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Archive for the ‘Attorney General’ Category

Anyone remember Allyson Campbell?

If not, that’s understandable. After all, it’s been a couple of years since we had a STORY about her exploits in the 4th Judicial Court in Monroe. She’s the Monroe News-Star society columnist who showed up occasionally at her supposed full-time job as law clerk for 4th JDC Judge Wilson Rambo (gotta love that name; wonder if they have a judge named Rocky?).

On Wednesday, 12 of the 13 judges of the First Circuit Court of Appeal (only Judge Curtis Calloway did not hear arguments) dealt the self-promoting columnist/clerk a major setback when it ruled in an en banc (full court) decision that she does not enjoy “absolute immunity” from her actions in destroying court files and that a lawsuit against her may go forward.

But it was the dissenting opinion of one of the three judges who gave written opinions that makes for the best reading.

The ruling comes nearly two years after Louisiana Inspector General STEPHEN STREET found there was no “sufficient cause” to bring charges against Campbell for what witnesses said were repeated instances of her destroying or concealing trial briefs. For that matter, Louisiana State Police and the Louisiana Attorney General’s office also declined to pursue the matter, leaving only one state official, Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera, with the integrity and courage to call Campbell out for her actions.

She was also the central figure in:

  • The controversy that erupted when the Ouachita Citizen made a legal request for public records from the court—and was promptly sued by the judges for seeking those same public records.
  • The filing of a lawsuit by Judge Sharon Marchman against four fellow judges and Campbell over Campbell’s claiming time worked when she was actually absent—including time when she was in restaurants and/or bars for which she claimed time—and the four judges who Judge Marchman said were complicit in covering for her.
  • A complaint by Monroe attorney Cody Rials that Campbell had boasted in a local bar that she had destroyed Rials’ court document in a case he had pending before Judge Carl Sharp so that Sharp could not review it. One witness interviewed by Judges Sharp and Ben Jones quoted Campbell as saying that she had “taken great pleasure I shredding Rials’ judgment” and that she had given Rials a “legal f—ing.”

Now a DECISION by the First Circuit Court of Appeal, in overturning a lower court’s 2015 decision, has held that a lawsuit by Stanley Palowsky, III, against Campbell for damages incurred when she “spoliated, concealed, removed, destroyed, shredded, withheld, and/or improperly handled” his petition for damages against former business partner Brandon Cork may proceed.

At the same time, the First Circuit ruled that the five judges he added as defendants—Stephens Winters, Sharp, Rambo, Frederic Amman and Jones—for allowing Campbell “free rein to do as she pleased and then conspiring to conceal (her) acts” enjoyed “absolute immunity” from being sued and were dismissed as defendants despite their repeated denials that any documents were missing from the Palowsky file.

Palowsky argued that Campbell undertook her acts with malice and to obtain advantages for his opponents in the lawsuit. Moreover, he argued that Campbell’s supervising judges, Amman and Rambo, “did not just sit back quietly and let Campbell commit such acts, they actively worked and schemed to cover up her actions.”

Palowsky also said that Campbell’s wrongdoings “have been reported time and again by different attorneys in different cases and investigated time and again by defendant judges but have nevertheless been allowed to continue. It is now painfully apparent that not only has Campbell been unsupervised and uncontrollable for years, but defendant judges have actively schemed to allow her conduct to continue unabatedly (sic).”

Campbell, who doubles as a society columnist of sorts (if one really stretches the definition of the term) for the News-Star, is obviously her own biggest fan—unless you count her stated infatuation for Cork’s attorney Thomas Haynes, III, about whom she wrote in one of her columns that he…had the “IT” factor, “a somewhat undefinable quality that makes you and everyone else around stand taller when they enter the room, listen a little more closely, encourage you to take fashion or life risks, make each occasion a little more fun and generally inspire you to aim to achieve that ‘IT’ factor for yourself.”

If they taught that method of courtroom coverage in my Louisiana Tech journalism classes, I must have been absent that day.

Needless to say, the First Circuit upheld the lower court in expunging that paragraph from Palowsky’s petition.

