earlier this month, Palowsky, Banks and Ward filed a motion for sanctions against Campbell, the five defendant judges and their attorneys, too. Banks and Ward said Campbell and the judges should be sanctioned and held in contempt for accusing Palowsky, his attorneys and Judge Sharon Marchman of “illegally” disobeying court orders. It also stated that attorneys representing the defendants should be sanctioned and held in contempt. Those include Jon Guice, Linda K. Ewbank, Justin N. Myers, Brian E. Crawford, Lawrence W. Pettiette Jr. and former Louisiana Attorney General James D. “Buddy” Caldwell. Caldwell was included because he appointed Pettiette, a Shreveport attorney, to help defend Campbell in Palowsky’s lawsuit against her and the judges over the controversial claim that she’s an essential part of the court system.
Barbera has set both the plaintiff’s and the defendants’ motions for sanctions and contempt of court charges to be heard on March 4.
The damage lawsuit against Campbell and the judges stemmed from allegations against the law clerk in Palowsky’s original lawsuit against his former business partner, Brandon Cork, and others. That lawsuit claims Cork and others conspired in a fraudulent manner to funnel funds from Alternative Environmental Solutions Inc. to companies owned by Cork and others.