Archive for the ‘State Supreme Court’ Category

Sumlin Case Headed to Trial

08/28/2019

After four (4) years of delays, continuances, refixes, and hearings, former Louisiana state representative William Sumlin is headed to trial.

The trial, on charges of indecent behavior with a juvenile, will be held Monday, October 21, 9:00 AM in Third Judicial District Court in Ruston. A hearing for any outstanding motions is set for Wednesday, October 15, 1:30 PM, and a pretrial conference is set for Friday, October 18, 9:00 AM.

Sumlin was originally arrested in October of 2015.

The action came late yesterday afternoon in Division B Judge Tommy Roger’s courtroom.

As Sumlin and his attorney LaValle Salomon stood before the bench, Rogers could be heard asking, “What are we waiting for, Mr. Salomon?”

Appearing for the state was Assistant District Attorney Tracy Houck.

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Judges Not Above the Law: LA State Supreme Court

06/27/2019

Supreme Court allows lawsuit against 4JDC judges, law clerk
By Zach Parker zach@ouachitacitizen.com Jun 27, 2019

The state Supreme Court gave the green light Wednesday to a Monroe businessman’s lawsuit against Fourth Judicial District Court officials, including five judges and a law clerk, who are accused of tampering with court filings and concealing the activity.

In his July 2015 lawsuit, Stanley Palowsky III, of Monroe, alleged that law clerk Allyson Campbell concealed or destroyed court documents he filed in a separate lawsuit against his former business partner, Brandon Cork. Palowsky also sued Fourth Judicial District Court judges Fred Amman, Wilson Rambo, Carl Sharp, Stephens Winters, and retired Judge Benjamin “Ben” Jones, who now serves as the court administrator. Palowsky claimed the judges knew about Campbell’s activities and worked with her to cover up the acts.

Palowsky’s lawsuit failed to advance in district court after retired Judge Jerome “Jerry” Barbera III, of Thibodeaux, dismissed the lawsuit in November 2015. At that time, Barbera ruled that Campbell and the five defendant judges could not be sued because they enjoyed judicial immunity. The legal concept of judicial immunity protects judges from civil claims, or having to pay civil damages, based on any actions they undertook in a judicial capacity.

“Considering the highly unusual and specific facts of this case, the court of appeal erred in finding the judges were entitled to absolute judicial immunity,” stated the Supreme Court’s ruling.

The crux of oral arguments before the Supreme Court was whether the judges’ alleged cover-up was an administrative act or a judicial, or adjudicative, act.

See here the complete article (subscription required).

See here the court opinion.

Mays Sentenced to Two More Life w/o Parole Terms

06/25/2019

Cameron Mays, convicted last May of the murder of Dr. Susan Hashway, was this morning sentenced to two life without parole terms, plus an additional 30 years for ancillary crimes.

Hashway, a retired Grambling professor, was found slain in June of 2012 in her Paynter Drive home in Ruston.

The sentence was handed down by Division B Judge Tommy Rogers at Third Judicial District Court in Ruston.

The two life sentences are for Aggravated Kidnapping and Second Degree Murder. The additional sentences were for Aggravated Burglary, Unauthorized Use of a Vehicle, and Unauthorized Use of an Access Card.

Rogers noted that there “were no mitigating factors” in the crimes, and that these were “brutal and callous offenses” that resulted in Hashway’s death. Mays had “no remorse, and openly bragged to his friends” about the crime.

Appearing for the state was Assistant Attorney General Michelle Thompson. Also on hand was Assistant AG Madeline Slaughter-Young.

Representing Mays was Public Defender Kia Richardson.

With this sentencing, Cameron Mays’ role in the 2012 crime spree is concluded.

Left to adjudicate are the roles for three of Mays’ accomplices, Brandon Bonton, Markeva Daye, and Robert Demps.

Also unresolved is the role of one Kevin Owens in the crime spree.

At the recent murder trial, it was claimed by defense attorney Dwayne Burrell that Owens committed the murder and also committed an earlier rape and kidnapping that Mays was convicted of in April, 2016.

Mays is currently serving two life terms for that crime event.

