from the Shreveport City Court Parish of Caddo, Louisiana
Trial Court No. 2016R01270 Honorable Sheva M. Sims, Judge
LAW OFFICE OF JOEL L. PEARCE By: Joel L. Pearce Counsel for
BROOCKS GREER ATTORNEY AT LAW, LLC By: J. Broocks Greer, III
Counsel for Appellee.
WILLIAMS, DREW, and MOORE, JJ.
defendants, Anna Nguyen and THT, Inc., appeal a judgment in
favor of the plaintiff, Phyllis Moore. The trial court
awarded Moore unpaid wages of $640, penalty wages of $4,
799.70 and attorney fees of $3, 275. For the following
reasons, we reverse and remand with instructions.
Moore worked as a cook for approximately one year at the
Quick Pak Grocery convenience store located in Shreveport.
She was paid $160 for three days of work each week, or $53.33
per day. On January 16, 2016, Moore quit the job after
working four weeks without pay. In February 2016, the
plaintiff, Phyllis Moore, filed a petition for unpaid wages,
penalties and attorney fees against the defendants, Anna
Nguyen and THT, Inc. Plaintiff chose summary process and a
rule to show cause was issued with a hearing scheduled for
April 2016. At the hearing, Nguyen stated that she could not
speak English well and asked that her son, Tam Hoang, be
permitted to assist her. Judge Lattier, the judge to whom the
case had been allotted, declined to allow that request and
continued the matter to provide time to obtain a certified
the matter was tried before Judge Sims. Plaintiff's
attorney informed the court that the parties had originally
appeared before Judge Lattier, who had granted a continuance.
Judge Sims then took a recess to get the file and speak with
Judge Lattier. The defendants were not represented by counsel
and Nguyen again presented her son as interpreter. After
initially objecting to Hoang serving as interpreter for
Nguyen, plaintiff waived the objection to proceed with trial.
Hoang then took an oath to faithfully interpret the
proceedings in an accurate manner and he assisted Nguyen in
understanding the questions of plaintiff's attorney
during the hearing. After presentation of the evidence, the
trial court took the matter under advisement. The trial court
rendered judgment awarding plaintiff unpaid wages of $640,
penalty wages of $53.33 per day for 90 days, a total of $4,
799.70, and attorney fees of $3, 275. Defendants appeal the
defendants contend the trial court erred in hearing a matter
assigned to another division within the city court.
Defendants argue the judgment is null because they did not
consent to have the judge preside over a case that had been
assigned to another division.
C.C.P. art. 253.1 provides for random assignment of cases to
various divisions of the court. Generally, a case that has
been assigned to a particular division of the court may not
be transferred to another division unless agreed to by all
the parties or when the Louisiana Supreme Court has
established uniform procedures for reassigning cases. La.
C.C.P. art. 253.2. When an interpreter is requested by a
non-English-speaking person, who is a principal party in
interest in a proceeding before the court, after consultation
with the person or his attorney, the court shall appoint a
competent interpreter to interpret or translate the
proceedings to him. La. C.C.P. art. 192.2.
assignment procedures promote fairness and impartiality and
reduce the dangers of favoritism and bias. Random assignment
becomes meaningless if judges can routinely transfer cases
between themselves on a non-random basis. State v. Sprint
Communications Co., L.P., 96-3094 (La. 9/9/97), 699
case, the record does not explain why the matter was before
Judge Sims rather than Judge Lattier in Division C. A factor
may have been that the matter was filed as a summary
proceeding and placed on the docket for a rule to show cause.
However, this record does not reflect that the correct
procedure under Article 253.2 was followed to ensure that the
matter was heard by the judge to whom the case was randomly
allotted; nor does the record offer an explanation for any
deviation from the normal procedure. In addition, the record
demonstrates that ...