Articles Posted in Legal Ethics

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Once removed from office, a justice court judge may not return to it by reelection or otherwise Former Justice Court Judge Rickey Thompson challenged the Lee County Democratic Executive Committee’s decision to withhold his name from the general-election ballot for a new term as a justice court judge, based on the Court’s order removing him from the office of justice court judge prior to the election. The circuit court dismissed Thompson’s case, finding him ineligible for judicial office. The Mississippi Supreme Court concurred with the circuit court and affirmed. Thompson also claimed that the proper procedures for removing him from the ballot were not followed, as neither the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance nor the Lee County Election Commission had authority to disqualify him. Because the Supreme Court held that Thompson’s removal was permanent, it did not address whether the proper procedures for removing him from the ballot were followed. View "Thompson v. Mississippi Attorney General" on Justia Law

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The Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance charged Montgomery County Justice Court Judge Keith Roberts with misconduct for failing to follow the law in a case before him. Because the Supreme Court found that Judge Roberts committed judicial misconduct, and agreed that the recommended sanctions were appropriate, the Court ordered that Judge Roberts be publicly reprimanded, fined $3,000, and taxed with the costs of these proceedings. View "Miss. Com'm on Judicial Performance v. Roberts" on Justia Law

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The Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance filed a Formal Complaint charging Charles Vess, Justice Court Judge, South District, Adams County, with willful misconduct in office and conduct prejudicial to the administration ofjustice which brings the judicial office into disrepute in violation of Section 177A of the Mississippi Constitution. The Commission and Judge entered into a Stipulation of Agreed Facts and Proposed Recommendation, which was accepted unanimously by the Commission, providing that Judge had violated Canons 1, 2(A), 3(B)(2), 3(B)(4), and 3(B)(5) of the Code of Judicial Conduct and Section 177A of the Mississippi Constitution, and recommending that he be publicly reprimanded, suspended from office without pay for a period of thirty days, fined $1,100, and assessed costs of $200. After conducting a mandated review of the Commission’s recommendation consistent with Section 177A of Article 6 of the Mississippi Constitution, Rule 10 of the Rules of the Commission on Judicial Performance, Rule 10 of the Mississippi Rules of Appellate Procedure, and Mississippi caselaw, the Mississippi Supreme Court adopted the recommendation of the Commission and ordered that Judge be publicly reprimanded, suspended from office without pay for a period of thirty days, fined in the amount of $1,100, and assessed the costs of this proceeding in the amount of $200. View "Miss. Com'm on Judicial Performance v. Vess" on Justia Law

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Karla Bailey, former court administrator to Hinds County Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey A. Weill Sr., filed a complaint against Judge Weill in his individual capacity, alleging that he had committed libel against her. Bailey’s complaint was based on language in a footnote contained in four orders entered by Judge Weill in separate criminal cases that were before him. The alleged libel in the orders provided that Bailey had been reprimanded by Judge Weill for engaging in improper ex parte communications while she was his court administrator and she had added a certain public defender as counsel of record in her current position as deputy clerk. Judge Weill filed a motion to dismiss Bailey’s complaint and amended complaint, raising several grounds for dismissal, including judicial immunity. The trial court denied the motion and ordered the parties to commence discovery. Judge Weill filed a petition for interlocutory appeal. After review, the Supreme Court held the trial court erred by failing to correctly apply the doctrine of judicial immunity to Bailey’s claim that Judge Weill libeled her via the underlying orders. Accordingly, the trial court’s order was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Weill v. Bailey" on Justia Law

