Articles Posted in Government Law

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Petitioners Catherine Babb, Beth King, and Robert King filed a Petition for Inclusion of certain real property into Oxford, Mississippi, pursuant to Mississippi Code Sections 21-1-45 to 47. The property was scheduled to become Baptist Memorial Hospital - North Mississippi, Inc. (BMH), a new, multi-million-dollar medical facility. Objectors Kenneth Ferrell and others filed an objection. The Chancery Court found the Petitioners met the statutory requirements for inclusion and approved the Petition. The Objectors appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Chancery Court. View "In the Matter of Inclusion into the City of Oxford" on Justia Law

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After observing LaMarcus Butler turn off the lights of his vehicle and make a u-turn in an apparent effort to avoid a police roadblock, police pursued Butler, at varying speeds, until a superior officer instructed him by radio to desist. The fleeing Butler collided with a vehicle occupied by Margaret Stephens, Lee B. Lewis, and Oda Mae Green. Stephens died as a result of the crash, and Lewis and Green suffered severe injuries. Plaintiffs Lewis and Green, individually, and Sonya Stephens, on behalf of Margaret Stephens’s wrongful-death beneficiaries, filed suit against the City of Jackson, Mississippi. Following a bench trial in 2008, the trial court assessed 100% of the fault to the City and entered judgment in favor of the Plaintiffs. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the circuit court’s holding, finding that police had not acted in “reckless disregard for the safety and well-being of persons not engaged in criminal conduct,” and therefore, governmental immunity shielded the City from liability. Plaintiffs appealed to the Supreme Court, asserting that the Court of Appeals: (1) misinterpreted the factors for determining reckless disregard by law enforcement personnel; (2) improperly weighed the evidence on appeal, made credibility determinations, and improperly rejected evidence that supported the findings of the trial court; and (3) improperly substituted its judgment for the trial court’s credibility determination regarding expert testimony. Upon review, the Supreme Court found dispositive the question of whether the Court of Appeals misinterpreted and misapplied case law for determining reckless disregard by law enforcement officers. Finding that the Court of Appeals erred, the Supreme Court reversed its judgment, and reinstated and affirmed the circuit court's judgment. View "City of Jackson v. Lewis" on Justia Law

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Mississippi Power Company filed documents asserting confidentiality with the Mississippi Public Service Commission related to a certificate-of-public-convenience-and-necessity proceeding in January 2009. In July 2012, Bigger Pie Forum (BPF) requested three of those documents from the Commission, and Mississippi Power sought a protective order. Following a hearing, the Chancery Court ordered that the documents be produced. Mississippi Power appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Chancery Court to the extent that it ordered disclosure of the January 2009 gas price forecasts and CO2 cost assumptions that were similar in kind to those already published (by news media). However, the Court remanded this case to the Chancery Court to should consider the documents under seal and order that information pertaining to natural gas price forecasts and CO2 costs assumptions be produced by Mississippi Power. View "Mississippi Power Company v. Mississippi Public Service Comm'n" on Justia Law

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Lawrence Elliott owned and operated the Black Creek Water and Wastewater systems in Forrest County from the 1990s until 2005. The systems are a few miles upstream of an area of Black Creek that is designated as a National Wild and Scenic River. The systems suffered numerous violations of environmental regulations, including multiple illegal sewage discharges. Bell Utilities purchased the systems from Elliott in 2005 and vastly improved the situation, expending its own money in an attempt to bring the system into compliance. Bell entered into an Agreed Order with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality in which compliance issues were addressed, and in which Bell agreed to put up a financial assurance that would be returned to Bell after two years of adequate compliance. In 2010, Bell sought to sell the Black Creek systems to Utility One, LLC, and to transfer the attendant permits to it. MDEQ refused to transfer Bell’s wastewater permit to Utility One unless Utility One put up a similar financial assurance. Bell appealed the denial of the permit transfer to the chancery court. The chancery court reversed the Permit Board, finding that its actions were arbitrary and capricious because it has not promulgated regulations on how to conduct a regulatory hearing and on when and whether to demand financial assurances prior to permit transfer. It ordered MDEQ and the Permit Board to promulgate such regulations. MDEQ appealed. Because the Supreme Court found that the Permit Board’s demand of the financial assurance from Utility One to transfer the permit was beyond its power, the Court affirmed the portion of the chancery court judgment that reversed the Permit Board. However, because the agencies were not required under the APA to promulgate rules and regulations for formal Permit Board hearings, the Court vacated the portion of the trial court’s judgment that required them to do so.View "Mississippi Comm'n on Environmental Quality v. Bell Utilities of Mississippi, LLC" on Justia Law