In fact, the lower court struck 46 paragraphs from his lawsuit against Campbell and the five judges, but the First Circuit restored 21 paragraphs to the petition. The 25 it allowed to remain removed involved matters not directly related to Campbell’s alleged destruction of files, the judges said.

In 2014, Campbell published a column entitled, “A Modern Guide to Handle Your Scandal,” in which she wrote, “Half the fun is getting there, and the other half is in the fix.” She then went on to advise her readers to “keep the crowd guessing. Send it out—lies, half-truths, gorilla dust, whatever you’ve got.” She told readers, “You’re no one until someone is out to get you.”

(There’s a line in there somewhere about Trump, but it’s just too easy.)

In July 2015, she wrote in her column, “It’s not cheating if it’s in our favor.”

That paragraph was removed from Palowsky’s petition as was one that noted that on one occasion, 52 writ applications went missing for more than a year before it was discovered that Campbell had used the applications as an end table in her office.

Say what?!!?

One paragraph left in the petition was one in which Palowsky pointed out that the five judges might not be out of the woods yet, if the Louisiana Judiciary Commission does its job. The Louisiana State Constitution provides as follows: “On recommendation of the judiciary commission, the (Louisiana) Supreme Court may censure, suspend with or without salary, remove from office, or retire involuntarily a judge for willful misconduct relating to his official duty, willful and persistent failure to perform his duty, persistent and public conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brings the judicial office into disrepute, conduct while in office which could constitute a felony, or conviction of a felony.”

It would appear in consideration of the judicial protection of Campbell, a case could be made that the judges are guilty at least of slipshod management at best and criminal malfeasance at worst.

All the judges in the 4th JDC recused themselves when Palowsky sued and his case was heard by Ad Hoc Judge Jerome Barbera, III, who cited in his Dec. 11, 2015, ruling dismissing the five judges as defendants an 1871 ruling that said, “It is a general principle of the highest importance to the proper administration of justice that a judicial officer, in exercising the authority vested in him, shall be free to act upon his own convictions, without apprehension of personal consequences to himself.”

Even though Palowsky was claiming that the judges protected Campbell despite their full knowledge of what she had done, Barbera said, “Allegations of bad faith or malice are not sufficient to overcome judicial immunity.”

Another way of putting it is that the judges are untouchable and that their edicts, like those of the Pope, are infallible, divinely inspired.

Barbera extended the immunity to Campbell but the First Circuit opinion, written by  Judge Page McClendon, overturned Barbera on that point. While two of the Appeal Court judges, Vanessa Whipple and Guy Holdridge upheld immunity for the five district court judges in their written opinions, all three rejected the idea of immunity for Campbell and all three voted to reinstate 21 of the paragraphs in Palowsky’s petition.

But it was that third judge, William Crain, who wrote that none of the defendants deserved immunity from events in the 4th JDC.

“Judicial immunity is of the highest order of importance in maintaining an independent judiciary, free of threats or intimidation. But it is a judge-created doctrine policed by judges.” (emphasis mine)

He also said that when judicial actors “perform non-judicial acts, they are not protected by this otherwise sweeping immunity doctrine.

“The duty to maintain records in cases involves many non-judicial actors and can only be considered a ministerial, not judicial act,” he wrote.

“For the same reasons (that) the law clerk is not immunized for her non-judicial acts related to maintaining court records, the judges are not immunized for allegedly aiding, abetting, then concealing those acts. Failing to supervise a law clerk relative to a non-judicial act is not a judicial act for purposes of immunity.

“The doctrine of judicial immunity does not shield judicial actors from civil liability for criminal acts (and) while later cases suggest judicial immunity extends even to judicial acts performed with malice, those cases do not immunize judicial actors from criminal conduct grounded in malice or corruption.

“Extending the doctrine of judicial immunity to include civil liability for alleged criminal conduct, as in this case, risks undermining the public’s trust in the judiciary, which I cannot countenance.”

So, how, you might ask, has Campbell managed to withstand the barrage of charges of payroll fraud, absenteeism, records destruction, and critical audit reports and still keep her job?

And continue to flaunt her actions in a newspaper column?

