Second Circuit Court of Appeal Chief Judge Milton Moore III of Monroe scolded a fellow jurist in early 2018 over his ruling that law clerk Allyson Campbell did not enjoy immunity from being sued over allegations she concealed or destroyed a local businessman’s court documents, a judge testified under oath.
Moore delivered the tongue lashing to First Circuit Court of Appeal Judge Michael McDonald while Campbell had a motion for a rehearing pending before the First Circuit in a long-running lawsuit, Stanley R. Palowsky III and others v. Allyson Campbell and others, in which Campbell is a defendant, the judge testified under oath.
Fourth Judicial District Court Judge Sharon Marchman also testified last month that Moore had exhibited bias toward Stanley Palowsky III’s father. She claimed two judges previously confided in her that Moore had tried to influence one of those judges to issue adverse rulings against Palowsky’s father in prior litigation.
According to Marchman, some of the hostility between Moore and Palowsky’s father, Stanley Palowsky Jr., may have stemmed from the latter’s provision of tape recordings to the Federal Bureau of Investigation that allegedly torpedoed Moore’s chances of becoming a federal judge.
Marchman offered that testimony during a deposition last month in Palowsky v. Campbell.
The Palowsky v. Campbell lawsuit began in July 2015 when Palowsky sued Campbell, a law clerk at Fourth Judicial District Court in Monroe, because some of Palowsky’s court pleadings turned up missing from a racketeering lawsuit he was pursuing against his former business partner, Brandon Cork. Besides Campbell, Palowsky also sued five judges at the Fourth Judicial District Court, claiming they conspired with Campbell to cover up illegal activity at the court.
The five defendant judges include Judges Wilson Rambo and Stephens Winters as well as retired judges Fred Amman, Carl Sharp and Ben Jones, who now serves as the court’s administrator.
The Palowsky v. Campbell lawsuit is ongoing, though parties in the case recently launched discovery, which is the process of gathering evidence before a trial. A deposition is out-of-court testimony taken during discovery for use at trial or in court filings.
No deposition transcripts have been entered into the court record, though Palowsky included several quotes from depositions of Marchman and former Fourth Judicial District Court administrator Laura Hartt in a recent memorandum.
In his March 26 memorandum in opposition to motion to quash subpoenas to Laura Hartt and Julie Cunningham, Palowsky quoted testimony from Marchman and Hartt to support his argument that the defendant judges were trying to shackle him while he prepared evidence for trial.
Palowsky’s memorandum is available online at www.ouachitacitizen.com
In his memorandum, Palowsky relied on testimony from Marchman and Hartt to support his argument that attempts to protect Campbell from facing termination or criminal prosecution extended beyond the five defendant judges at the district court.
During her deposition, Marchman claimed Moore called a First Circuit Court of Appeal judge on the telephone and upbraided the judge while Campbell had a pending motion before the First Circuit in Baton Rouge.
In early 2018, Campbell filed a motion for rehearing, asking the First Circuit to reconsider its ruling that she could be found liable for damages in Palowsky’s lawsuit. McDonald, of the First Circuit Court of Appeal, was one of the judges presiding over an appeal in the Palowsky v. Campbell lawsuit, as noted by Marchman in her deposition.
“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.”
Marchman confirmed her conversation with McDonald took place on April 26, 2018, while Campbell’s application for rehearing was pending before the First Circuit.
“What I recall him saying was that Judge Moore chastised him for his ruling finding no immunity,” Marchman said. “I recall that he said they were law school classmates. I recall that he was surprised at the call.”
Palowsky argued it was unclear why Moore might have called McDonald.
“In other words, it is uncertain whether Judge Moore called Judge McDonald because he wanted to protect Campbell or because he wanted to harm Palowsky’s case due to his bias against Palowsky’s counsel and father (or perhaps he was simply trying to kill two birds with one stone),” stated Palowsky’s memorandum.
Palowsky’s memorandum disputed the defendant judges’ reliance on a court ruling last September by retired Judge Jerome “Jerry” Barbera, of Thibodaux. Barbera is presiding over Palowsky v. Campbell as an ad hoc judge. In September 2020, Barbera granted a protective order placing a number of restrictions on how Palowsky could pursue his lawsuit against Campbell and the five defendant judges.
