Second motion filed to have judge recused
Although a judge denied a motion earlier this week in state district court to recuse Judge Sharon Wilson from hearing a civil case she has overseen for two years regarding the Marshall family of Texas, a party in the case has now filed his second motion asking to have her removed.
Judge Anne Lennan Simon, a retired judge from New Iberia who was formerly of the 16th Judicial District Court, was appointed by the state Supreme Court as an ad hoc judge to hear the original motion to recuse Wilson.
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 over his estate for years in Texas and now here in state district court including the late Pierce Marshall Sr., who was involved in lawsuits against Smith to get control of the family trust which is governed under the Louisiana Trust Code; Elaine Marshall, the widow of Pierce Marshall Sr., and Preston Marshall, their son.
Elaine Marshall was named by her late husband as the sole trustee of the trust with the power to name co-trustees, which she has done.
Preston Marshall, who was terminated from the Marshall business in 2015 for alleged misconduct and has been battling for a share of the family fortune, filed the second motion through his attorneys on Tuesday.
Attorneys for Elaine Marshall say that Preston, since 2015, has waged a campaign of lawsuits in Louisiana and Texas seeking to disinherit his mother and brother, Pierce Marshall Jr., 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 have disputed that and have said instead that the billion-dollar figure has been applied to the entire J. Howard Marshall II estate. Those attorneys also have said the Harrier Trust is not part of the estate and was funded by Elaine Marshall and that this trust has about a $17 million value.
Attorneys for Preston Marshall told Simon on Monday that they wanted the judge 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 questioning 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 was only in court here to take action on the recusal motion and made a decision within a couple of hours after hearing from both sides.
The judge told attorneys for Preston Marshall that, even though she did not want to hear testimony from witnesses, including judges, that they could still bring those witnesses into the courtroom after the motion was denied and take “proffered” testimony, which they did. Testimony from those witnesses, including Davis, was included in Preston Marshall’s second motion for Wilson to be recused.
At issue, Preston Mashall said in the documents, is that “ex parte communications” took place between Wilson and Cutrer before court proceedings on the Harrier Trust case occurred.
Litigation over the Marshall estate has been ongoing for years in Texas and now here in state district court.