Louisiana Record

Friday, May 29, 2020

Appeals court moves to seal docs in corruption case; 'If the judge seals it, they'll bury this,' plaintiff says

State Court

By Karen Kidd | Nov 16, 2019

Mangham contractor Jeff Mercer | Photo courtesy of Jeff Mercer

MONROE – A state appeals court that overturned a Mangham contractor's 2015 $20 million verdict in his long-running corruption litigation against the state has asked an Ouachita Parish court to seal documents in the case.

Attorneys for Louisiana's Second Circuit Court of Appeal filed a motion, itself under seal, with Ouachita Parish District Court for an ex parte order to seal documents sought by contractor Jeff Mercer.

"They don't want anyone seeing the information we have or that we will present in court," Mercer told the Louisiana Record. "This is an attempt to bury this without the public knowing what has occurred."

Keeping the documents unsealed would set a precedent and would prompt others affected by the alleged corruption to seek reversals in their own cases, Mercer said.

"It will also show the fraud in Second Circuit causing damage to the judges' reputations and reputation on the court," Mercer said.

District Court Judge J. Wilson Rambo is expected to hear motions on Nov. 21, Courtroom 5 at the Ouachita Parish Courthouse in Monroe.

"If the judge seals it, they'll bury this," Mercer said

Documents the motion seeks to seal would include objections to jurisdiction and probably would include internal documents, bench memos and drafts of opinions that Mercer also is seeking.

"Mercer's highly unusual and speculative petition, and the exhibits attached thereto, include the court of appeal's internal and confidential information and documents protected by the judicial deliberative process privilege set forth in Louisiana Code of Evidence article 519," the motion said. "It is believed that the documents obtained by Mercer and referenced and attached to the petition to annul judgment were inadvertently disseminated by someone other than the holder of the privilege - i.e., the judges of the court of appeal."

The motion also refers to the appeal court's motion to quash a subpoena issued to the Caddo Parish Sheriff's Office "as it appears that documents protected by the judicial deliberative process privilege may have been inadvertently obtained by an investigator for the Caddo Parish Sheriff's Office."

The motion was filed on behalf of the Second Circuit by Bernard S. Johnson and David J. Hemken, shareholder and associate respectively at Cook, Yancey, King & Galloway in Shreveport.

The Louisiana Record reached out to the attorneys but received no reply before this story was published.

Requests for comment to Caddo Parish this week also have gone unanswered.

Mercer's 17-page petition, filed in September, seeks to annul the Second Circuit's 2017 judgment that overturned the verdict in his corruption lawsuit against the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development. In the underlying case, Mercer won the verdict in his claims that state DOTD officials made his jobs costly and difficult and that he ultimately lost his business after he refused to pay a bribe.

The Second Circuit, in its decision to toss the verdict, said Mercer had not proven the DOTD officials had acted with malice or had prevented him from submitting contracts to the state. 

Earlier this week, Mercer filed his opposition for motions to quash.

Earlier today, Mercer said his attorneys will file an objection to the Second Circuit's motion to seal and that "we definitely aren't going to agree to seal anything."

"Keep in mind, the Second Circuit is not even a party to this case," he said. "They just know we are going to shine the light on the corruption on the Second Circuit and several of their Judges."

Mercer said the Second Circuit's motion to seal is "admitting guilt."

"They just don't want the public to see how bad it really is," he said.

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Louisiana Second Circuit Court of AppealLouisiana 4th Judicial District Court - Ouachita Parish Courthouse