Palowsky has since challenged Barbera’s protective order in an appeal to the Second Circuit Court of Appeal in Shreveport, where Moore serves as chief judge. In light of his appeal, Palowsky argued Barbera’s protective order was not a final court judgment.
While the Second Circuit Court of Appeal is currently considering an appeal in Palowsky v. Campbell, many of the appeal court’s judges, including Moore, previously recused themselves from hearing an appeal in the Palowsky v. Campbell lawsuit. The recusals of Moore and other Second Circuit judges led to the matter being reassigned to the First Circuit.
In 2019, the state Supreme Court upheld the First Circuit’s ruling that found Campbell could be found liable for damages in Palowsky’s lawsuit, in spite of her position at the court. The Supreme Court also overturned the First Circuit’s ruling that the judges enjoyed immunity from being sued by Palowsky, thus freeing up Palowsky to pursue his lawsuit against Campbell and the judges as well. The Supreme Court affirmed Palowsky’s contention that his allegations concerned the judges’ failures as administrators of an employee, not as judicial officers.
In late 2018, Moore also recused himself from Palowsky’s racketeering lawsuit, Stanley R. Palowsky III and others v. W. Brandon Cork and others, citing a civil procedure code that indicated he was “biased, prejudiced, or interested in the cause or outcome of the case” or prejudiced against the parties in the case.
In his memorandum filed last week, Palowsky referred to Moore’s early 2015 opinion in an appeal of the Palowsky v. Cork case at the Second Circuit that Palowsky’s environmental remediation company be dissolved and liquidated.
“This bias did not prevent Judge Moore from making prior rulings in the Cork matter, though, one of which ordered that Palowsky’s company be put in dissolution and controlled by a liquidator,” stated Palowsky’s memorandum. “Note that Judge Moore was not simply a member of the three-judge panel which made this decision, but he was the judge who authored the opinion. It was this ruling which led to Palowsky’s being forced to dismiss Cork from that lawsuit.”
The Palowsky v. Cork lawsuit is ongoing, in spite of Moore’s previous opinion ordering the businessman’s company be liquidated.
In 2016, Moore recused himself from the current lawsuit, Palowsky v. Campbell, citing his friendship with Monroe attorney Brian Crawford, who is one of Campbell’s attorneys in the case.
Campbell also has referred to Moore as her “first boss.” She clerked for Moore while he served as a judge at Fourth Judicial District Court.
MOORE AND BANKS,
Meanwhile, as shown by quotes from her deposition, Marchman made a number of comments about Moore’s alleged bias toward Palowsky’s father, Stanley Palowsky Jr., of Monroe, as well as against Monroe attorney Sedric Banks. Along with Covington attorney Joseph “Joe” Ward III, Banks represents Stanley Palowsky’s Jr.’s son in Palowsky v. Campbell and Palowsky v. Cork.
According to Marchman, Moore and Banks previously were law firm partners, but Moore harbored “ill feelings” toward Banks after the pair’s partnership ended.
Beginning in the late 1980s, Stanley Palowsky Jr. sued Premier Bank (formerly Ouachita National Bank) over the bank’s refusal to finance a loan allowing Stanley Palowsky Jr. to develop what is now the North Pointe subdivision off U.S. Hwy 165 in Monroe. Moore’s bias against Stanley Palowsky Jr. and Palowsky concerned the late Monroe attorney Mike Hart, according to Marchman. Hart represented Stanley Palowsky Jr. in his bank lawsuits, but Hart also took over a case that Moore had worked on, leading to tension between the pair, Marchman told attorneys during her deposition.
“It was a bone of contention, it was a rift,” Marchman said. “And, you know, the—What was said at the firm was that—the comment that was made that was Judge Moore was angry and mad because Mike Hart had to come in and pull his chestnuts out of the fire.”
Marchman testified she personally heard Moore make derogatory comments about Palowsky’s father, Stanley Palowsky Jr., and his bank lawsuits.
