Motion to recuse Judge Wilson from Marshall case denied

A retired judge from New Iberia denied a motion Monday in state district court to recuse Judge Sharon Wilson from hearing a civil case she has overseen for two years.

Judge Anne Lennan Simon, formerly of the 16th Judicial District Court, was appointed by the state Supreme Court as an ad hoc judge to hear the motion to recuse Wilson from overseeing litigation surrounding the Harrier Trust, one of several trusts connected to the Marshall family of Texas.

J. Howard Marshall II was a Texas oil tycoon who died in 1995. He was married to Anna Nicole Smith, a former Playboy playmate who died of an accidental prescription overdose in 2007.

There has been ongoing litigation in the case for years in Texas and now here in state district court involving the late Pierce Marshall Sr., who was involved for years in lawsuits against Smith to get control of the trust, which is governed under the Louisiana Trust Code; Elaine Marshall, widow of Pierce Marshall Sr. who was named by him as the sole trustee of the trust with the power to name co-trustees; and their son, Preston Marshall, who was terminated from the Marshall business in 2015 for alleged misconduct. 

Attorneys for Elaine Marshall, who attended Monday’s hearing, said Preston has waged a campaign of lawsuits in Louisiana and Texas since 2015 seeking to disinherit his mother and brother, Pierce Marshall Jr., and trying to seize the family fortune and control over family trusts, foundations and entities.

Although some have said the Harrier Trust has billions attached to it, Elaine Marshall’s attorneys dispute that and insist the billion-dollar figure applies to the entire J. Howard Marshall II estate. Those attorneys also have said the Harrier Trust is not part of the estate, was funded by Elaine Marshall and has a value of about $17 million.

Attorneys for Preston Marshall told Simon on Monday they wanted her to hear testimony from several people — including other judges — and they also wanted to introduce information regarding litigation that had taken place in Texas. Simon was not in favor of doing either of those things.

“This is a paper case,” she said. “We don’t need testimony. Whatever happened in Texas is not a concern to me; what happened in Louisiana is the concern.”

Preston Marshall’s attorneys had earlier filed a motion asking for Wilson to be recused because of her familiarity or affiliations with Judge Lilynn Cutrer, a local family court judge who has been appointed as a trustee over the Harrier Trust.

Another local judge, Judge Clayton Davis, filed an order with the state Supreme Court asking for an ad hoc judge to be appointed to hear the recusal motion and also questioned Cutrer’s appointment as trustee. Davis stepped back from hearing the recusal motion because he had previous business dealings with the Lundy Law Firm, which represents Preston Marshall.

Simon only took action on the recusal motion. She said one issue that concerned her is that Preston Marshall’s attorneys waited so long to express any concerns involved with Wilson overseeing the Harrier Trust case.

Jeff Chambers, one of his attorneys, said, “We couldn’t file a motion of recusal until we saw a reason for it.”

Walt Sanchez, an attorney for Elaine Marshall, called that “last-minute gamesmanship.” He said, “They are simply fighting over turf.”

There are several local attorneys involved in the Harrier Trust case including Todd S. Clemons and Sanchez, who both represent Elaine Marshall. Representing Preston Marshall locally are Hunter Lundy and Rudie Soileau.






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