Burrell also claimed that Owen was an informant for the Ruston Police Department.

We recently reviewed the case files at the Lincoln Parish Clerk of Court and can confirm that Owens was indeed an RPD informant.

At the earlier trial, the victim testified that there were two perpetrators and that both participated in the kidnapping. Only one assaulted her, she testified.

Mays said on the stand that Owens was his accomplice for that crime, and that he was the one who assaulted the victim.

When interviewed, Owens denied any involvement, according to the case files.

No second suspect in the first crime has ever been named.

That crime took place in the early hours of Monday, June 4, 2012. The murder occurred in the early hours of Wednesday, June 6, 2012.

Bill to Divide Judicial District Deferred in Committee

05/22/2019

A bill that would have divided the Third Judicial District (Lincoln, Union Parishes) into two independent judicial districts was involuntarily deferred in a senate committee yesterday.

The vote was unanimous.

Senate Bill 202 would have created a new district attorney’s office for Union Parish only.

The bill provided for an election, and would require that the plan be approved by voters in both parishes prior to implementation.

Presently, Lincoln and Union Parishes share a district attorney and three judges.

The new district would have allocated one judge for the new district, and two for Lincoln Parish.

Senator Mike Walsworth (District 33) sponsored the bill, and spoke for it.

During the hearing, several committee members spoke against the bill, citing costs. Newly elected Judge Bruce Hampton was seen in the audience, but did not testify.

See here the video of the hearing.

The bill was considered immediately after the committee convened, so the pertinent testimony is at the beginning.

Hampton Prevails in Judge Race

11/07/2018

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Finance Reports for Judge’s Race

10/19/2018

Finance reports are in on the race for Division C Judge of the Third Judicial District (Lincoln, Union Parishes). Two candidates are running, Monique Clement and Bruce Hampton.

Clement’s report shows total receipts of $84,415, as of 9/27/18. Of that, $55 thousand is a personal loan to her campaign.

Among the major monetary contributors:

Bill Autrey, Ruston: $1,000
Breithaupt, DuBos, & Wolleson, LLC, Monroe: $2,500
Randy Ewing, Ruston: $1,000
Lamar Haddox, Ruston: $2,500
LaGrange Cloy, LLC, Thibodaux: $2,500
Louisiana Bancshares, LLC, Arcdia: $2,500
Laurie Parks, Ruston: $1,000
Brian Woodard, Choudrant: $2,500
Russell Woodard, Ruston: $2,500

Among the major expenditures include about $7 thousand to Classic Designs of Ruston for signs, $5 thousand to Creative Communications of Baton Rouge for consulting, and about $2,400 to Freeman Lumber of Ruston for sign materials.

As of the reporting date, she has spent $29,147

See here the complete report.

Hampton’s report shows $137,275 of total receipts, with $87,500 of that from a personal loan to the campaign. He has spent a little over $103 thousand. Hampton’s report is also as of 9/27/18.

His major donors are:

Amado Leija Management, Monroe: $1,000
Byrnes Mechanical Contractors, Inc, West Monroe: $1,500
Country Line Farm, Farmerville: $1,000
Johnny Dollar, Monroe: $1,000
Enviro Service Rental, LLC, Farmerville: $2,500
Thomas Futch, Farmerville: $1,000
Kenneth & Misty Halley, Sterlington: $1,000
Sanson’s Family Medicine, West Monroe: $1,500
Jamie Sanson, Farmerville: $2,500
Willie Sensley, Jr, Farmerville: $1,500
Vernon & Theresa Sharp, Marion: $1,000
Ross Wilhite, Downsville: $2,500
Sidney Wilhite, Jr, West Monroe: $2,500
Sybol Wilhite, Downsville: $2,500

Significant expenditures are:

National Association of Lincolnites, LLC, Ruston: $1,500
Brave New Televsion/Politics, Denaham Springs: $23,700
Community Coordinating Coucil, Ruston: $1,000
Corney Creek Festival, Bernice: $1,500
Drabo, Dubach: $1,440
Farmerville Jaycees, Farmerville: $2,500
LA Peach Festival, Ruston: $2,500
Quest Consultants, Monroe: $24,440
Rapid Sign, Ruston: $24,053
Gregory Adam Terry, Washington DC, $5,800
Tommy’s Tees, Ruston: $7,730
Union Parish Chamber of Commerce, Farmerville: $1,000
Union Parish Museum of History & Art, Farmerville: $1,000

See here the complete report.

