Second Circuit Court Controversy/Coverup Spreads

The sudden retirement last year of Louisiana’s Second Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge Henry Brown is still making waves, and is likely to become an issue in upcoming judge’s races.

Brown retired after it was alleged that he leaned on fellow circuit court judges in an effort to sway their opinions on a case that involved a “close personal friend” of his. A three-judge panel was hearing the appeal, but he wasn’t a member of that panel. Typically, three judges chosen at random from the nine-judge court hear appeals of cases from district courts.

The panel upheld a 2016 First Judicial District Court jury decision that Hahn Williams breached her fiduciary duty as trustee of the Fred L. Houston Inter Vivos Trust. The jury charged Ms. Williams with $1.1 million in damages for breach of duty to the Trust and determined she was liable to the Estate for $460,605.

See here the 2nd Circuit Court decision.

Earlier this year, the Louisiana Supreme Court denied Williams’ appeal, upholding the circuit court’s ruling.

The trust involved the estate of one Fred Langford Houston, a DeSoto Parish widower who amassed a small fortune before his death in 2008. Williams was Houston’s financial advisor and executor of his will. Williams and Judge Brown had a close personal relationship, according to news reports. Brown bought a house from Williams in 2016, in which Williams continued to live for a time, those same reports allege.

Also in the mix is Trina Chu, Williams’ longtime friend and a law clerk for Brown. Chu was a 1982 refugee from Vietnam, and was herself a candidate for a 2nd Circuit judgeship in 2016.

According to Caddo Parish Sheriff’s Investigators, Brown’s law clerk (Chu) had downloaded documents to her own flash drives and e-mailed legal advice to Williams, and then forwarded some of that communication to Judge Brown via his Second Circuit court e-mail address.

Word of events surrounding the Williams appeal got to the Louisiana Supreme Court and on Sept. 27, 2018, the court’s chief justice banned Brown from the appeals court house. Brown submitted notice of his retirement the next day.

Williams is still fighting the judgement, reportedly with Henry Brown as her attorney.

Mercer v LA DOTD

A lawsuit filed last September seeking to annul another 2nd Circuit ruling that overturned a $20 million jury award also alleges “ill practices” similar to what is purported in the Houston succession case.

See here the document.

Mangham contractor Jeff Mercer won a $20 million award in 2015 over claims that the Louisiana Department of Transportation retaliated against him when he reported to higher-ups an attempted bribe by state inspectors.

A 2nd Circuit panel that included Henry Brown overturned that verdict in 2017. Brown wrote the opinion.

Mercer’s suit seeks a do-over, since documents concerning his case were allegedly found on Chu’s flash drive, along with the Houston case documents.

Mercer also alleges the other panel members never reviewed the case documents, and just rubber-stamped Brown’s opinion.

The latest development is an effort by the 2nd Circuit to cover up the issue by asking a district court in Monroe to seal all the case documents.

See here the document

A hearing on that motion was held in Monroe on November 21, but no ruling has been handed down.

With the recent retirement announcement of State Supreme Court Justice Marcus Clark of Monroe, expect several area judges to run for that job.

2nd Circuit Judge Jay McCallum has expressed interest, as have a couple of Monroe judges.

Here is some other reporting on the case:

Louisiana Record

12/29/2015 – $20 million bribery ruling against DOTD a sign that the state is tired of corruption – by Anna Aguillard
11/8/2019 – Hearing scheduled in case alleging corruption in Louisiana DOTD, state appeals court – by Anna Aguillard
11/13/2019 – We will expose all of this corruption,’ plaintiff in Louisiana DODT, Second Circuit case says – by Karen Kidd
11/16/2019 – Appeals court moves to seal docs in corruption case; ‘If the judge seals it, they’ll bury this,’ plaintiff says – by Karen Kidd

KTBS – TV3 Shreveport

6/8/2017 – Court: Highway inspectors were doing jobs, not harassing businessman – by Gary Hines
10/1/2018 – Judge retires after complaint about behavior toward colleagues – by Gary Hines
12/12/2019 – KTBS investigation reveals questions about judge and clerk’s conduct – by Jamie Ostroff & Gary Hines

Louisiana Voice

4/9/2014 – Contractor claims in lawsuit that DOTD official attempted ‘shake down’ for cash and equipment during Monroe work – by Tom Aswell
12/5/2015 – Story of attempted contractor shakedown broken 2 years ago by LouisianaVoice results in $20 million verdict against state – by Tom Aswell
6/17/2017 – How to overturn $20M verdict against DOTD: get appeals judge whose daddy worked for DOTD to write the decision – by Tom Aswell
9/28/2019 – The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeal didn’t expect transparency to shine a light on widespread chicanery in Jeff Mercer case – by Tom Aswell
11/18/2019 – What price justice? Case of Mangham contractor taking on ugly face of a judicial conspiracy against individual rights – by Tom Aswell

Ouachita Citizen

6/14/2017 – Judge Rambo’s errors undo $20-million suit against DOTD – by Zach Parker
6/20/2017 – Judge’s recusal, new hearing sought in DOTD case – by Zach Parker
10/2/2019 – Contractor’s appeal sheds light on Second Circuit chief judge’s exit – by Zach Parker
12/4/2019 – Appeal court judge’s retirement figures in contractor’s suit – by Zach Parker

7 Responses to “Second Circuit Court Controversy/Coverup Spreads”

  1. tomaswell Says:

    Walter, in my techno-challenged capacity (or lack thereof), I am unable to find a way to subscribe to Lincoln Parish News. As a native Rustonian (or is it Rustonite?), I would love to keep up with the news up there and you’re certainly the most authoritative source available.

    So, please help me out: get me on your subscription list. My email is:

    louisianavoice@outlook.com

    aswell

  2. Never been published Says:

    Yes Walt, please tell us how to subscribe. Or I guess it would be just as easy to follow Ruston leader or news star since this is where half your stories get lifted from….

  3. Jeff Mercer Says:

    Guess who the Caddo DA is that’s assisting the second circuit in hiding these records? Ex-Second Circuit judge Stewart. DA claims they’re re-opening a closed case on Chu. Stewart has a double conflict of interest in this case. He has a conflict with Chu due to they both worked with the Second Circuit and conflict with the Second Circuit due to serving as a Judge under Judge Brown. It’s a fake investigation to hide the documents.

  4. Anonymous Says:

    New Jersey used to be the most corrupt state in the Union but Louisiana has replaced them.

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