“And it was—What we heard at Theus Grisham [a now shuttered law firm where Hart and Marchman worked] was that he was at the country club at the 19th Hole talking about how he was going to ensure that Mr. Palowsky’s case didn’t go forward,” Marchman said.
According to Marchman, Moore reviewed documents, as a judge, in one of Stanley Palowsky Jr.’s bank lawsuits and made a false finding that certain records contained no references to a critical document known as a “second criminal referral form.” A criminal referral form is a report used by banks to describe possible criminal activity by a bank employee.
“It was not accurate,” said Marchman, of Moore’s finding. “It was inaccurate.”
Later, according to Marchman, Moore was on the verge of being appointed a U.S. District judge until Stanley Palowsky Jr. provided tape recordings to the Federal Bureau of Information that torpedoed Moore’s chances of becoming a federal judge.
“I know that Judge Moore was being considered for the federal judgeship here in Monroe after Don Walter, Judge Don Walter, went to Shreveport,” Marchman said. “I know that Mr. Palowsky Jr. had some tape recordings of a former client of Judge Moore, and he turned those tape recordings over to the FBI. There were two FBI agents, one here locally, one from the Integrity Division in New Orleans.”
“And once Mr. Palowsky turned those tapes over, what was the response back to—from the FBI, to your knowledge?”
“A couple of weeks after he turned them over, he received a call from the agent in New Orleans thanking him for the tape and saying that Judge Moore would never wear the black of—of a federal judgeship,” Marchman said.
According to Marchman, Moore later learned Stanley Palowsky Jr. had given the tape recordings to the FBI.
“I think it was common knowledge at the time that it happened,” Marchman said. “And then sometime later, much later, I believe it was 2015, Judge Moore asked if I would speak with his attorneys about it and I did speak with his attorneys and confirmed that incident, and also some other things with the attorneys.”
The excerpts of Marchman’s testimony in Palowsky’s memorandum did not disclose the content of the tape recordings allegedly involving Moore.
In addition, Moore tried to interfere with Palowsky’s lawsuits while Sharp, the former district court judge, presided over them, according to Marchman.
“And Judge Carl Sharp told me that Judge Moore, when he was on the Fourth JDC, was always trying to persuade him to rule against Mr. Palowsky, that he was always in his office constantly trying to get him to rule against Mr. Palowsky,” Marchman said.
Marchman said she also spoke with former state Supreme Court Justice Marcus Clark, of West Monroe, about Moore’s attempts to interfere in Palowsky’s cases.
Referring to Clark’s time as a judge at Fourth Judicial District Court, Marchman said, “He was a judge at the time on our bench, and he actually told me before Judge Carl told me that Judge Carl had confided in him over the years that Judge Moore was trying to interfere in the case.”
Marchman’s testimony showed several judges sought to protect Campbell, according to Palowsky.
“What is less obvious, though, is why,” stated Palowsky’s memorandum.
Meanwhile, Palowsky’s memorandum also outlined a number of ways in which the defendant judges’ attempts to limit his discovery had hampered his ability to question witnesses in a deposition.
Palowsky challenged the defendant judges’ claims that certain allegations had been struck from his lawsuit, despite the First Circuit and Supreme Court’s rulings leaving those paragraphs intact.
“While this Court (Barbera) did strike said paragraphs, Defendant Judges failed to recognize that the First Circuit reinstated every single one of those paragraphs because it found that the allegations regarding Campbell in those paragraphs were ‘material to the instant matter,’” stated Palowsky’s memorandum.
Palowsky noted the paragraphs reinstated in his lawsuit contained allegations pertaining to Campbell’s “history of committing payroll fraud” and that the judges’ acts to “cover up Campbell’s felonious conduct amounts to misprision of a felony.”
“Despite the undeniable fact that the above-quoted paragraphs have survived this Court’s ruling striking them, Defendant Judges have refused to allow discovery into anything except Campbell’s destruction of documents and Defendant Judges’ cover-up of same,” stated Palowsky’s memorandum.
The judges took that approach, according to Palowsky, while ignoring the appeal court had not yet issued a ruling on Barbera’s decision to limit his discovery.