That can be explained in one word: Connections.

Campbell’s father is George Campbell, an executive with Regions Bank. George Campbell is married to the daughter of influential attorney Billy Boles who was instrumental in the growth of Century Telephone and who is a major contributor to various political campaigns.

Allyson Campbell is also the sister of Catherine Creed of the Monroe personal injury law firm of Creed and Creed. Christian Creed, Campbell’s brother-in-law, contributed $5,000 to Attorney General Jeff Landry’s 2015 campaign, which could explain, in part, why the AG backed off its investigation of Campbell the following year.

In a town the size of Monroe, those connections are sufficient, apparently.

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Taking their cue from Alabama Sheriff TODD ENTREKIN, several members of Louisiana’s House of Representatives have co-sponsored a bill that would cut food expenditures for prisoners and college and university students while increasing the percentage of prisoner work-release pay that the state receives in an effort to boost revenue as the state rushes headlong toward the June 30 fiscal cliff.

HB-4118, co-authored by a dozen Republican legislators who received the highest ratings from the conservative Americans for Prosperity (AFP), would slash funding for inmate meals three days per week in an effort to help make up budgetary shortfalls.

The bill has been endorsed by AFP, the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI), the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, and Attorney General Jeff Landry as an effective cost-saving measure that would, at the same time, continue to allow generous tax breaks for business and industry to remain untouched. Also remaining intact would be tax incentives for movie and television production in the state.

In Alabama, existing legislation allows sheriffs to collect a salary supplement as a percentage of savings achieved.

Entrekin, Sheriff of Etowah County in Alabama, recently came under heavy criticism when it was learned that he cut back on his jail’s food budget by eliminating meat for prisoners for all but a couple of days per month but then used the money saved to purchase a beach house for $740,000. HB 4118, while similar to the Alabama law, would have built-in safeguards against any surplus being diverted for personal use.

“Sheriff Entrekin, who runs only a single county jail in Alabama, was able to save approximately $250,000 per year for three years. Granted, he abused the intent of the law by using his surplus funds for personal gain,” said State Reps. Cameron Henry (R-Metairie) and Lance Harris (R-Alexandria) in a joint statement announcing their introduction of the bill. “If surplus funds are properly allocated back to the state instead of to individuals as was the case in Alabama, that misuse of funds can be avoided. With 50,000 prison inmates and more than 200,000 college students in Louisiana, imagine how much we would be able to save by employing the same paradigm.”

HB 4118 would cut servings of meat, milk and juice by three days a week for 50 weeks per year—Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays for state-run prisons and all colleges and universities and Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays for parish jails and privately-run prisons. State appropriations for those institutions would be cut accordingly.

“We wouldn’t want to make such cuts for prisons on Sundays or during the weeks of Thanksgiving or Christmas because that would just not be the Christian thing to do,” the statement by Henry and Harris said. “Colleges and universities are out during those weeks anyway, so they would not be affected during those times.”

They said the potential savings to the state, calculated at a minimum of $3 per meal at which meat, milk and juice are eliminated, would be an estimated $22.5 million per year at prisons and $75 million at institutions of higher learning, or a total of $97.5 million per year.

Public schools would be exempted from the more restrictive diets for now, they said.

Operators of prisons and jails typically receive about 60 percent of the earnings of each prisoner who participates in a work-release program. That amount would be increased to 75 percent if HB 4118 becomes law. Additionally, a processing fee of one dollar would be added to the sale of each soft drink and snack to the prices presently charged by prison commissaries, according to provisions of the bill. Currently, prisoners are charged $3 for soft drinks and $5 for snacks.

“These people are in jail for committing crimes,” the two lawmakers’ joint statement said. “They get free housing, food, clothing and they’re learning a trade. There really isn’t any need for them to earn money on top of those benefits.

“This bill will allow the state to protect the valuable incentives for businesses and industry which provide jobs for Louisiana’s honest, hard-working citizens,” they said. “The bill protects the same jobs that will be available to the college students when they graduate. We’re asking students to sacrifice a little now for greater rewards in the future.”