Court Hearing on DeSoto LACE Case

10/13/2018

DeSoto judge removes DA from investigation of possible LACE payroll abuse

By Vicki Welborn – KTBS TV3 Shreveport

DeSoto District Attorney Gary Evans and his staff are prohibited from investigating the sheriff and his deputies in connection with alleged abuses of an overtime ticket-writing program called LACE, a district judge ruled Friday following a five-hour court hearing fraught with legal wrangling.

District Judge Charles Adams based his decision on his belief District Attorney Gary Evans in the eyes of the public could not maintain the “independence and impartiality” that is required for the investigation. Adams said that was evidenced by what took place in the courtroom during the afternoon hearing.

At times contentious, the court session was punctuated by multiple but unsuccessful attempts to have the proceedings stopped and even throw Adams off the case. Motions were filed and procedures were argued before a courtroom filled with spectators.

Sheriff Jayson Richardson agreed with the ruling, saying afterwards he welcomes an investigation into “supposed wrongdoing” but wants it led by someone not associated with the district attorney’s office. Richardson contends Evans wanted to convene a grand jury weeks before next month’s special sheriff’s election in attempt to influence the outcome in favor of his preferred candidate.

Richardson and Mansfield Police Chief Gary Hobbs are vying for the remainder of the unexpired term of longtime Sheriff Rodney Arbuckle who retired earlier this year. The election is Nov. 6.

The back-and-forth about the LACE investigation sandwiched a separate but related matter that could lead to a fine or jail time for two employees of the district attorney’s office. Adams found Assistant District Attorney Cloyce Clark and chief investigator Kem Jones in contempt of court after witnesses testified seeing them taking photographs or videos in the courtroom Monday in violation of court rules.

Bailiff Brett Jones said at the judge’s order he reviewed Clark’s phone, which Clark handed to him and open to the photo album. Brett Jones said he saw four photos that had been taken of attorneys and sheriff’s office personnel inside the courtroom, but they had been recently deleted. Clark described them as “personal” pictures, and said he wasn’t aware it was wrong to take photographs in the courtroom when it was not in session.

Kem Jones refused to answer questions about the contents of his two phones, asserting his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. When he was on the stand later, Jones again refused to answer questions about the phones, which Adams has in his possession after they were returned from the Bossier City Marshal’s Office.

Clark and Jones will be sentenced at 9 a.m. Monday for the contempt of court.

Meanwhile, Assistant District Attorney Lea Hall told Adams they will appeal his ruling recusing Evans. The state Attorney General’s office will be notified about Evans’ recusal, Adams said, putting them in charge of any investigation.

Hall vigorously argued throughout the afternoon against the hearing even moving forward since at the beginning of it he filed a motion notifying the court Evans had voluntarily removed himself from any investigation of Richardson and the sheriff’s office as a whole.

But Richardson’s attorney, Michael Magner, pointed out that did not resolve the matter of the individual deputies. He maintained their belief Evans should not have any dealings with the LACE investigation, not only because of his alleged political involvement but also because his office also was part of an investigative audit involving alleged LACE payroll abuses.

At one point Hall said moving forward was “a disservice to the entire parish” and added on a personal note he considered the entire issue that’s putting the parish’s elected officials as odds as “ridicules.”

Richardson said in a court motion filed Oct. 5 that Evans was motivated by politics to present a case to the secret panel because of his friendship and support of Hobbs. Hall said during Friday’s hearing that’s an allegation Evans denies.

The motion was filed hours after Evans appeared before a group of state lawmakers in Baton Rouge who review audit findings. Evans was there to respond to findings concerning his office’s handling of LACE.

But Evans instead focused on the sheriff’s office and announced he was calling a grand jury for Oct. 8. He said theft was “rampant” in the sheriff’s office and he needed auditors to release an audit report that’s being conducted on the sheriff’s office’s LACE program.