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After suffering a severe electrical shock while working as a lineman for Tippah Electric Power Association, Lonnie Smith filed a petition to controvert with the Mississippi Workers' Compensation Commission. Tippah denied that Smith's claim was compensable and raised the affirmative defense that Smith had intentionally injured himself. The administrative judge (AJ) found that Smith had intentionally injured himself and that his injury was not compensable; the Commission affirmed the AJ's denial of the claim. The Court of Appeals affirmed the Commission's decision. The Supreme Court granted certiorari because it found that the Commission's decision was not supported by substantial evidence. Accordingly, the Court reversed and remanded this case to the Commission for a determination of benefits.View "Smith v. Tippah Electric Power Association" on Justia Law

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In a matter of first impression, the issue before the Supreme Court centered on whether one wrongfully convicted of a crime and placed in the Intensive Supervision Program, commonly known as house arrest, is entitled to compensation under Mississippi Code Sections 11-44-1 to -7. Frank Sanders Tipton was convicted of extortion and served time in Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) facilities as well as in the Intensive Supervision Program. After the Court vacated his judgment, Tipton filed a claim for compensation for wrongful conviction and incarceration. The State agreed to pay Tipton for his time served in prison but not for his time in the Intensive Supervision Program. After both sides filed for summary judgment, the Circuit Court granted summary judgment for the State, which Tipton appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s grant of summary judgment. View "Tipton v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Karmjit Virk appealed an increase in his tax liability to the Mississippi Department of Revenue’s Board of Review. When Virk failed to appear at his Board of Review hearing, his appeal was involuntarily withdrawn. Virk’s appealed to the Board of Tax Appeals and the Chancery Court; both were dismissed. Finding no error, the Supreme Court affirmed the decisions of the Board of Review, the Board of Tax Appeals, and the Chancery Court.View "Virk v. Mississippi Department of Revenue" on Justia Law

Posted in: Government Law, Tax Law

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A mother sued the Department of Human Services (DHS) after the death of her son in the home in which DHS placed him. Austin Watkins was removed from the home of his mother, Tammy Watkins, and placed in the home of his paternal grandmother, Janice Mowdy. Approximately a year and a half after Mowdy was awarded durable legal custody of Austin, Austin died from starvation. The trial court granted DHS’s motion for summary judgment, determining that DHS enjoyed sovereign immunity from liability for the acts alleged in the complaint. Upon review of the facts and circumstances of this case, the Supreme Court concluded the trial court erred in granting summary judgment. Accordingly, the Court reversed the trial court and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Watkins v. Mississippi Dept. of Human Services" on Justia Law

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Zachariah Stennis sued Moss Point School District (MPSD) and several school-district officials for injuries she sustained in an off campus assault by a fellow student and the student’s mother. MPSD filed a motion for summary judgment and a motion to dismiss, which were denied by the circuit court. Upon denial of its motion for reconsideration, MPSD filed this interlocutory appeal. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, finding that the circuit court erroneously found that MPSD’s duty of ordinary care to provide a safe school environment applied in this case. However, the student handbook evidence presented at trial arguably imposed a duty on the school to report the threat. Based on the record before it, the Supreme Court could not make that determination. As such, the case was remanded for consideration of whether the student handbook imposed such a duty. View "Moss Point School Districtv. Stennis" on Justia Law

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This appeal stemmed from a grand jury subpoena duces tecum served upon Entergy Mississippi, Inc., that requested the names and billing addresses of all of Entergy's residential customers in two zip codes in Madison County. The subpoena followed Entergy's refusal to provide its customer list to the Madison County Tax Assessor's Office for those geographic areas which the tax assessor had requested in an effort to identify and combat homestead exemption fraud. Entergy appealed the Circuit Court's denial of Entergy's Motion to Quash. But finding not reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed.View "Entergy Mississippi, Inc. v. Mississippi" on Justia Law