Though the bill’s language doesn’t specifically say so, the same cuts could also be applied at hospitals now operated as part of the public-private partnerships implemented by the Jindal administration, which would produce additional savings although no estimates were provided for the medical facilities.

If approved, the new law would go into effect one year from today.

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That’s right folks.

Almost two years after being asked to investigate the rape of a 17-year-old girl in the Union Parish jail by a man already convicted of aggravated rape and awaiting sentencing, Attorney General Jeff Landry’s office finally took its case before a Union Parish grand jury.

And guess what?

The grand jury, after reviewing all the evidence provided by Landry’s office, declined to indict Demarcus Shavez Peyton of Homer.

Te refresh you memory, Peyton was awaiting sentencing after being convicted of aggravated rape in a separate case in nearby Claiborne Parish. He was allowed to leave his jail cell and to enter the cell of the 17-year-old, who was being detained after being picked up on meth charges. Peyton was said to have raped the girl not once, but twice

Because the Union Parish Detention Center is run by a commission comprised of the sheriff, the district attorney and several area mayors, the district attorney, rightly claiming a conflict of interest, asked Landry to investigate the matter.

So Landry’s office was handed an investigation of:

  • A rape that occurred at a time, date and location known to investigators;
  • Allegedly committed by a person known to investigators;
  • Committed against a victim also known to investigators.

Yet, the attorney general somehow was unable to build a case against Peyton despite the presence of a witness who said he also was allowed into the victim’s cell with the intent of sexually assaulting her but departed without doing so.

I guess we’ll have to wait and see how the civil suit filed by the victim plays out. While criminal convictions call for proof of guilt beyond reasonable doubt, a civil suit need only show a preponderance of the evidence. An illustration of that is the exoneration of O.J. Simpson on the criminal charges of murdering his wife and Ron Goldman but Goldman’s parents then sued Simpson in civil court and won.

Meanwhile, several questions immediately come to mind regarding the AG’s investigation and the presentation of evidence to the grand jury:

  • Was a rape kit was used by investigators?
  • Was the rape victim interviewed?
  • Was the witness interviewed? Apparently he was, since he admitted that he initially intended to participate.
  • Were DNA samples collected?

We probably will never know the answers to these questions because contrary to Landry’s penchant for issuing glowing press releases to trumpet his wonderful work on behalf of law and order and the American way, his press office was strangely mute on this matter. No press releases this time, thank you very much.

Oh, there was one email response to the Farmerville newspaper editor’s inquiry from Landry’s press secretary that said, “…at a hearing on March 15, members of a grand jury in the 3rd Judicial District were given an opportunity to review all the evidence we had in this matter. After our presentation, the grand jury determined that no formal charges should be filed. While we must respect the grand jury’s decision, it is important to note that our office stands ready to act should new credible evidence arise.”

Well, that’s certainly reassuring.

No effort was made to so inform LouisianaVoice  which, for 18 months, has dogged Landry’s office for updates on the investigation. We were always told that the investigation was ongoing and that no details could be released.

Of course, when details could be released, the attorney general’s office was strangely quiet. But then, we never really expected Landry to go out of his way to keep us in the loop.

But now that the investigation is over and the matter is closed, there’s no reason for Landry’s office to continue to withhold details of his office’s investigation. Accordingly, LouisianaVoice will be making an official public records request for the AG’s file on the investigation.

And now we can turn our attention to another “ongoing investigation” by Landry’s office—one that a lot of people in Baton Rouge will be watching and one which has a much higher profile.

More than 10 months ago Landry’s office was asked to investigate the shooting of a Baton Rouge black man, Alton Sterling, by Baton Rouge police. Landry appears to be dragging his heels on that probe as well and there is growing pressure from the black community to announce his findings. Their voices are considerably louder than that of a young girl raped in a lonely north Louisiana jail cell.

If that Union Parish “investigation” is any indication….

 

 

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When it comes to sucking up to Donald Trump, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry has no peer.

In Jeff Landry’s very limited world view, the Trumpster can do no wrong—just as (in Landry’s opinion) Gov. John Bel Edwards can do nothing right.

Never mind that at least 18 women have come forward to say that Frump molested or attempted to molest them in some fashion over the years.

