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In 1996, James Harper was to appear before Judge John H. Sheffield at the Lee County Justice Court on charges of driving under the influence and having an expired inspection sticker. But Harper failed to appear, and Judge Sheffield issued a warrant for his arrest. The trial went forward, and Judge Sheffield convicted Harper on both charges. Judge Sheffield then imposed a six-month suspended sentence and a $600 fine for the DUI and a $50 fine for the inspection sticker. That same day, Harper entered into a payment plan with the Lee County Justice Court for his $600 fine. Two days later, he paid $50, which was credited to the DUI case number. Harper appealed his DUI conviction. The conviction was upheld; and he satisfied the terms of his sentence. In 2013, Harper again was arrested for DUI in Lee County. At that point he was told he could not post bond until he resolved a matter with Judge Sheffield. The next day, Harper appeared before Judge Sheffield, who accused Harper of failing to pay the fines imposed for the 1996 justice-court convictions. Despite Harper’s protestation that he had appealed to county court, lost, and paid his fines, and despite the fact that Judge Sheffield had with him the justice-court case files for Harper’s earlier convictions, both of which contained Harper’s notice of appeal and the county-court notification, Judge Sheffield sentenced Harper to serve six months at the Lee County Work Center for the DUI conviction. Harper served four months in the work center before being released due to an infection requiring hospitalization. The Mississippi Supreme Court determined Judge Sheffield’s conduct was not due to an innocent mistake, it amounted to judicial misconduct. So the Court imposed a public reprimand, a 120-day suspension without pay, and a $3,000 fine, and assessed all costs of the proceedings to Judge Sheffield. View "Mississippi Comm'n on Judicial Performance v. Sheffield" on Justia Law

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Jimmy Kinard died in 2012. In 2014, Teresa Hamlet, Kinard’s sister, filed suit against Graceland Care Center of New Albany, LLC; Advanced Healthcare Management, Inc.; Karen Clayton, in her official capacity as administrator of Graceland Care Center of New Albany; W. Larry Overstreet; Sharon Windham; and John Does 1-10, jointly and individually (collectively referred to as “Graceland”). Hamlet alleged that Graceland’s negligence was the proximate cause of Kinard’s death. Hamlet filed a motion for an extension of time to serve process, prior to the expiration of a 120-day deadline provided by Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 4(h). The trial judge granted the motion and signed an order, yet the order was not filed with the circuit clerk until the day before the granted extension expired, well after the expiration of the original, 120-day deadline. Hamlet served process on three defendants during the extension. On the same day the order was filed, Hamlet filed a second motion for time, which the trial court also granted. While Hamlet served process on the remaining defendants within the second extension period, the order granting the second extension was not filed with the clerk until three months after it was signed by the judge. The defendants filed a motion to dismiss Hamlet’s complaint, arguing that the statute of limitations had run before the court’s order granting additional time to serve process had been entered by the clerk of court. The defendants further argued that Hamlet’s suit could not be revived by the untimely filed order. The trial court denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss. Because Hamlet was the only party to the action, the Mississippi Supreme Court found the trial judge’s order granting her motion for extension of time to serve process became effective once the order had been signed and had left the trial judge’s control. Accordingly, it affirmed the trial court. However, in cases where more than one party is involved, notice becomes essential. Therefore, in cases involving multiple parties, the Court adopted the holding of the majority of states that required the entry of an interlocutory order before it becomes effective. View "Graceland Care Center of New Albany, LLC v. Hamlet" on Justia Law

