BRANDON M. DONAHUE
SARAH ANN DONAHUE
from the 22nd Judicial District Court In and for the Parish
of St. Tammany State of Louisiana Case No. 2013-13390 The
Honorable Mary C. Devereux, Judge Presiding
Richard Ducote Covington, Louisiana Counsel for Defendant/
Appellant Sarah Ann Donahue
P. Tranchina, Jr. Tracy E. Gold Covington, Louisiana Counsel
for Plaintiff/ Appellee Brandon M. Donahue
BEFORE: HIGGINBOTHAM, THERIOT, AND CHUTZ, JJ.
child custody case, which comes before us on remand by order
of the Louisiana Supreme Court, the appellant, Sarah Ann
Donahue, challenges the re-allotment of her case and the
judgment of the trial court granting sole custody of a minor
child to the child's father, the appellee, Brandon M.
Donahue. For the following reasons, we affirm.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Donahue and Ms. Donahue were married in June of 2012. The
couple had one child together during the course of their
marriage, a son, born on January 13, 2013. On July 24, 2013,
Mr. Donahue filed a petition for divorce against Ms. Donahue
pursuant to La. C.C. art. 102. In his petition for divorce,
Mr. Donahue requested that he be granted provisional custody
of the couple's minor child and that he and Ms. Donahue
ultimately be granted joint custody of their minor child with
him being designated as the domiciliary parent. Mr. Donahue
alleged that on July 7, 2013, Ms. Donahue became violent and
destructive in his presence while she was holding the
couple's minor child. Mr. Donahue also alleged that Ms.
Donahue has a history of irrational and aggressive behavior.
record consists of several consent judgments pertaining to
issues of child custody, child support, and spousal support.
Throughout the course of the proceedings, Ms. Donahue's
mental health has remained one of the primary issues in
contention. Relevant hereto, Mr. Donahue and Ms. Donahue both
filed motions seeking sole custody of their minor child. The
opposing motions came before Division "L, "
presided over by Judge Dawn Amacker, for a prolonged hearing
on September 28, October 21, October 28, and November 2,
2015. Following extensive testimony on the matter, Judge
Amacker issued an oral ruling finding that there had been a
material change in circumstances regarding Ms. Donahue's
mental health and her ability to care for the couple's
minor child. Judge Amacker ruled that Mr. Donahue should be
granted sole custody of the couple's minor child, and she
ordered that Ms. Donahue be granted supervised visitation.
Judge Amacker directed counsel for Mr. Donahue to submit a
formal judgment in accordance with her oral ruling.
on November 17, 2015, a judgment was prepared for signing and
filed into the record. However, before Judge Amacker signed
this judgment, Ms. Donahue's counsel withdrew from
representation, and Richard Ducote enrolled as new counsel of
record for Ms. Donahue. On November 23, 2015, Judge Amacker
voluntarily recused herself from the case, explaining, in
Richard Ducote has chosen to engage in public conduct that
personally and professionally attacks Judge Amacker. The
Court does not agree that Mr. Ducote's conduct has caused
Judge Amacker by design or effect to be biased or prejudiced
against him to such an extent that his clients may not
receive fair and impartial treatment. Furthermore, the Court
does not agree that recusal is required based on [Mr.]
Donahue's alleged status as a deputy or upon [Ms.]
Donahue's intentions to sue the Sheriffs Office.
The Court does find that voluntary recusal is appropriate, to
avoid even an appearance of impropriety, in any case in which
Richard Ducote is enrolled as counsel of record for one of
the parties and therefore voluntarily recuses in the above
Judge Amacker did not sign the judgment prepared in
accordance with her oral ruling, but instead ordered the case
to be re-allotted to Division "K, " presided over
by Judge Mary Devereux, which, like Division "L, "
has jurisdiction limited to family and juvenile matters
pursuant toLa.R.S. 13:621.22(B).
December 1, 2015, Ms. Donahue objected to the re-allotment,
arguing that the case should have been randomly allotted
amongst all the divisions of the trial court with general
jurisdiction. Judge Devereux denied Ms. Donahue's
objection on December 7, 2015. On December 23, 2015, Ms.
Donahue filed a motion for new trial, which was denied by
Judge Devereux. Finally, on February 12, 2016, Judge Devereux
signed the judgment that had been filed in accordance with
Judge Amacker's oral ruling on November 17, 2015. In
written reasons for judgment, Judge Devereux stated that she
had reviewed the 800-page transcript of the entire hearing,
including the exhibits and the pleadings, and found that no
additional evidence was needed to render judgment. She
analogized Judge Amacker's ...