He’s Jeff’s boy.

Never mind that candidate Grump was heard plainly boasting to Billy Bush about how he loves to grab women.

He’s Jeff’s boy.

Never mind that Thumper openly bragged about bursting into the dressing room of Miss USA candidates, grabbing and pawing the terrified contestants.

He’s Jeff’s boy.

Never mind that Trump approved, before actually reading it, the release of that Nunes memo that was supposed to be a bombshell that would completely discredit the Mueller investigation—but who now refuses to approve the release of the Democrats’ memo rebutting the Nunes memo.

He’s Jeff’s boy.

Never mind that Trump pointed out that Rob Porter, ousted from his White House job after two ex-wives claimed he physically abused them, had never received “due process,” said lament coming just over a year after he chanted on the campaign trail of Hillary Clinton: “Lock her up!”

Not that there’s any lost sympathy for Hillary here, but didn’t she deserve “due process” just as much as Porter?

But never mind, Trump’s Jeff’s boy.

And that’s from the supposed top legal authority in state government.

Now, that’s truly sad for a guy who can’t seem to close out investigations of felony theft in the Desoto Parish Sheriff’s Office, the Alton Sterling shooting, or, after nearly two years, the rape of a 17-year-old girl by an already-convicted rapist in a Union Parish jail cell.

Here are a few examples of Jeff Landry press releases, issued courtesy of Louisiana taxpayer dollars:

 

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Majority Whip Congressman Steve Scalise Returns to Congress; Attorney General Jeff Landry Elated

BATON ROUGE, LA – Attorney General Jeff Landry today enthusiastically recognized the return of Majority Whip Steve Scalise to the U.S. House Floor:

“It is truly a miracle to see Majority Whip, and my good friend, Steve Scalise return to the House Floor today. Witnessing his triumphant return took us all back to that emotional and terrifying morning in June when he was shot while practicing for the annual Congressional baseball game, an event Steve cherished. As he said this morning in his address, the Capitol Police officers who rushed to his aid that day were heroes – saving his life and undoubtedly the lives of many others. The Capitol Police work tirelessly to keep all members of Congress safe and as a former Congressman, I am grateful for their service. Steve’s message of faith presented on the House Floor today is important for all Americans regardless of religion, political party, or background. Steve’s will to live, his strong faith in God, the selflessness of the Capitol Police, and the prayers of people across the world carried him through. I look forward to following Steve as he continues to be a ferocious leader for Louisiana and our country.”

 

 

Thursday, September 28, 2017

BATON ROUGE, LA – Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry applauded the White House’s announcement of Louisiana natives Kyle Duncan and Eastern District Chief Judge Kurt Engelhardt to the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

The AG’s full statement may be found below:

“Kyle is an exceptional constitutional lawyer and will make an excellent appellate judge. Kyle has vast experience in complex constitutional cases, both civil and criminal. In every case, he demonstrates that is a consummate professional. He and his wife Martha have deep roots in Louisiana, and we are glad he will be bringing his family and intellect back home.

Chief Judge Kurt Engelhardt is also a great choice. Judge Engelhardt has been serving on the federal bench in Louisiana since 2001 and has time and again demonstrated his commitment to the highest principles of judicial ethics and service. We have been lucky to have him on the district court bench here for the last 16 years and are happy to share his intellect and sound judicial instincts with the rest of the Fifth Circuit.

 

 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Clean Power Plan Repealed, AG Jeff Landry Praises Decision by Trump Administration

BATON ROUGE, LA – Attorney General Jeff Landry is praising EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s decision today to repeal the Clean Power Plan, an Obama overreach that would have devastated Louisiana’s power plants and energy consumers.

“On behalf of Louisiana workers, job creators, and consumers – I commend Administrator Pruitt and the Trump Administration for repealing this unconstitutional, job-killing regulation,” said General Landry. “The so-called Clean Power Plan was always a political attempt to force states into green energy submission.”

