Simpson asked to step down from case

From the Post Register

A former Melaleuca Inc. employee being sued by the company said he won’t get a fair trial if District Judge Darren Simpson remains on the case.

In court documents filed Friday, Jeff Wasden said the judge should be disqualified from the case because Melaleuca CEO Frank VanderSloot publicly and financially supported Simpson’s successful effort to knock off sitting Judge James Herndon last year.

“The financial and public support of Melaleuca was instrumental in obtaining the results of Judge Simpson being elected,” say the documents filed by Wasden’s attorney, Ron Swafford. “It is my firm opinion and belief that unquestionably Judge Simpson feels gratitude toward Frank VanderSloot and Melaleuca.”

VanderSloot and his wife,

Belinda, through donations to an anti-Herndon group called Citizens for Justice and through direct payments for advertising, spent nearly $16,000 to help Simpson win office.

VanderSloot said Friday that he believes Simpson would do a good job on his case but can see where people might have concerns. It might be better for everybody, VanderSloot said, if Simpson walked away.

“I think there could be a perception of unfairness,” VanderSloot said. “I wouldn’t want that for the judge or for us.”

Melaleuca’s attorney, Curt Thomsen, said he doesn’t care who the judge is.

“I’ll be happy to have Judge (John) Shindurling,” Thomsen said. “I don’t care. We weren’t judge shopping in the first place.”

The decision rests completely in Simpson’s hands.

Both sides in a civil suit can disqualify one judge for no reason.

But both sides have already used their free pass in this case. Wasden disqualified District Judge Greg Anderson last month, and Melaleuca disqualified District Judge Richard St. Clair earlier this month.

Friday’s motion adds to what is already a complex case.

Wasden was formerly Melaleuca’s vice president of marketing. The company claims in its suit that Wasden violated a separation agreement by recruiting key employees. Wasden denies this and in a counter claim, accused the company of breach of contract and VanderSloot of defamation.

Melaleuca has asked the court to seal all documents in the case because “it is highly likely that (Wasden) will file documents with this Court, give deposition testimony, and in other ways divulge and make (Melaleuca’s) sensitive, confidential and proprietary information a matter of public record,” the company said Tuesday in a motion.

Simpson is scheduled to hear arguments on this issue Tuesday.

Also scheduled for discussion on that day is a temporary restraining order issued March 22 by Shindurling that prevents Wasden from disclosing confidential information “regarding Melaleuca or its products” to any third parties, including current or former Melaleuca employees.

That order is good for 14 days from the day it was issued. Melaleuca wants it made permanent. Swafford said the ruling is so “broad and obscure” that it’s impossible to know what is considered confidential and that it prevents his client from speaking to witnesses about his case.

From the Post Register

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