Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law

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In a contract dispute between film producer Adam Rosenfelt and the Mississippi Development Authority ("MDA"), Rosenfelt claimed the MDA promised loan guarantees so he could make movies in Mississippi. He made one film, which was not financially successful, and the MDA refused to guarantee the loan for his next project. Rosenfelt claimed the MDA breached a contract with him, personally. The Mississippi Supreme Court concluded Rosenfelt lacked standing to file suit: the actual documents showed any agreement was between the MDA and one or more LLCs, not Rosenfelt personally. Furthermore, the Court determined no error has been shown as to the dismissal of one of those LLCs, Element Studios, LLC, for want of standing. View "Rosenfelt v. Mississippi Development Authority" on Justia Law

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At issue before the Mississippi Supreme Court in this case was whether NRG Wholesale Generation’s proffered expert used an acceptable method to determine the “true value” of its power plant in computing ad valorem tax. The expert used a mixture of the sales-comparison approach, the income approach, and the cost approach to determine the true value of the facility. Lori Kerr, the tax assessor for Choctaw County, and Choctaw County, Mississippi (collectively, the “County”), contended that Mississippi law mandates a trended historical cost-less-depreciation approach to calculate the true value of industrial personal property. The circuit court found in favor of the County and excluded NRG’s proffered expert testimony. NRG argued the circuit court abused its discretion. In addition, NRG also argued the circuit court erred in denying its motion to change venue because because many of the jurors knew the county officials named as defendants in this case, a fair trial in Choctaw County was impossible. The Supreme Court held the Mississippi Department of Revenue (the “DOR”) regulation controlled and that NRG’s expert applied an unacceptable method to determine true value. Therefore, the circuit court did not err in excluding NRG’s proffered expert testimony. Additionally, because NRG was afforded a fair and impartial jury, the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in denying the motion to change venue. View "NRG Wholesale Generation LP v. Kerr" on Justia Law

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Michael and Vickie Kansler moved to Mississippi from New York for Michael’s job and, over the following years, exercised stock options stemming from that employment. The Kanslers took the position that the stock options’ income was taxable only in Mississippi, which reduced their tax burden significantly. New York saw things differently and found a substantial portion of the income taxable by New York. This liability to another state would have entitled the Kanslers to a credit on their Mississippi taxes worth more than $250,000. However, by the time the New York audit was finished, the Mississippi statute of limitations barred the Kanslers from amending their Mississippi returns. They argued the Mississippi statute of limitations unconstitutionally discriminated against interstate commerce. The Mississippi Supreme Court determined Mississippi’s treatment of the statute of limitations for amending tax returns was "unremarkable" and appeared to be shared with many other states. The Kanslers’ dormant Commerce Clause argument, on the other hand, was novel, and depended on an unprecedented and erroneous attempt to apply the “internal consistency test,” intended to evaluate the apportionment of taxes, to the collateral effects of a statute of limitations. The Court held that the challenge was instead governed by the discrimination/Pike v. Bruce Church, Inc. 397 U.S. 137 (1070) balancing test employed by the United States Supreme Court in Bendix Autolite Corp. v. Midwesco Enterprises Inc., 486 U.S. 888 (1988), the only United States Supreme Court case to scrutinize a statute of limitations under the dormant Commerce Clause. The Court affirmed the Mississippi Department of Revenue’s decision to refuse the refund request. View "Kansler v. Mississippi Department of Revenue" on Justia Law

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When Tammy Webster completed her National Guard training, she requested the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks (MDWFP) renew her contract as a part-time dispatcher. When MDWFP refused to rehire her, Webster filed a Uniformed Services Employment and Remployment Rights Act (USERRA) claim in state court, successfully proving MDWFP violated her federal statutory right to reemployment. Though the prevailing party, Webster appealed, challenging both her compensation award of one year’s worth of lost part-time wages, and her attorney-fee award. The Mississippi Supreme Court held the trial court did not err in limiting Webster’s compensation to one year of lost wages: Webster had been employed under yearly contracts that were not automatically renewable, and MDWFP was under no statutory obligation to employ her indefinitely. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the remainder of the judgment because: (1) the trial court failed to rule on Webster’s liquidated-damages claim, even though Webster presented evidence MDWFP’s USERRA violation was “willful,” as that term is used in the statute; (2) the trial court arbitrarily assigned $2,800 as a reasonable attorney fee, without considering the time spent by or hourly rate of Webster’s counsel or any other relevant factor; and (3) the trial court taxed Webster her respective court costs, even though USERRA prohibits claimants from being taxed with costs. View "Webster v. Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries & Parks" on Justia Law

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BTH Quitman Hickory, LLC, challenged the amount of the ad valorem taxes assessed by the Clarke County Board of Supervisors by appealing the assessments to circuit court. However, BTH Quitman did not submit a bond with its appeals; therefore, the Board of Supervisors moved to dismiss the appeals. The circuit court found in favor of BTH Quitman, and the Board filed this interlocutory appeal. Because the Mississippi Supreme Court addressed a similar issue in its opinion in Natchez Hospital Co., LLC v. Adams County Board of Supervisors, 238 So. 3d 1162 (Miss. 2018), it reversed the circuit court’s judgment and remanded the case for the circuit court to dismiss BTH Quitman’s case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. View "Board of Supervisors of Clarke County, Mississippi v. BTH Quitman Hickory, LLC" on Justia Law

