Justia Legal Ethics Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Mississippi

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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

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Billy Bradley waited until 2014 to file suit against his court-appointed counsel from a 2004 proceeding. Bradley alleged negligence against his representative, Earl Jordan, which resulted in his injury (wrongful incarceration). Jordan filed a motion for summary judgment, alleging that the statute of limitations had run on any claims Bradley may have had as to Jordan’s negligence or professional malpractice. The trial court entered judgment in Jordan’s favor, finding that Bradley’s claims were barred by the statute of limitations. Bradley appealed. Finding that Bradley’s claims were time-barred, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court. View "Bradley v. Jordan" on Justia Law

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This appeal arises from a trial court’s grant of summary judgment dismissing Ike Thrash’s and Dawn Investments LLC’s claims for negligence and breach of fiduciary duty against Deutsch Kerrigan & Stiles, LLP (DKS). The dispute underlying this appeal arose over the purchase of land at a trustee sale. Joel Blackledge, the acting trustee, prepared a trustee's deed in favor of Dawn Investments. Thrash deposited $5.6 million dollars into the trust account of his attorney, Charliene Roemer. The trustee’s deed was then delivered to Dawn Investments, and Thrash authorized the transfer of the funds. The former owner of the property, Coastal Land Development Company, filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. Neither Thrash nor Blackledge was aware of the bankruptcy filing, but William Little Jr., Coastal’s bankruptcy attorney, notified Roemer through email. Subsequently, Thrash and Roemer discovered that the foreclosure sale had been conducted improperly. According to statute, the foreclosure sale must occur one week following the last day of publication; however, the foreclosure sale was conducted one day after the last day of publication. Thrash notified the seller of the error and demanded the funds be returned, but the request was refused. DKS filed suit in circuit court against Thrash, Dawn Investments, and the seller seeking a declaratory judgment that the failure of Blackledge to conduct a foreclosure sale properly was not the proximate cause of Thrash’s and Dawn Investments’ damages. Thrash and Dawn Investments counterclaimed, alleging that Blackledge was negligent and breached his fiduciary duty by improperly conducting the foreclosure sale, leading to Thrash and Dawn Investments to suffer damages. The parties agreed to dismiss DKS’s complaint for declaratory judgment and proceed under Thrash’s and Dawn Investments’ counterclaim. The parties were realigned, naming Thrash and Dawn Investments as Plaintiffs and DKS as Defendant. Both parties filed motions for summary judgment, and the trial court granted DKS’s motion. The Dawn Plaintiffs then filed this appeal. The Supreme Court found that the trial court was correct in finding that DKS did not owe the Dawn Plaintiffs a duty. View "Thrash v. Deutsch, Kerrigan & Stiles, LLP" on Justia Law