The judges’ position that Barbera’s court order could be used to limit the scope of Palowsky’s discovery directly affected his deposition of Hartt, a former court administration at the district court.
“Still, Defendant Judges’ counsel (as well as Campbell’s counsel) prevented former Fourth JDC Court Administrator Laura Hartt from testifying about anything other than document destruction issues,” stated Palowsky’s memorandum.
Palowsky’s memorandum stated it was odd that Hartt testified that she knew she would not be allowed to speak about payroll fraud issues. It was odd because no court records, including Hartt’s subpoena, indicated she might be questioned about payroll fraud at the court, according to Palowsky. Palowsky’s statement raised the question about how Hartt learned payroll fraud was off limits during a deposition.
“Regardless, because Ms. Hartt was not allowed to discuss any issues except those related solely to document destruction, there were multiple questions which she could not answer, and there were many times when she could not explain the answers she was able to give,” stated Palowsky’s memorandum.
Palowsky’s memorandum quoted excerpts from Hartt’s deposition to support his argument.
For example, one of the Hartt deposition excerpts pertained to Monroe attorney Cody Rials’ 2014 complaint that Campbell had bragged at a local bar about how she had shredded a document that Rials filed with the court. Campbell denied wrongdoing in response to Rials’ complaint, though the court removed Campbell from any of Rials’ cases.
When asked to explain how Campbell could have remained an employee at the district court if she was guilty in Rials’ complaint, Hartt said, “I wish I could answer that for you.”
When asked whether she or any judge discussed Campbell’s employment, Hartt said, “It was. And I’m—I’m referring back to the, back to the documents because I’m trying to remember. I think the—the chronology of that discussion was in conjunction with the payroll issues that we’re not discussing today.”
“So it’s hard to answer that fully, but yes,” she added.
Hartt was asked whether she could speak about why Campbell continued to work at the court without delving into the payroll fraud allegations. Hart responded by saying, “No, I can’t.”
EASY ON HER’
Hartt also was asked specific questions about Amman, one of the five defendant judges, for whom Campbell clerked.
“Did Judge Amman ever tell you how you should do things or conduct matters in this case?”
“He did,” Hartt said.
“What did he tell you?”
“He asked me not to ever ask Allyson any pointed questions that would box her into a certain response,” Hartt said.
“Do not ask Allyson Campbell any questions that would box her in?”
“Uh-huh (yes),” Hartt said.
“What—What did—What did that mean to you?”
“I just took that to mean to take it easy on her,” Hartt said.
Hartt said she could not elaborate because “there were multiple issues we were discussing regarding Ms. Campbell, the bulk of which we are not discussing today.”
Hartt testified that at one point Campbell came to her and said she “was afraid she got the judges in trouble.” Hartt declined to continue testifying because that conversation concerned payroll fraud issues.
“It is clear that Palowsky’s ability to conduct meaningful discovery is being thwarted by Defendant Judges’ (and Campbell’s) misplaced reliance on this Court’s September 18, 2020 Order and their willful disregard of allegations which refer to far more than just document destruction issues and which remain viable,” stated Palowsky’s memorandum. “Defendant Judges allowed and concealed more than just Campbell’s document destruction, and they did so for quite some time.”
It also was revealed in Hartt’s deposition that Monroe attorney Jon Guice, who represents the defendant judges, had previously found grounds to terminate Campbell’s employment.
“Oddly enough, though, according to Ms. Hartt, Defendant Judges’ own counsel previously recommended that Campbell be fired, or at least stated that there were grounds to do so, before changing course,” stated Palowsky’s memorandum.
When asked whether Guice ever recommended terminating Campbell’s employment or found grounds to do so, Hartt said, “Yes.”
“And that—that opinion apparently changed later?”
“It did,” Hartt said.
A deposition of Marchman, the district court judge, revealed Guice ultimately advised the judges not to report Campbell’s activities to the district attorney’s office or to the state Legislative Auditor’s Office.
During her deposition, Marchman told Guice, “We have talked about really kind of our regret that, you know, we took your advice. You told us that we did not or should not report to the DA’s office and to the legislative auditor. We felt like we should, and we regret doing that.”