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Hinds County Assistant Public Defender attorney Greg Spore appealed the order finding him in direct criminal contempt by Judge Jeff Weill Sr. of the Hinds County Circuit Court for displaying willful, contemptuous behavior that interfered with the orderly administration of justice. Spore represented Jeremy Cowards in an adjudication hearing, following the violation of his probation. Cowards had been indicted for house burglary and was ordered to Regimented Inmate Discipline (RID). After the pronouncement of guilt, Judge Weill asked whether the defense had any argument for the court to consider for sentencing. "Simply trying to make [his] record" on behalf of Cowards, Spore kept talking despite the trial court's admonition to stop. Finding that the record supported the trial court’s order beyond a reasonable doubt, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Spore v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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On the morning of his client’s trial, defense attorney A. Randall Harris tried to withdraw as counsel. When the judge declined his request, Harris told the judge he was “wrong” for doing so, and he “was not going to participate” in the trial. Harris’s refusal to abide by the court’s order forced a continuance. And the judge held him in direct criminal contempt. Harris appealed, but the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment finding Harris guilty of direct criminal contempt and ordering Harris to pay a $100 fine and $1,200 for the cost of the jury venire. View "Harris v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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The Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance recommended to the Mississippi Supreme Court that former Madison County Justice Court Judge William “Bill” Weisenberger Sr. be removed from office after finding by clear and convincing evidence that Weisenberger physically and verbally assaulted a mentally disabled individual at the 2014 Canton Flea Market. Because of the egregious nature of Weisenberger’s actions, the Supreme Court agreed with the Commission’s recommendation and removed Weisenberger from office. Weisenberger was directed to pay a fine in the amount of $1,000 and costs of these proceedings in the amount of $5,918.46. View "Mississippi Comm'n on Judicial Perf. v. Weisenberger" on Justia Law

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On August 26, 2015, the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance found that former Municipal Court Judge Latisha Nicole Clinkscales had engaged in judicial misconduct constituting willful misconduct in office and conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice which brings the judicial office into disrepute, in violation of Section 177A of the Mississippi Constitution. Clinkscales served as Municipal Court Judge for the City of Columbus from 2010 until her resignation on June 23, 2015. While serving as a Municipal Court Judge, she also served as the Columbus Drug Court Judge until her resignation on February 6, 2014, following a meeting with the Administrative Office of Courts concerning irregularities in her operation of the Drug Court program. The misconduct to which Clinkscales admitted involves four separate areas: her statements on social media, her operation of the Columbus Drug Court program, her statements in a newspaper interview, and her conduct in the courtroom. The Commission entered a recommendation that Clinkscales be publicly reprimanded and assessed costs of the proceeding, and the Commission and Clinkscales filed a joint motion requesting the Supreme Court to approve the Commission’s recommendation. The Supreme Court accepted the recommendation, imposed a public reprimand and assessed Clinkscales the costs of the proceeding. View "Mississippi Comm'n on Jud. Perf. v. Clinkscales" on Justia Law

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The Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance issued a Formal Complaint against Chancellor David Shoemake, alleging judicial misconduct. The Complaint contained allegations that Judge Shoemake had contributed to the mismanagement of the conservatorship of Victoria Denise Newsome. After a formal hearing on March 12, 2015, the Commission recommended to the Supreme Court that Judge Shoemake be removed from office, fined $2,500, and assessed costs in the amount of $5,882.67. Judge Shoemake disputes the Commission’s findings and recommendation. After review, the Supreme Court held that Judge Shoemake improperly signed ex parte orders and contributed to the mismanagement of a ward’s estate. However, the Commission did not prove by clear and convincing evidence that Shoemake gave testimony that he knew or should have known would be misleading. The Court ordered that Judge Shoemake be publicly reprimanded, be suspended from office for thirty days without pay, pay a fine of $2,500, and pay costs in the amount of $5,882.67. View "Mississippi Comm'n on Judicial Performance v. Shoemake" on Justia Law

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Bobby Gibson filed a legal-malpractice action against Joe Montgomery and his law firm, Williams, Williams and Montgomery, P.A. (“WWM”), alleging wrongful conduct in connection with the administration of his late wife Debbie's estate. The trial court granted summary judgment to Montgomery and WWM. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded. Bobby timely filed his Notice of Appeal and raised four issues: 1) whether the doctrines of res judicata or collateral estoppel barred his claims, 2) whether judicial estoppel precluded his malpractice action, 3) whether the thirty-day period provided in Section 11-1-39 required dismissal, and 4) whether there remains a genuine issue of material fact as to the elements of his legal-malpractice and fiduciary-duty claims. After review, the Supreme Court concluded: Bobby's claims were not precluded by the doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel; judicial estoppel did not preclude Bobby's legal-malpractice action; there was no merit to Montgomery's Section 11-1-39 argument; and there remained a genuine issue of material fact as to whether an attorney-client relationship existed. View "Gibson v. Williams, Williams & Montgomery, P.A." on Justia Law