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The Madison County Board of Supervisors (the Board) found Arlin George Hatfield, III (who raised “chickens, guinea fowl, and ducks”) violated a Madison County Zoning Ordinance (the Ordinance) section, which did not expressly permit raising and keeping fowl in residential neighborhoods. The Board’s decision was consistent with an earlier interpretation and application of the Ordinance section. Hatfield was sued in October 2013 a little over a year after purchasing a lot in the Deer Haven Subdivision, by the Deer Haven Owners Association (DHOA). The claim stemmed from his supposed violation of subdivision covenants that prohibited keeping or raising fowl4 and constructing structures—such as pens and coops—without DHOA approval. Hatfield alleges that while this lawsuit was pending, DHOA contacted and involved Scott Weeks, an administrator with the Madison County Planning and Zoning Department. Weeks inspected Hatfield’s property on February 18, 2015, and found Hatfield was violating the “R-1 Residential District” section of the Madison County Zoning Ordinance. Hatfield filed a Notice of Appeal and Intent to File Bill of Exceptions, arguing the Board’s decision was arbitrary and capricious, not supported by substantial evidence, and was based on an unconstitutionally vague Ordinance section. After review, based on the Board’s prior treatment of a similar matter and its construction of the applicable zoning law, the Mississippi Supreme Court found the Board’s decision was neither arbitrary nor capricious. The Court also found that, in light of the entire Ordinance, Hatfield had sufficient notice that keeping or raising fowl on residential property was prohibited. View "Hatfield v. Board of Supervisors of Madison County" on Justia Law

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Thomas Dennis appealed a Chancery Court judgment, arguing that the chancellor erred by denying a petition to terminate his child-support obligations with respect to his step-great-grandchild, J.R.H. Thomas Dennis and Sheila Sims Dennis (“Sims”) were married; prior to her relationship with Dennis, Sims had a daughter named Renee Wright. Renee had a daughter named Courtney; Courtney was Sims’s granddaughter. Courtney married Josh Hartzell, and they were the natural parents of J.R.H. Therefore, Sims was J.R.H.’s great-grandmother and, by extension, Dennis was J.R.H.’s stepgreat-grandfather. J.R.H. and Dennis were not blood-related in any way. In May2005, the Mississippi Department of Human Services (“DHS”) informed Sims that J.R.H.’s natural parents had gotten into legal trouble. Dennis, Sims, and the Hartzells filed a Joint Petition for Child Custody. All parties agreed that it would be in the best interest of J.R.H. to be placed in the custody of and reside with Dennis and Sims. In the petition, the Hartzells each agreed to pay $106 per month to Dennis and Sims for the care, maintenance, and support of J.R.H. The Hartzells also requested visitation rights. Two years later, Sims filed for divorce. At some point after Dennis’s and Sims’s divorce, J.R.H. cut off any relationship with Dennis. Dennis filed an amended petition to consolidate the divorce matter and the child-custody matter and to modify the child-custody and support agreement. In his petition, Dennis argued that the chancellor should allow him to relinquish his custody of J.R.H. and to terminate any ongoing child-support obligations. The chancellor ultimately denied Dennis’s requested relief, finding no material change in circumstances had arisen. The chancellor also rejected Dennis’s argument that his child-support obligations should have been terminated because of J.R.H.’s refusal to see or speak to him for two years. He reasoned that the child was only twelve years old and therefore “not old enough to appreciate that [the] failure to have a relationship with Mr. Dennis is legally significant.” Dennis appealed, raising nine issues, which the Mississippi Supreme Court reduced to three main themes: (1) whether there was a legal basis for child support or, alternatively, whether the collapse of the relationship justified termination; (2) whether the natural parents’ ongoing parental obligations establish that Dennis should not be required to pay child support; and (3) whether Dennis should be permitted voluntarily to terminate his custodial obligations. Finding no reversible error in the chancellor’s decision, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Dennis v. Dennis" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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Trevioun Briggs was convicted for robbery and witness-tampering. The Court of Appeals affirmed both convictions. Briggs petitioned the Mississippi Supreme Court for certiorari, which was granted to consider whether his indictment for the witness-tampering count was defective. Finding that the indictment fairly tracked the language of Mississippi Code Section 97-9-115, the Court affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeals. View "Briggs v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Groundworx,LLC, appealed a judgment dismissing its breach-of-contract action against the City of Hattiesburg. After reviewing the contract between Groundworx and the City, which Groundworx attached to its complaint, the Mississippi Supreme Court was left with “no doubt” that Groundworx’s complaint was properly dismissed for failure to state a claim. Even taking all of Groundworx’s allegations as true, Groundworx could cite no contractual provision the City allegedly breached. Even if Groundworx expended millions of dollars preparing to perform under the contract, it did so before securing the necessary financing to complete the project. And unfortunately for Groundworx, the contract was clear: if Groundworx did not secure financing by a certain date, the City had the right to terminate the contract. So the Court concluded Groundworx could prove no set of facts to show the City breached the contract. View "Groundworx, LLC v. City of Hattiesburg" on Justia Law

