The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday swatted down a request to stop Monroe businessman Stanley Palowsky III from suing five judges at Fourth Judicial District Court.
In February, a handful of district court judges asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene and overrule the Louisiana Supreme Court’s decision last year to allow Palowsky to sue them.
In 2015, Palowsky sued Fourth Judicial District Court judges Fred Amman III, Wilson Rambo, Carl Sharp, Stephens Winters and retired judge Benjamin “Ben” Jones. Palowsky’s lawsuit accused the judges of conspiring to conceal the activities of Allyson Campbell. Campbell is a law clerk at the district court. Palowsky also sued Campbell, claiming she hid or destroyed documents Palowsky had filed in a separate lawsuit against his former business partner, Brandon Cork.
In its June 2019 ruling, the state Supreme Court held that the five defendant judges and law clerk did not enjoy the shield of judicial immunity in light of the specific allegations at the heart of Stanley R. Palowsky III and others v. Allyson Campbell and others. Judicial immunity is a legal standard shielding judicial figures from lawsuits when those figures executed judicial acts. Palowsky’s allegations focused on the judges’ administrative acts over an employee, not judicial acts, the state Supreme Court ruled. Some of the alleged acts in Palowsky v. Campbell also were criminal in nature, many judges have noted.
“We think what we’ve alleged are administrative acts,” said Covington attorney Joseph “Joe” Ward Jr. “Most of the judges — I guess about 20 judges have looked at it — have agreed.”
Ward represents Palowsky along with Monroe attorney Sedric Banks.
In their petition to the U.S. Supreme Court, the five Fourth Judicial District Court judges argued the U.S. Supreme Court should decide the matter of judicial immunity, not the state Supreme Court, because the legal arguments in Palowsky v. Campbell cited federal case law.
Richard Simpson, with the Washington, D.C. law firm Wiley Rein LLP, represented the five defendant judges in their appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Simpson did not respond to The Ouachita Citizen’s request for comment.
Campbell did not appeal the state Supreme Court’s decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Ward told The Ouachita Citizen that he and Banks expected the U.S. Supreme Court would deny the judges’ petition.
“Statistically, the chances of having the Supreme Court grant a writ is less than three percent,” Ward said. “You combine that with the fact that these guys were asking the court to expand its jurisdiction to where the federal court would get involved whenever they mention a federal case — not a federal statute, but a federal case.”
“It was a non-starter from the beginning,” Ward added.
Meanwhile, the state Supreme Court’s ruling last year cleared the way for Palowsky to conduct discovery, or seek evidence before a trial.
According to court documents, Palowsky planned to hold several days of video depositions of 13 people, including current and former judges, attorneys, and court employees.
None of the court documents filed at Fourth Judicial District Court in Palowsky v. Campbell have identified the 13 people sought for depositions.
In early March, the five defendant judges asked a special appointed judge to delay Palowsky’s discovery attempts until the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the judges’ petition.
Retired Judge Jerome “Jerry” Barbera, of Thibodaux was appointed to preside over Palowsky v. Campbell as an ad hoc judge in 2015.
According to Ward, his client agreed to delay depositions until the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the judges’ petition.
Now that the U.S. Supreme Court had denied the petition, discovery would resume, he said.
“So now we’ll get together and schedule the depositions of the judges and various witnesses,” Ward said.
EDITOR'S NOTE: A previous version incorrectly identified the Palowsky v. Campbell as Palowsky v. Cork, which is a separate lawsuit involving the Monroe businessman and his former business partner, Brandon Cork. The Ouachita Citizen regrets the error.