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Challenging One's Fellow Judges

As conflicts over courthouse impropriety evolved into a hostile work place, Judge Sharon Marchman of Louisiana's 4th Judicial District for Ouachita Parish decided it was time to confront her colleagues in Federal Court.

Part A - The Complaint

Monroe (pop. ca. 49,000) is the 8th largest city in Louisiana and the seat of Ouachita Parish.  It is also the home of the University of Louisiana at Monroe and the site of the Ouachita Parish Courthouse of the state's 4th Judicial District.  On April 19, 2016, Judge Sharon Marchman of the 4th Judicial District Court filed suit against the court's senior law clerk, Allyson Campbell, four of the judge's colleagues, and four other involved individuals in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana.

At issue are allegations of the law clerk's improper handling of court documents entrusted to her, the manipulation of her own payroll documents, and the manner in which judges of the court sprang to her defense in an attempt to cover up her alleged misconduct.  The law clerk and her family are a powerful presence in the Monroe community.1

4th JDC judge sues other judges, law clerk
April 20, 2016

Four 4th Judicial District judges conspired to cover up illegal acts of a law clerk acting under their supervision, a colleague alleges in a lawsuit.

According to the suit filed by Judge Sharon Marchman on Tuesday in U.S. District Court, 4th Judicial District Judges Carl V. Sharp, Frederic C. Amman, J. Wilson Rambo and Benjamin Jones "engaged in concerted action and a conspiracy" to hide that law clerk Allyson Campbell committed payroll fraud and destroyed or concealed court documents. The suit alleges that improper behavior dates back to 2010.

"They have also conspired to conceal the fact that they have intentionally withheld information and production of documents from authorities and persons making public records requests," the suit continued.

The judges also are accused of "threatening, intimidating, coercing, ridiculing, taunting, harassing, alienating and making false accusations of wrongdoing" against Marchman in retaliation because she opposed their actions. Their actions reportedly included preventing her from performing her duties as the chair of the personnel committee, which resulted in her being forced to resign the position that she had held since approximately 2005.

Campbell, according to the suit, retaliated against Marchman's attempt to expose a history of payroll fraud and document destruction by accusing Marchman of wrongful and illegal acts via legal pleadings in the matter of Palowsky v. Campbell in the 4th Judicial District.

In that suit, Marchman is accused of having a "vendetta" against Campbell, improperly disclosing information about Campbell to Palowsky and committing illegal acts.

Palowsky v. Campbell was filed in July following allegations that information was being withheld from Rambo during the proceedings of Palowsky v. Cork, a case filed in 2013 in which Stanley R. Palowsky III sued his previous business partner and other defendants.

Palowsky v. Campbell was dismissed with prejudice by ad hoc Judge Jerome J. Barbera II on Nov. 5. Questions regarding sanctions and contempt had yet to be addressed. A March 4 hearing on the issue was continued without a date being set, and court documents filed April 11 show the case is being moved to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeal.

Former Louisiana Attorney General James D. "Buddy" Caldwell and attorneys Brian Crawford and Lawrence Pettiette Jr. are accused of conspiring with Campbell by submitting the pleadings on her behalf in the Palowsky case.

Marchman's attorneys, Joseph Ward and Sedric Banks, argue that the pleadings being filed by Pettiette, who was acting as special assistant attorney general, and Caldwell, who was acting as the attorney general for the Louisiana, provided an "air of legitimacy." They also argue that Caldwell assumed Campbell's defense in civil litigation without conducting an investigation to determine whether she was free from criminal conduct.

The suit also names attorney Jon Guice, who represented the other four judges in previous legal proceedings, and accuses him of conspiring with them and with Campbell by filing pleadings that wrongfully accused Marchman of illegal acts. Those pleadings "were aided by Campbell's sworn affidavit testimony which contradicted prior correspondence she had written."

The suit states that Marchman has become a pariah at the courthouse.

Ultimately, the suit argues that the defendants' behavior violated Marchman's First Amendment right to free speech and 14th Amendment right to equal protection. Marchman seeks injunctive relief to stop "ongoing violations" and asks for a declaratory judgment finding that her rights were violated. She also seeks "damages she has incurred including, but not limited to, damages for the mental anguish and emotional distress caused by defendants' violations of and conspiracy to violate her constitutionally protected rights to free speech and equal protection, damages for the injury to her reputation, statutory damages, general damages, attorney's fees and other litigation costs pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988, and judicial interest from the date of demand."

Marchman requests a trial by jury.

A lawsuit presents one side of a legal argument.

Copyright 2016, www.thenewsstar.com

From: Bonnie Bolden, "4th JDC judge sues other judges, law clerk," The News-Star, Monroe, La., April 20, 2016, http://www.thenewsstar.com/story/news/crime/2016/04/20/4th-jdc-judge-sues-other-judges-law-cleark/83292672/, accessed 06/24/2016.  Reprinted in accordance with the "fair use" provision of Title 17 U.S.C. § 107 for a non-profit educational purpose.  Bonnie Bolden can be contacted at: bbolden@thenewsstar.com.