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During Fiscal Year 2017, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant directed State Fiscal Officer Laura Jackson to reduce the budgets of various state agencies. In response, State Representative Bryant W. Clark and State Senator John Horhn brought a declaratory-judgment action against the Governor seeking preliminary and permanent injunctive relief, a writ of mandamus ordering the Governor to reverse the reductions, and a declaration that Mississippi Code Section 27-104-13 (Rev. 2017) was facially unconstitutional. After an expedited hearing, the chancellor denied the motions for injunctive relief and dismissed the complaint with prejudice. Representative Clark and Senator Horhn appealed. The Mississippi Supreme Court found the budget reductions were an exercise of the executive’s core constitutional power. Therefore, it affirmed the chancellor’s final order because Representative Clark and Senator Horhn failed to overcome the strong presumption that Section 27-104-13 was constitutional. View "Clark v. Bryant" on Justia Law

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Officer Michael Kelly was responding to a call that an intoxicated person was lying unconscious on the sidewalk outside the Days Inn in Clinton, Mississippi. While en route, his police vehicle collided with Patrice Tornes’s car. Tornes sued Officer Kelly and his employer, the City of Clinton, claiming Officer Kelly’s “reckless and negligent actions directly caused the subject accident.” Specifically, she alleged Officer Kelly “caused his vehicle to be driven in a careless, negligent, and reckless manner and without due regard for the safety and convenience of Patrice Tornes, and without giving any warning sign or proper signal of the approach of said vehicle.” And she asserted the City of Clinton was “vicariously liable for its employee’s careless, negligent, and reckless operation of his vehicle while acting in the course and scope of his employment as an officer for the City of Clinton Police Department.” She also claimed the City was liable for its own actions—specifically, “its negligent training of its employee in how to properly operate his motor vehicle in accordance for the safety of others” and its negligent entrustment of the subject vehicle to Officer Kelly on the day the wreck occurred. Both Officer Kelly and the City moved for summary judgment, claiming immunity from suit. This case came before the Mississippi Supreme Court on interlocutory appeal, because the trial court ruled in Tornes' favor. The Supreme Court held the municipality and the officer could not be liable for plaintiff's claims under the Mississippi Tort Claims Act, reversed the denial of summary judgment and rendered judgment in defendants' favor. View "City of Clinton v. Tornes" on Justia Law

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The City of Clarksdale solicited sealed bids for a public construction project. The City received sealed bids from Landmark Construction Company, GCI (“Landmark”), and Hemphill Construction Company, Inc. (“Hemphill”). When unsealed, both bids exceeded the project’s allocated funds by more than ten percent. Rather than rebidding the contract, the City conditionally awarded a contract to Landmark, dependent upon the City’s obtaining additional public funds to match Landmark’s bid. The Mississippi Supreme Court found the City’s actions were not provided for in the public bidding laws, reversed the circuit court which held to the contrary, and remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Hemphill Construction Company, Inc. v. City of Clarksdale" on Justia Law

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This matter stemmed from a lawsuit filed by the State of Mississippi against the defendant pharmacies. The State alleged deceptive trade practices and fraudulent reporting of inflated “usual and customary” prices in the defendant’s reimbursement requests to the Mississippi Department of Medicaid. The State argued that Walgreens, CVS, and Fred’s pharmacies purposefully misrepresented these prices to obtain higher prescription drug reimbursements from the State. Finding that the circuit court was better equipped to preside over this action, the DeSoto County Chancery Court transferred the matter to the DeSoto County Circuit Court in response to the defendants’ request. Aggrieved, the State timely filed an interlocutory appeal disputing the chancellor’s decision to transfer the case. After a thorough review of the parties’ positions, the Mississippi Supreme Court found that though the chancery court properly could have retained the action, the chancellor correctly used his discretion to transfer the case, allowing the issues to proceed in front of a circuit-court jury. As a result, the Supreme Court affirmed the chancellor’s decision. View "Mississippi v. Walgreen Co." on Justia Law

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E.K. was adjudicated as a neglected child. Elizabeth A. King and Timothy King were E.K.'s parents; he was born 2001. With a history of ADHD, epilepsy, autism, mental disability and obsessive, compulsive disorder (OCD), E.K. functioned on the level of a two-year-old. Elizabeth and Timothy had been separated for two weeks at the time of the initial investigation in this case. They had been divorced for four years in the past before having remarried. In December 2015, the Mississippi Department of Human Services Division of Family and Children’s Services (“DHS”) was contacted by law enforcement officials about Elizabeth and E.K. Law enforcement officers on the scene were concerned that Elizabeth was high on drugs, due to her repetitive 911 calls. According to an investigative report prepared by DHS, Elizabeth secured a protective order against Timothy and changed the locks to her residence. Last, the report noted that DHS was ordered by the Marion County Youth Court “to open prevention case to monitor to [sic] safety in the home.” DHS ultimately directed a formal petition to adjudicate E.K. as a neglected child be entered. First, E.K. was adjudicated neglected even though her mother was not properly before the youth court and her father received no notice of the adjudication hearing. Second, after review, the Mississippi Supreme Court found that the neglect petition was legally insufficient to provide notice to E.K. or her parents of the neglect charges. Third, the evidence offered to support a finding of neglect at the adjudication hearing was legally insufficient. As such, the Supreme Court vacated the youth court’s adjudication order and rendered judgment in favor of E.K. and her parents. View "In the Interest of E.K." on Justia Law