State Auditor Daryl Purpera said he would not be pulled into politics surrounding the election and would only release the report when it’s completed, and it’s not.

A recording of Evans’ appearance before the panel was submitted during Friday’s hearing. While Evans was in the courtroom, he was not called to testify. Instead, the questions were posed to Kem Jones.

Kem Jones answered Magner’s questions about the audit findings and also reviewed copies of some of the deputies’ LACE time sheets. He said when Evans took over LACE administration he wanted more detailed time sheets. The D.A.’s office did not start paying the deputies who worked LACE until Evans began his diversion program, Jones said, adding Evans “never paid a penny to the sheriff’s office for LACE.”

The district attorney’s office does not consider itself a “victim” of LACE,” Hall noted.

LACE is a program that goes back decades that allows off-duty law enforcement officers to work traffic enforcement. Most of their time is spent on interstates targeting speeders.

Early in 2017, Evans began questioning the LACE set-up, he said after a DeSoto Parish police juror said the criminal court fund, one of the recipients of LACE ticket revenue, was losing money.

Arbuckle pulled his deputies off of LACE in June 2017. State troopers continue to work it – after a brief hiatus when the LSP commander called a halt to it to revise policies and procedures following payroll padding allegations among some troopers in South Louisiana. Evans also has a contract with the Mansfield Police Department.

Resignation May Precipitate Area Judge Shuffle

10/02/2018

The sudden retirement of Second Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge Henry Brown could cause another merry-go-round of judge elections, it appears.

Brown’s district, according to Wikipedia, covers Bossier, Webster, Claiborne, Bienville, Union, Lincoln, Jackson, Caldwell, and Winn Parishes. If any of the district judges in those parishes decides to run for Brown’s unexpired term and wins, that will trigger another race in that district.

Judge retires after complaint about behavior toward colleagues

Gary Hines Oct 1, 2018 – KTBS TV3 Shreveport

The chief judge of the state appeals court in Shreveport has abruptly retired after being the subject of a complaint about his behavior toward colleagues who were considering an appeal involving a close female friend of the judge, KTBS News has learned.

The resignation comes as local law enforcement investigates whether a law clerk who worked for the judge had improperly accessed court files containing drafts of the opinion that was being written.

Judge Henry Brown, who has been on the court for 27 years, will retire effective Wednesday, he said in a letter to the Secretary of State that was forwarded to the Supreme Court on Monday.

Brown was the subject of complaints he had created a hostile environment toward colleagues who were hearing the appeal of a civil lawsuit against his friend, sources familiar with the case said.

That woman, Hanh Williams, was accused of breaching her fiduciary duty as the trustee and executrix of a man’s trust and estate. A Caddo District Court civil jury charged Williams with $1.1 million in damages for breach of duty to the trust and found her liable to the estate for $460,000, court records show.

Williams, who fought the allegations, appealed the verdict to the Second Circuit Court of Appeal, where Brown was the chief judge. The case was assigned to a three-member panel of judges that did not include Brown, who had a conflict of interest.

As those judges were considering the case earlier this year, members of the court found evidence someone had gotten into the judges’ computer files, where memos and drafts of opinions are kept, sources told KTBS News. They filed a complaint with the Caddo Sheriff’s Office, which began investigating and got a warrant to seize computers. A law clerk who worked for Brown lost her job and was banned from the courthouse while sheriff’s detectives investigated.

The appeals court in August upheld the jury verdict.

Louisiana Atty Gen Sues Vermilion School Board for Open Meetings Violation

03/08/2018

AG’s lawsuit: Vermilion School Board created ‘hostile’ atmosphere at meeting where teacher removed, cuffed

MICHAEL KUNZELMAN, Associated Press

Louisiana’s attorney general sued a local school board Thursday over a meeting disrupted by the video-recorded arrest of a teacher being roughly handcuffed on a hallway floor after she criticized the district superintendent’s pay raise.

Attorney General Jeff Landry’s lawsuit accuses the Vermilion Parish School Board and its members of violating the state’s Open Meetings Law by stifling public debate at the Jan. 8 meeting.