UPDATED: Judge Sharon Marchman sues other judges, law clerk in federal court
April 19, 2016

The ongoing saga surrounding Stanley Palowsky III's conflict with Fourth Judicial District Court officials took a turn Tuesday when Judge Sharon Marchman sued four of her colleagues on the bench and law clerk Allyson Campbell among others in U.S. District Court in Monroe.

Marchman's lawsuit arises from the allegations that Campbell committed payroll fraud and destroyed or concealed court filings submitted by Palowsky in a lawsuit against a former business partner as well as allegations that district court judges covered up Campbell's activities.

Representing Marchman in her lawsuit are attorneys Joe Ward of Covington and Sedric Banks of Monroe. Ward and Banks also represent Palowsky in a separate lawsuit against Campbell and five judges over similar allegations contained in the lawsuit Marchman filed Tuesday.

Defendants in Marchman's lawsuit include Campbell, former state Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, Shreveport attorney Lawrence Pettiette (Campbell's attorney), Monroe attorney Brian Crawford (Campbell's attorney), attorney Jon Guice (judges' attorney), Judges Carl Sharp, Fred Amman, Wilson Rambo and former Judge Ben Jones, who now serves as the court's administrator.

Unlike Palowsky's lawsuit against court officials, Marchman's lawsuit did not name Judge Stephens Winters as a defendant.

"Defendant Judges and Campbell have been engaged in concerted action and a conspiracy to hide the fact that Campbell has committed payroll fraud and has destroyed or concealed court documents," Marchman's lawsuit stated.

Marchman claims she opposed the defendants' "long-time protection of Defendant Campbell, who had been supervised directly by Judges Rambo, Sharp and Amman." In response to her opposition, the other judges retaliated against her, she claimed.

"Defendant Judges' acts of retaliation included, but were not limited to, threatening, intimidating, coercing, ridiculing, taunting, harassing, alienating, and making false accusations of wrongdoing against Judge Marchman," her lawsuit stated. "They also prevented her from performing her duties as the chair of the (court's) personnel committee which resulted in her being forced to resign the position which she had held since approximately 2005."

Marchman said her efforts to "do the right thing and stop the cover-up of Campbell's payroll fraud and document destruction" led to the defendants' actions turning her into a "virtual pariah at the courthouse."

"They have singled her out for disparate treatment, and she has become uncomfortable in her place of work," the lawsuit stated.

Some of the details in Marchman's lawsuit include accusations that Sharp wrote an email earlier this year, stating his refusal to notify Marchman of the judges' committee meetings, in spite of a request from Winters that Marchman be notified.

"(Sharp said) he would not serve on any committees with her," the lawsuit stated. "The purpose of Judge Sharp's email, which was sent not only to the other judges but also to court staff members, was to undermine Judge Marchman's authority and standing as a duly-elected judge."

Another incident alleged in Marchman's lawsuit involves physical contact with Rambo in September 2015.

"Defendant Rambo glared at her, refused to speak to her, and walked into Judge Marchman as he was getting off the elevator," the lawsuit stated. "The physical contact was done intentionally."

Marchman is seeking damages and a jury trial.

In Campbell's pleadings in Stanley R. Palowsky III v. Allyson Campbell and others, Campbell accused Marchman of pursuing a personal vendetta against her and the other judges. In Marchman's lawsuit, Marchman said the other judges spoke of her being involved in a "cat fight" with Campbell. According to Marchman's lawsuit, Campbell sought to find a candidate to run against Marchman in 2014, a move that led Marchman to recuse herself from personnel matters involving Campbell to avoid an appearance of impropriety.

Marchman said Campbell has had an "issue with absenteeism from work" since 2010.

As first reported by The Ouachita Citizen on March 2, 2015, an audit report released by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor of the court's finances revealed some court employees were possibly paid for hours not worked during the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2014. According to Marchman's lawsuit, the court reviewed Campbell's time sheets for the first quarter of 2014 and found that Campbell reported working on seven days, but courthouse surveillance footage and a report of Campbell's usage of a key fob allowing her courthouse access showed "she had not entered the courthouse" on any of those seven days.

"Defendant Judges Rambo and Amman had been approving Campbell's false time sheets for payment during the pertinent times," the lawsuit stated.

Beginning on April 22, 2014, all law clerks including Campbell were required to sign in and out whenever they entered or exited the courthouse, according to Marchman.

"Notably, shortly after the new rule's implementation, Campbell refused to comply and falsified her sign-in sheet," the lawsuit stated.

On April 24, 2014, Marchman said the judges met and agreed to "remove Campbell from the position of 'senior law clerk,' to terminate her stipend, and to suspend her for one month without pay."

During Campbell's suspension in May, 52 files or post-conviction relief applications were found in the law clerk's office, according to the lawsuit. The oldest post-conviction relief application was dated Nov. 2, 2011, the lawsuit said.

