The bizarre litigation that for more than a year has stalled the redevelopment of the city’s old World Trade Center building, thrust an eccentric character into the public spotlight and sparked repeated accusations of fraud, appears to be over.
No one representing the firm that sued the city over the redevelopment plans showed up to defend its case in court Monday, the second time in a month that Two Canal Street Investors Inc. was a no-show.
As a result, Orleans Parish Civil District Court Judge Tiffany Chase dismissed its case with prejudice, meaning that it may not bring the same claims to the court again, though her ruling can be appealed.
Chase also agreed with the defendants that Two Canal’s case should be tossed out because the firm is a sham and because its president, Stuart “Neil” Fisher, failed to show up in court for a deposition.
“The court understands that a plaintiff has a right to bring a lawsuit,” Chase said. “However in this case, the reason why the court is dismissing it with prejudice is because there has been an abuse of the process.”
Fisher has 10 days to find a lawyer and file an appeal of the dismissals. He said Monday that he plans to appeal and that he has asked federal, state and local agencies to investigate the entire affair.
An end to the legal war would mean a green light for plans to turn the long-vacant 1960s office tower at the foot of Canal Street into a Four Seasons Hotel and condominiums.
The litigation began when Two Canal filed suit in April 2015, not long after city officials rejected its proposal to turn the building into a Hotel Alessandra.
The lawsuit over the planned redevelopment of New Orleans’ World Trade Center building, whic…
Two Canal said its plan should have been chosen because it offered the city the most money in lease payments and the city thus was legally required to select it.
But the development team of Carpenter and Co. and Woodward Design + Build, the firms the city picked to turn the building into a Four Seasons, argued that Fisher had bought Two Canal for $10 after its offer was rejected, solely to be able to file a suit and try to collect a check.
The city has said the New Orleans Building Corp., the agency that acts as landlord for the city-owned building, is exempt from the state law Two Canal has cited.
Two Canal had been represented in court until October by the Davillier Law Group, but that firm cut ties with Fisher's firm after it refused to follow the attorneys’ advice.
The case ventured further into peculiar territory when it was learned that Fisher had stepped down from the helm of Two Canal in October to allow someone named Amjat Neel, Amjed Abu Neel, Amjed Abu Neil or Amjad Abu Al Neel — at least four different spellings have been used in court — to take his place.
Fisher said he resigned to take the spotlight off himself and put it back on the case’s merits. However, he resumed his role only a week later.
The lawsuit that has held up redevelopment of the old World Trade Center building in New Orl…
Attorneys for Carpenter and Woodward claimed that Neil or Neel was a fake “seven-day president” Fisher created so that he could dodge a court-ordered deposition. They have repeatedly accused Fisher of committing “a fraud on the court.”
Chase sided with them on that and other points Monday. She said Two Canal has no assets and has committed “an abuse of corporate form."
Carpenter and Woodward praised the ruling.
“When the judgment is final, we look forward to immediately moving ahead with this important job creation and tax generating project,” spokesman Greg Beuerman said.
City Attorney Rebecca Dietz also said Two Canal’s lawsuit had no merit.
“We always felt this case … was frivolous, baseless and an attempt to delay a significant development project for the city, one that would bring a significant number of jobs and revitalize our economy,” Dietz said.
Although Fisher — a Florida developer who refers to himself on Facebook in part as an “anti-hero. Dealmaker. Fighter ... Problematic King David character” — has vowed to appeal the dismissals, it’s unclear what success he can expect on that front.
The peculiar lawsuit challenging plans to turn New Orleans’ vacant World Trade Center buildi…
No attorney for Two Canal showed up at a Nov. 7 hearing in the case or on Monday because Fisher said the case had moved forward too quickly for him to find one to replace the Davillier firm. While he did object to the trial date Chase set, he did so after a court-ordered deadline.
He also has repeatedly failed to show up for court-ordered depositions, and he has provided little, if any, proof in court that his company is for real.
Still, he appears to be hoping to keep his claims afloat in another way: He has accused Chase and the Davillier group of malpractice, and he has asked the FBI, the local U.S. Attorney’s Office and several other agencies to look deeper into the matter.
“There are serious issues that need to be investigated,” Fisher said.