FROM CIVIL DISTRICT COURT, ORLEANS PARISH NO. 2014-06137,
DIVISION "D" Honorable Nakisha Ervin-Knott, JUDGE
D. Winsberg Robin Penzato Arnold Jonathan D. Gamble WINSBERG
& ARNOLD, LLC, COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE
Richard Ducote, COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT
composed of Judge Edwin A. Lombard, Judge Roland L. Belsome,
Judge Sandra Cabrina Jenkins
A. Lombard, Judge
consolidated appeal, the Appellant, Alina Julia England,
seeks review of four judgments: a March 9, 2016 judgment
denying her motion to recuse Judge Nakisha Ervin-Knott; a
March 31, 2016 judgment designating the Appellee, James
England, as the domiciliary parent; a June 10, - 2016
judgment granting Mr. England's motion for sanctions
against Ms. England, and awarding him $95, 450.19 in court
costs, attorneys' fees; and an August 17, 2016, judgment
granting Mr. England's Exception of No Cause of Action,
dismissing with prejudice Ms. England's Petition to Annul
Judgment filed on June 3, 2016, and awarding Mr. England
costs and attorney's fees in the sum of $1, 592. Finding
no error, we affirm.
and Procedural History
instant appeal involves an acrimonious custody suit between
the parties ultimately resulting in a judgment awarding
sanctions, attorneys' fees, and court costs to Mr.
England and against Ms. England.
2014, Mr. England filed a petition for divorce from Ms.
England, wherein he also sought joint custody of the
parties' two minor children. Ms. England, in response,
filed a reconventional demand and a petition for protection
from abuse, under La. Rev. Stat. 46:2131, wherein she sought
sole custody due to Mr. England's alleged physical abuse
of her and the minor children. The parties subsequently
entered into an agreement with mutual injunctions prohibiting
abuse, harassment, stalking, or threatening one another.
Additionally, Ms. England dismissed the petition for
protection from abuse, and Mr. England consented to
supervised visitation with the children. On January 26, 2015,
the district court executed a judgment detailing the
March 4, 2015, Ms. England filed a petition for protection
from abuse against Mr. England asserting that he punched one
of the children in the stomach during a supervised visit. She
further indicated that the incident was reported to the New
Orleans Police Department, the Department of Children and
Family Services, and the Audrey Hepburn Care Center.
Moreover, in May 2015, she filed an addendum to the petition
for protection from abuse alleging:
• the minor children suffered from anxiety following
visits with their father and resulting in nightmares and
• Mr. England twisted the arm of one of the children;
• Mr. England did not feed the children while they were
• Mr. England threw one of the children into the deep
end of a pool despite the child not knowing how to swim; and,
• Mr. England once held the head of one of the children
three-day trial was held on both petitions resulting in the
district court issuing a judgment dismissing the petitions
with prejudice on July 13, 2015, with reasons for judgment.
Ms. England did not appeal the judgment.
approximately two weeks prior the custody trial, Ms. England
filed a motion to recuse Judge Ervin-Knott, who denied the
motion and signed an expedited order for re-allotment. The
motion was re-allotted to Judge Piper Griffin, who denied it
on March 16, 2016. The case was then re-allotted back to
thereafter, a two-day custody trial was held resulting in the
parties being awarded joint and shared custody with Mr.
England being designated as the domiciliary parent. The
district court rendered a judgment on March 31, 2016 and
Reasons for Judgment.
England later filed a motion for sanctions, attorneys'
fees, and court costs against Ms. England wherein he asserted
that she filed numerous frivolous petitions for protection
from abuse against him on her behalf and on behalf of the
parties' minor children without exercising due diligence
prior to the filings. On June 10, 2016, the district court
granted his motion and awarded him $95, 450.19 representing
reasonable attorneys' fees, court costs, and related
costs he incurred as a result of Ms. England's March 4,
2015, and May 21, 2015 petitions. The district court also
rendered Reasons for Judgment.
Ms. England filed a petition to annul the July 13, 2015
judgment, to which Mr. England filed an exception of no cause
of action. The district court granted the exception and
dismissed the petition to annul on August 17, 2016. The
instant timely appeals followed, which were consolidated by
this Court on May 1, 2017. Ms. England raises four
assignments of error:
1. the district court clearly erred as a matter of law and
manifestly abused its discretion in denying the motion to
recuse Judge Ervin-Knott;
2. the district court manifestly abused its discretion in
designating Mr. England as the domiciliary parent;
3. the district court clearly erred as a matter of law and
manifestly abused its discretion in sanctioning Ms. England
in the amount of $95, 450.19 for filing the March 4, 2015,
and May 21, 2015, petitions for protection from abuse; and
4. the district court erred by maintaining Mr. England's
Exception of No Cause of Action and dismissing with prejudice
Ms. England's petition to annul judgment in clear
violation of Louisiana law.
England avers that Judge Ervin-Knott violated Judicial Canon
3(6) and had ex parte communications with witnesses
and other professionals relating to the case and allowed
these communications to create an unfair bias against Ms.
England. She alleges that Judge Ervin-Knott engaged in
improper ex parte communications with various
individuals: a St. Tammany Parish detective investigating
child abuse allegations; a ...