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Adofo Minka was held in direct criminal contempt by the Hinds County Circuit Court for unprofessional and contumacious behavior during the trial of his client which resulted in a mistrial. Minka was fined $100 and ordered to pay the costs of the jury in the amount of $1,350. Minka appealed, arguing: (1) he did not improperly comment during opening statements on a potential sentence his client might receive, which triggered a sua sponte objection from the trial court and was a key basis for the State’s request(s) for a mistrial; (2) his comments did not warrant criminal sanction because counsel have broad latitude during opening statements and closing arguments; (3) the record did not support a finding beyond a reasonable doubt that any of Minka’s comments or conduct constituted criminal contempt; and (4) even if the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s contempt and sanction order, the monetary fine was $650 more than it should have been; therefore, the sanction amount must be reversed, lowered, and rendered. The Supreme Court found no merit in any of the points of contention argued by Minka on appeal. View "Minka v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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The Chancery Court found that Ronald Lampkin had breached his fiduciary duties to Limestone Products, Inc. (“Limestone”). Lampkin and James Oldrum Smith Jr. jointly owned and operated Limestone with a line of credit they each personally guaranteed. Upon Smith’s death and his estate’s refusal to guarantee the line of credit, Lampkin formed Delta Stone, a new corporation which operated on the same property, used the same facilities, and sold rock to the same clients to whom Limestone had sold. Lampkin sought a declaratory judgment against the estate that he was not violating his fiduciary duties to Limestone. The executors of the estate counterclaimed for lost profits and attorney’s fees. At the liability stage of the bifurcated trial, the chancellor determined that Lampkin had breached his fiduciary duty to Limestone by usurping a corporate opportunity. In the damages stage of the trial, the chancellor considered expert testimony, awarded damages, and denied the executors’ request for attorney’s fees, expert-witness fees, and punitive damages. The executors appealed and the Court of Appeals affirmed. The Mississippi Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals and found that the chancellor had abused his discretion in calculating the damages award. The Supreme Court remanded for the chancellor to re-evaluate damages. On remand, the chancellor reassessed the damages due to Limestone as a result of Lampkin’s breach of his fiduciary duties. The executors appeal again. After review, the Supreme Court affirmed the chancellor’s judgment on every issue except for the calculation of lost assets. Concerning the calculation of lost assets, it reversed and rendered judgment for $64,363.50. View "Lane v. Lampkin" on Justia Law

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A patron of the Baptist Healthplex in Clinton, Mississippi, slipped, fell, and suffered injuries when stepping into the Healthplex therapy pool. He sued, alleging, inter alia, that the Healthplex had failed to maintain its premises in a reasonably safe condition. The Circuit Court granted summary judgment to Baptist, and the Mississippi Court of Appeals affirmed. Finding that genuine issues of material fact exist, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed and remanded. View "Vivians v. Baptist HealthPlex" on Justia Law

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In July 2004, a jury found Tyler Edmonds guilty of the murder of Joey Fulgham, who was his half-sister’s husband. In May 2007, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed Edmonds’s conviction and remanded the case to the trial court for a new trial due to evidentiary errors. At his new trial in 2008, a jury found Edmonds not guilty. This appeal stemmed from Edmonds’s suit against the State under the Compensation to Victims of Wrongful Conviction and Imprisonment statutes codified in Mississippi Code Sections 11-44-1 to 11-44-15, which permitted a person wrongfully convicted and imprisoned to recover $50,000 for every year of wrongful incarceration. The circuit court concluded that Edmonds was not entitled to compensation because he made a false confession to police officers regarding his involvement with the murder, which equated to a fabrication of evidence. The Supreme Court determined the appropriate interpretation and application of Section 11-44- 7(1)(c), which provided that a plaintiff under the Compensation to Victims of Wrongful Conviction and Imprisonment Act must show he did not “fabricate evidence to bring about his conviction.” The second primary issue before the Court was whether Edmonds’s request for a jury trial should have been granted. On both issues, the Supreme Court held in favor of Edmonds and therefore remanded for further proceedings. View "Edmonds v. Mississippi" on Justia Law