The arrest of a teacher who had just been kicked out of a Vermilion Parish School Board meeting Monday after criticizing a vote to give the su…

The suit asks a state court to nullify all actions taken by the board during that meeting, including its vote to raise Schools Superintendent Jerome Puyau’s salary by roughly $30,000.

Landry’s suit seeks civil penalties against any board members found responsible for violating the Open Meetings Law and says the school system should be reimbursed for any extra money the superintendent received under his raise.

“Every community has a stake in the performance and the governance of its public schools, and the community’s views and thoughts should be taken into account before any action or discussion on an agenda item occurs,” the suit says.

Deputy City Marshal Reggie Hilts arrested middle school English teacher Deyshia Hargrave after escorting her out of the meeting room and handcuffing her on the hallway floor. A viral video of the arrest sparked widespread outrage.

Hilts arrested Hargrave on charges of “remaining after being forbidden” and resisting an officer, but she hasn’t been prosecuted. Ike Funderburk, the prosecutor and city attorney in Abbeville, decided in January not to pursue any criminal charges against her.

Hargrave has said the incident violated her First Amendment right to free speech.

“And I’m appalled at this, and you should be too,” she said in a video posted on the Louisiana Association of Educators’ Facebook page in January.

Landry’s suit says the school board conducted the meeting “in an atmosphere that was hostile toward and contemptuous of” parish residents who attended it.

Video of the meeting shows Hargrave addressed the superintendent directly, asking him how he could accept a raise when teachers haven’t received a pay increase in 10 years.

Anthony Fontana, the school board’s president at the time, then banged his gavel, told her to stop and said her comment wasn’t “germane” to the vote on the contract. Hargrave countered that she was directly addressing the matter.

At that point, according to school board member Kibbie Pillette, Fontana beckoned to the officer, who interrupted Hargrave while she was speaking and ordered her out.

“I’m going,” she said, making her way out. The officer followed her into the hallway, where a camera recorded her on the floor with her hands behind her back as the officer handcuffed her.

“Stop resisting,” the officer said, lifting Hargrave to her feet.

“I am not. You just pushed me to the floor,” Hargrave said.

Hargrave told The Associated Press in January that she blamed Fontana for the incident.

Fontana, who served six terms on the board, announced his resignation less than two weeks after the Jan. 8 meeting. He had announced last year that he wouldn’t run for re-election.

The board voted 5-3 to approve a new three-year contract raising Puyau’s salary to about $140,000 annually, with incentive targets that could add 3 percent a year. Puyau has said the raise matches what school officials in similar jobs make.

The superintendent has said he began receiving hate mail and threatening phone calls as the video spread on the internet. He said the school system offices went into temporary lockdown, and his daughters had to delete threats on their social media.

Puyau told the AP in January that he wasn’t happy with how things played out.

“It was not good in any way,” he said. “We are a good community. It took everybody by surprise. I’m having a hard time with this, but we care about our teachers and our support staff.”

Gov. John Bel Edwards chimed in after the video went viral online. The Democrat, who is married to a teacher and gets support from teachers unions, said he “didn’t see anything that warranted that type of action” and thought it “cast a negative light” on the state.

Here’s the lawsuit.

Former State Senator Charles Jones a Lawyer Again

01/30/2018

Former State Senator Charles Jones, a Monroe Democrat, was yesterday re-admitted to the Louisiana State Bar and will be allowed to practice law again.

See here the order from the Louisiana Supreme Court.

He will have a three-year period of unsupervised probation.

Jones was convicted in 2010 of filing false tax returns and tax evasion.

He was sentenced in January, 2011 to 27 months in federal prison.

Notable in the court’s order is the restitution repayment schedule for Jones.

…is paying $500 a month to the United States District Court Clerk toward the $305,174.05 in restitution related to his criminal conviction, is paying $1,578 a month to the IRS pursuant to an installment agreement related to his federal tax debt, and is paying $1,080 a month to the Louisiana Department of Revenue (“LDR”) pursuant to an installment agreement related to his state tax debt.

As Jones is in his mid to late 60s, it seems likely the taxpayers will never be fully repaid.