Louisiana Record

Friday, May 29, 2020

Hearing scheduled in case alleging corruption in Louisiana DOTD, state appeals court

Attorneys & Judges

By Karen Kidd | Nov 8, 2019

Mangham contractor Jeff Mercer | Photo courtesy of Jeff Mercer

MONROE – A Mangham contractor won a $20 million verdict in 2015 in his then eight-year-old corruption lawsuit against the state - only for it to be overturned on appeal - may have to wait a couple of years more for his request to annul the appeal's court ruling to be considered.

"There is no set timeline," the attorneys for Jeff Mercer said in an email to the Louisiana Record about his long standing litigation against the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD). "Normally, there would be a time period for discovery in the case, and a trial of the matter probably would not occur for an estimated one to two years."

The state is in no hurry for his 17-page petition to annul the Louisiana Second Circuit Court of Appeals 2017 judgement, filed 17 Sept. 27 in Ouachita Parish District Court, to be heard, the attorneys said.

"We feel the DOTD and the Second Circuit will delay this as  much as possible, the attorneys said.

A hearing on motions to quash has been scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Nov. 21 in Courtroom 5 at the Ouachita Parish Courthouse.  

"The records subpoena has been issued to the Second Circuit Court of Appeal and Caddo Parish Sheriff’s Office," the attorneys said. "The Caddo Parish District Attorney has joined in these motions claiming there is an ongoing investigation, despite the fact that the sheriff's office had administratively closed the case in June of 2019."

Mercer's petition to annul the appeals court's judgment was filed on his behalf by attorneys David P. Doughty and John B. Hoychick in Cotton, Bolton, Hoychick & Doughty Rayville's office.

In late 2015, Mercer won his corruption lawsuit against the DOTD, filed about eight years earlier. Mercer had claimed state DOTD officials made his jobs costly and difficult and that he ultimately lost his business after he refused to pay a bribe.

"The underlying trial revealed the rampant corruption within the DOTD," Doughty and Hoychick said in their email, referring to Mercer's claims about his refusal to pay to a state official and the DOTD's alleged subsequent retaliation. "This even resulted in Mercer being reported falsely by someone within the DOTD to the Shreveport area FBI. It was only discovered after the trial that Ryan Allen, the FBI agent who investigated Mercer, had been previously employed by the DOTD and was close friends with Michael Murphy, one of the Shreveport area engineers who was held personally liable in the case."

In June 2017, a Second Circuit Court of Appeal's three-judge panel lead by then Chief Judge Henry Brown Jr. threw out the verdict, saying Mercer had not proven the DOT officials had acted with malice or had preventing him from submitting contracts to the state.

Later that same month, Mercer asked for a rehearing after he learned that Brown's father had worked more than four decades for the DOTD, but his request was denied.

In October of the following year, Brown abruptly resigned from the bench following accusations that he had tried to intimidate fellow Second Circuit Judge Jeff Cox during an unrelated case before the court that involved a friend of Brown's, Hahn Williams.

Cox also had been part of the Second Circuit panel in Mercer's case.

Brown's Trina Chu, also was fired for alleged accessing case files without authorization, including files in Mercer's case.

"The documents obtained from the criminal  investigation show that Judge Brown had full knowledge that the documents improperly obtained from the Second Circuit computer system had been sent to him by Hahn Williams via email to review," Doughty and Hoychick said.

Mercer also was able to obtain relevant documents through a public records request.

"We are currently seeking discovery concerning Mercer documents that were shown to be improperly stored on Judge Brown’s law clerk's computer to determine whether there was ex parte communication and corruption in this particular case," Doughty and Hoychick said said. "Due to the public records request, we also know these judges were not attending 'Rehearings.' At a minimum, there were ill practices necessary to nullify the Second Circuit  reversal of the unanimous jury verdict."

Motions to quash were filed by the Caddo Parish Sheriff’s Office, the Caddo Parish  District Attorney’s Office and the Second Circuit Court of Appeal to prevent the documents Mercer obtained from being revealed, Doughty and Hoychick said.

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Organizations in this Story

Louisiana Department of Transportation and DevelopmentCaddo Parish District Attorney's OfficeLouisiana Second Circuit Court of AppealLouisiana 4th Judicial District Court - Ouachita Parish Courthouse