With a hat tip to a Slabbed reader I was sent a link to a new twist on an old case, Turner v Pleasant that was presided over by impeached (but not yet convicted) LAED Judge Tom Porteous. I hope the Slabbed Nation joins me in welcoming lawyer Dick Chopin here as we begin with a story by Michelle Massey at the Louisiana Record.
A Louisiana couple is asking a federal court to overturn a previous judgment, claiming the presiding judge acted improperly because of his relationship with defense counsel and a witness.
Ada D. Turner and Ronnie Turner filed suit against Neal E. Pleasant, RPIA of Delaware, Neal E. Pleasant Living Trust, The Travelers Insurance Co. and Standard Fire Insurance Co. June 25 in federal court in New Orleans.
The case was previously tried before New Orleans federal Judge G. Thomas Porteous, Jr. without a jury in April 2003.
Porteous was impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives in March on corruption charges. He is accused of accepting bribes from lawyers, lying to the Senate and FBI during his confirmation hearings and committing perjury during his bankruptcy hearings…..
The petitioners say the previous trial improperly exploited a personal relationship between the judge and defense counsel and a personal relationship between the district judge and a witness for the purpose of obtaining “discriminatory and favorable treatment in the litigation.”
The Turners say Porteous compromised the integrity of the judicial process by “concealing the said relationship when disclosure thereof was expressly called for and required by law” and “improperly preventing full and fair litigation of all issues germane to Plaintiff’s case.”
I am a curious soul so I pulled the case up on PACER and found there were only two defense lawyers to google up in Dick Chopin and Michael Turner as both are listed as appearing before Porteous pre-trial and at the actual bench trial the next day where Porteous home cooked the Turners. So which one turned up in my google? Dick Chopin that’s who as his name appeared in the House Committee report which accompanied the articles of impeachment of Porteous. I quote from page 126 of that report:
Attorney Richard Chopin was a friend of Judge Porteous for years. They first met when they taught trial advocacy at Louisiana State University Law School. 586 They were perceived by others to be friends. Chopin wrote a letter to Second Circuit Judge Ralph Winter, dated March 28, 2008, supportive of Judge Porteous, in which Chopin described Judge Porteous as an ‘‘outstanding judge’’ and among “‘one of finest judges before whom I have ever appeared.” He stated he had never ‘”heard, seen or experienced any impropriety in Judge Porteous’[s] conduct” and characterized the allegations against Judge Porteous as having the appearance of a ‘‘witch hunt.’’ Letter from Richard A. Chopin, Esq., to Hon. Ralph K. Winter, March 28, 2008 Chopin Dep. Ex. 58 (Ex. 258).
Chopin testified that he took Judge Porteous out to lunch, but he stated that Judge Porteous reciprocated. Chopin also testified that Judge Porteous would have used a credit card to charge meals at expensive restaurants in the period subsequent to Judge Porteous filing for bankruptcy and when Judge Porteous was under court-ordered restrictions from incurring new debt.
Diamond Offshore (‘‘Diamond’’) is an oil rig company with headquarters in Houston, Texas, that has been sued on occasion as a result of injuries to others or damage to property that occurs in the operation of Diamond’s rigs. If the injuries or damages occurred in the Gulf of Mexico, the civil suits were frequently brought in the Eastern District of Louisiana, and would occasionally be assigned to Judge Porteous. Chopin was frequently retained by Diamond to defend the company in litigation.
Diamond owned or leased a hunting property in Texas that it used for entertainment purposes. In the late 1990’s, Diamond arranged a hunting trip for attorneys and others in the claims management part of the business. Chopin was invited, and, according to a Diamond employee who had some responsibility for the trips, Chopin, in turn, recommended that Diamond invite Judge Porteous.
The documentary evidence confirms that Diamond perceived Chopin to be associated with Judge Porteous in connection with these trips. In connection with Judge Porteous’s attendance on the 2001 trip, the communications from Diamond to Judge Porteous concerning that trip stated that Judge Porteous could provide his information to Chopin and that Chopin would act as an intermediary.
Judge Porteous went on six Diamond-sponsored hunting trips. These occurred in early January in 2000, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2006, and 2007. In each of these 6 years, Chopin was also present. Diamond documents reflect that Judge Porteous and Chopin shared a room on at least the 2005 and 2006 trips.
In connection with the hunting trips, Diamond paid all of Judge Porteous’s expenses. Diamond flew Judge Porteous, Chopin and others from New Orleans to the hunting facility in Texas. It provided air transportation (including by private aircraft), meals, lodging, and an open bar, and paid for hunting licenses if necessary. If the guest shot a deer, the deer would be cleaned and butchered, and the processed meat sent to the guest. The only expense a guest was required to cover was the cost of mounting a deer head if this service was requested.
The really good stuff on Turner v Pleasant starts on page 132. Porteous and Chopin were busted by the Turner’s lawyer and yet Porteous brazenly refused to recuse himself.
Witch hunt or dirty lawyers doing the pay to play thing with dirty judges? Even Jonathan Turley can’t wipe the mookie stink off the pieces of shit that are Tom Porteous and Dick Chopin. Slabbed reports you decide.