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Dussouy v. Dussouy

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fourth Circuit

May 10, 2017

ROY F. DUSSOUY, JR.
v.
LISANNE ALACK DUSSOUY

         APPLICATION FOR WRITS DIRECTED TO CIVIL DISTRICT COURT, ORLEANS PARISH NO. 2014-07612, DIVISION "B" Honorable Regina H. Woods, Judge.

          David M. Prados LOWE, STEIN, HOFFMAN ALLWEISS & HAUVER, L.L.P. COUNSEL FOR RELATOR.

          Elizabeth J. Wilson MIDDLEBERG RIDDLE GROUP COUNSEL FOR RESPONDENT.

          (Court composed of Judge Daniel L. Dysart, Judge Madeleine M. Landrieu, Judge Joy Cossich Lobrano, Judge Rosemary Ledet, and Judge Sandra Cabrina Jenkins).

          SANDRA CABRINA JENKINS JUDGE.

         Relator Lisanne Alack Dussouy seeks review of the trial court's December 2, 2016 judgment granting plaintiff Roy F. Dussouy, Jr.'s Motion to Recuse Judge Bernadette D'Souza. For the reasons that follow, we grant the writ application and reverse the trial court's judgment.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         Judge D'Souza has handled this contentious domestic matter since August 2014. Following a status conference in September 2016, counsel for Mr. Dussouy learned that Judge D'Souza's law clerk, Sara Guruswamy, had previously accepted employment with Winsberg & Arnold, the law firm representing Ms. Dussouy. On November 28, 2016, Mr. Dussouy filed a Motion to Recuse Judge D'Souza under La. C.C.P. art. 151(A)(4) and La. Rule of Professional Conduct 1.12. In the Motion to Recuse, Mr. Dussouy described the "prohibited conduct" as Judge D'Souza's "interest and/or bias" toward Ms. Dussouy's law firm, and an unspecified party's failure to give him written notice of opposing counsel's relationship to Judge D'Souza so that he would have the opportunity to give his informed consent. According to Mr. Dussouy, because recusal "promote[s] confidence in the judiciary by avoiding even the appearance of impropriety, " recusal was required because the prohibited conduct created a "strong appearance of partiality."

         The recusal matter was heard before Judge Regina Bartholomew Woods on December 2, 2016. After hearing testimony at the recusal hearing, Judge Woods stated: "So while it disturbs me greatly to do this, I find that while there is no actual bias, no actual impropriety, to avoid the appearance of impropriety I have no choice but to recuse Judge D'Souza from this matter."

         On December 2, 2016, Judge Woods signed a judgment granting Mr. Dussouy's Motion to Recuse, and re-allotting the matter to another domestic court division. On December 20, 2016, the law firm of Winsberg & Arnold withdrew from representing Ms. Dussouy in this matter.

         Discussion

         In support of his argument for recusal, Mr. Dussouy relies on La. C.C.P. art. 151(1)(4), Canon 3(C) of the Code of Judicial Conduct, and Rule of Professional Conduct 1.12.

         La. ...


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