"When questioned as to why the PCRs were sitting in her office, Campbell had no explanation," the lawsuit stated. "It was discovered later that Defendant Campbell had given the employee who found the 52 applications a $200 gift card."

According to Marchman's lawsuit, a reprimand was placed in Campbell's personnel file concerning the discovery of post-conviction relief applications among other warnings and reprimands.

Marchman's lawsuit includes many more details The Ouachita Citizen previously reported throughout its coverage of Palowsky's litigation against the court as well as this newspaper's legal dispute with the court over public records requests denied by the court.

The Ouachita Citizen's coverage prompted an investigation of the court by Louisiana State Police and the state's Inspector General.

"They (the defendant judges) have also conspired to conceal the fact that they have intentionally withheld information and production of documents from authorities and persons making public records requests."

The Ouachita Citizen sought numerous records from Campbell's personnel file, but the court refused to produce many of them. Ouachita Citizen reporter Johnny Gunter filed a criminal complaint against the court with Fourth Judicial District Attorney Jerry Jones over the court's refusal to release public records. The court responded by filing a motion for summary judgment over whether the public records should be produced.

Ad hoc Judge Anne Simon was tasked with reviewing Campbell's personnel file to determine whether any of its contents represented a public concern, but details in Marchman's lawsuit suggested the judges may have left some documents out of the personnel file when they presented it to the ad hoc judge for review.

"Judges Winters and Jones were adamant that they would only produce the Rials letter (accusing Campbell of shredding his documents in an unrelated lawsuit and of bragging in a local bar that she gave him a 'legal ----ing') and an outside consultant's report, but Judge Marchman disagreed and urged them to produce all the documents in their possession related to Campbell," the lawsuit stated. "At that time, Defendant Judge Jones, referring to an upcoming May 19 hearing (involving The Ouachita Citizen), told Judge Marchman and the other judges, 'There will be no testimony. Testimony will not be good for us.'"

Simon reviewed the contents of Campbell's personnel file and ruled against The Ouachita Citizen's public records requests. Simon said Campbell's right to privacy outweighed the public's right to know.

A copy of Marchman's lawsuit can be found at www.ouachitacitizen.com

Caldwell, the former attorney general, is named a defendant in Marchman's lawsuit because he appointed Pettiette as a special assistant attorney general to represent Campbell in pleadings that accused Marchman of illegal acts. Caldwell's involvement gave the accusations against Marchman an "air of legitimacy," Marchman's lawsuit said. Marchman also sued Caldwell since he "assumed the defense of Campbell in civil litigation without ever properly conducting an investigation to determine whether she was free from criminal conduct" as required by state law.

Copyright 2016, Hanna Newspapers

From: Zach Parker, "UPDATED: Judge Sharon Marchman sues other judges, law clerk in federal court," The Ouachita Citizen, April 19, 2016, http://www.hannapub.com/ouachitacitizen/news/local_state_headlines/updated-judge-sharon-marchman-sues-other-judges-law-clerk-in/article_cecc1776-0670-11e6-9fe7-eb41c01d3b9d.htm, accessed 06/26/2016.  Reprinted in accordance with the "fair use" provision of Title 17 U.S.C. § 107 for a non-profit educational purpose.  Zach Parker can be contacted at: zach@ouachitacitizen.com.

Endnote and References
  1. In addition to her job as a law clerk, Allyson Campbell was a society columnist for the Monroe newspaper, The News-Star.2-4  Her sister, attorney Cathrine Creed, is a member of the Monroe personal injury firm of Creed and Creed,5 and her father, George Campbell, is an executive with Regions Bank and is married to the daughter of attorney Billy Boles, a major contributor to political campaigns.5  (The following articles are recommended reading.)

  2. Joe Patrice, "Did Law Clerk Destroy Documents to Help Captivating Lawyer?" Above the Law, September 3, 2015, http://abovethelaw.com/2015/09/did-law-clerk-destroy-documents-to-help-captivating-lawyer/, accessed 06/30/2016.

  3. Ken Booth, "Disorder in the Court! Guest columnist Ken Booth reveals disturbing occurences that taint several judges of 4th JDC," Louisiana Voice, May 5, 2016, https://louisianavoice.com/2016/05/05/disorder-in-the-court-guest-columnist-ken-booth-reveals-disturbing-events-that-taint-several-judges-of-4th-jdc/, accessed 06/29/2016.

  4. Allyson, "Twin Cities full of the charming, witty and brilliant," The News-Star, "On the Town," Monroe, La., September 20, 2014, http://www.thenewsstar.com/story/on-the-town/2014/09/20/on-the-town/15798315, accessed 06/30/2016.

  5. Ken Booth, "Another major screw-up in 4th Judicial District Court (and again Judge Larry Jefferson is right in the middle of it all)" Louisiana Voice, May 9, 2016, https://louisianavoice.com/2016/05/09/another-major-screw-up-in-4th-judicial-district-court-and-again-judge-larry-jefferson-is-right-in-the-middle/, accessed 06/25/2016.









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