“Since taking office – I have challenged the legality of the Clean Power Plan, worked with fellow attorneys general to get a stay in federal court on the mandate, and pushed for today’s repeal,” continued General Landry. “The Trump Administration has acknowledged the Clean Power Plan was an unprecedented Washington power grab not only from the states but also from other federal regulatory agencies. It would have cost tens of billions to implement, jeopardized Louisiana’s six coal-powered plants, and devastated the pocketbooks of our State’s seniors and working families who rely upon low-cost energy.”

 
Wednesday, November 1, 2017

BATON ROUGE, LA – Attorney General Jeff Landry applauded President Trump’s nomination of Louisiana Department of Justice (LADOJ) Criminal Director Brandon Fremin as U.S. Attorney for the Middle District.

“President Trump’s nomination of Brandon Fremin is a grand slam homerun. Brandon has truly lived a life of public service, both as a Marine and a prosecutor,” said General Landry. “Brandon has been a tremendous asset to our office; and I am confident that he will lead the U.S. Attorney’s Office in a fair, ethical, and honest way.”

In January 2016, Fremin was hired to serve the Criminal Director for General Landry’s office where he oversees several sections including: general prosecutions, insurance fraud, and the award-winning Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. Under his watch, over 15 public officials have been arrested for public corruption charges – many of whom are currently being prosecuted by the LADOJ.

 
Thursday, January 4, 2018

Federal Marijuana Enforcement Policy Praised by AG Jeff Landry

BATON ROUGE, LA – Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry issued the following statement in support of today’s decision by United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions to rescind the Cole Memo:

“I applaud Attorney General Jeff Sessions for his decision to promote the rule of law and rescind the Cole Memo. This issue affects banking, interstate commerce, public safety, and many other areas that are best addressed by Congress not by Executive fiat. Fortunately, the Trump Administration has worked tirelessly to reverse the ill practices of the previous administration. This issue should be settled by our lawmakers, not our law enforcers. Choosing to not enforce duly enacted laws is a dangerous precedent. Whether the law concerns the legality of marijuana or immigration, non-enforcement by the Department mandated to execute the laws is bad policy.”

 

Wonderful. We now have the Louisiana attorney general and the U.S. attorney general working to keep our prisons overcrowded with non-violent offenders.

 

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Louisiana AG Jeff Landry Praises President Donald Trump’s State of the Union

BATON ROUGE, LA – Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry praised President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address, especially the parts about two issues of great concern to General Landry: the opioid crisis and illegal immigration.

The opioid crisis is a critical public safety issue that General Landry has spent much time fighting, as it has affected his ability to keep communities safe.

“As the Attorney General of a state most impacted by the opioid crisis, I applaud President Trump for his efforts to end this epidemic,” said General Landry. “President Trump’s support not only helps families struggling with addiction; but also those of us working to reduce opioid misuse, abuse, and overdose.”

Another American public safety issue that General Landry has railed against is illegal immigration. General Landry has repeatedly called for an end to sanctuary cities, most recently when he led an 11-state coalition in a legal brief supporting President Trump’s executive order that prohibits sanctuary cities from receiving grant dollars from specific federal programs.

“As a state chief legal officer tasked with enforcing the law and protecting citizens, I salute President Trump for his commitment to border security,” added General Landry. “President Trump’s efforts to end sanctuary cities will help law enforcement throughout our Nation make our communities safer.”

General Landry, the President-Elect of the National Association of Attorneys General, looks forward to continue working with the Trump Administration on these issues and others of importance to the people of Louisiana.

 

You probably noticed that Landry manages to make himself the story in virtually every press release coming out of his office. Even when he is voicing support or praise for some program or individual, he somehow manages to begin nearly every release with “Attorney General Jeff Landry…” and oftentimes even manages to sneak his name into a headline for the release.

Well, Jeff, old boy, what we’d really like to see instead of you spending your time trying to score brownie points with Trump and Sessions who, in all likelihood, don’t even know who you are, we’d love to see this headline on one of your press releases:

“Attorney General’s Office releases results of Union Parish jail rape investigation.”

After all, it’s been nearly two years and dozens upon dozens of self-aggrandizing press releases extolling the virtues of one Jeff Landry.

But we won’t hold our breath.

 

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