Couple alleges Porteous acted improperly at trial, requests new trial

Michelle Massey Jul. 7, 2010, 4:00am


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.

His trial in the Senate is expected to begin in August.

The Turners claim they were injured when a vessel owned by RPIA swamped their smaller vessel in its wake. Ada Turner says she suffered severe and disabling injuries to her back that caused Ronnie Turner to suffer the loss of her consortium.

Porteous entered a judgment in favor of the defendants.

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."

The petitioners say the claims that were in the previous lawsuit are "meritorious and were presented diligently" and that the judgment entered against them is "unconscionable and should not be permitted to stand."

The Turners are asking the Court to vacate the previous judgment and render a judgment in their favor or order a new trial.

The Turners are represented by Russell B. Ramsey in New Orleans, Ernest H. Souhlas in Covington and Carter B. Wright in Covington.

U.S. District Judge Lance M. Africk is assigned to the case.

Case No. 2:10cv01823

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