Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Mississippi

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This appeal was one of many civil and criminal cases arising out of the attempted murder of Lee Abraham, allegedly orchestrated by Dr. Arnold Smith. The trial court sanctioned Smith’s attorney, William Bell, for violating its order sealing a portion of a document. Because the trial court did not abuse its discretion in sanctioning Bell, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "Smith v. Hickman" on Justia Law

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T. Mark Sledge left the law firm Grenfell Sledge and Stevens, PLLC. When he did, an issue arose regarding the fee distribution for several of the firm’s and Sledge’s cases, more specifically, the interpretation of the firm’s partnership agreements and related documents. Sledge filed suit against his former firm and its individual members. Following a hearing, the Chancery Court granted the motion for summary judgment filed by Grenfell Sledge and Stevens, PLLC, and its individual members and also a declaratory judgment in their favor. Sledge challenged the chancery court’s rulings; however, the Mississippi Supreme Court was unpersuaded by his arguments on appeal and affirmed. View "Sledge v. Grenfell Sledge And Stevens, PLLC d/b/a Grenfell & Stevens, PLLC" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Mississippi Supreme Court centered on release language in a settlement agreement. This case began as a legal malpractice action by Delie Shepard and Ashley Stowers (the Plaintiffs) against Robert Germany and his law firm, Pittman, Germany, Roberts & Welsh, LLP. Shepard and Stowers were represented by Michael Crowley and Edward Blackmon; Germany and his firm were represented by Fred Krutz and Daniel Mulholland. After several years of litigation and mediation, the parties reached a settlement. In the settlement, Shepard and Stowers agreed “to execute a Full and Complete Release.” The parties agreed to and memorialized the essential terms of their settlement in an email exchange. Although the essential terms were agreed upon, Crowley’s email to Krutz did not specify the precise language of the “Full and Complete Releases.” Believing that the parties had a meeting of the minds on the essential terms of the settlement in an email exchange, Germany moved to enforce the settlement agreement using the release language proposed by his attorneys. Shepard and Stowers later filed their own motion to enforce the settlement agreement using their proposed releases. Before Shepard and Stowers filed their motion, the circuit court held a hearing on Germany’s motion to enforce the settlement agreement. The circuit court entered an Order Enforcing Settlement Agreement and Judgment of Dismissal. Unsatisfied with the order enforcing the settlement agreement, which required their signature on the releases, Crowley and Blackmon filed an emergency petition for writ of prohibition with the Supreme Court, which was ordered to be treated as a Notice of Appeal. They later filed a notice of appeal in the underlying case on behalf of Shepard and Stowers. The appeal sought essentially the same relief as Crowley and Blackmon’s petition, so the Supreme Court consolidated the cases. The issue for the Supreme Court was whether the circuit court abused its discretion by enforcing a settlement agreement using specific release language that required the Plaintiffs’ attorneys’ signatures. Finding that the circuit court abused its discretion, the Supreme Court reversed the Order Enforcing Settlement Agreement and Judgment of Dismissal and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Crowley v. Germany" on Justia Law

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Dalton Trigg and his father, Dr. Stephen Trigg, sued Dalton’s former criminal-defense attorney, Steven Farese Sr., alleging professional malpractice. The circuit court held that the claims were premature because Dalton had not yet secured postconviction relief from the underlying conviction, and it dismissed the complaint without prejudice. The issue this case presented for the Mississippi Supreme Court's review centered on whether a convicted criminal could sue his former defense attorney for negligently causing him to be convicted while that conviction still stood. The Court held that a convict must “exonerate” himself by obtaining relief from his conviction or sentence before he could pursue a claim against his defense attorney for causing him to be convicted or sentenced more harshly than he should have been. To the extent prior decisions of the Court or the Court of Appeals suggested otherwise, they were overruled. View "Trigg v. Farese" on Justia Law

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John Terry sued his former court-appointed attorney Oby Rogers claiming fraud, legal malpractice, and violation of his civil rights under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The trial court granted Rogers’s motion for summary judgment on all claims and held that the Mississippi Tort Claims Act (MTCA) was applicable because Rogers’s was an “employee” for the purposes of the MTCA. Finding no reversible error in the trial court’s judgment, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the grant of summary judgment. View "Terry v. Oby T. Rogers, PLLC" on Justia Law

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The chancery court examined the principles underlying quantum meruit and found that Vincent Castigliola and David Kiyhet, attorneys for the estate of Dane Eubanks, should have been awarded attorneys’ fees from two minors out of a settlement they, and only they, obtained. After remand from the Mississippi Supreme Court, the chancery court again heard arguments as to whether Castigliola and Kiyhet should be awarded attorneys’ fees from the two minors based on quantum meruit out of the settlement they obtained. The remand required that the chancery court make specific findings of fact. This time, without making any findings of fact and without any contradictory evidence being introduced, the chancery court reversed course and found that the factors for quantum meruit were not met. Because the chancery court failed to follow remand instructions by failing to make findings of fact, and, because no contradictory evidence was adduced suggesting the factors for quantum meruit were suddenly not met, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case for a further determination of attorneys’ fees. View "In the Matter of the Estate of Dane Richard Eubanks, Deceased" on Justia Law

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The Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance (Commission) filed a formal complaint against Justice Court Judge Mary Curry, alleging she violated Canons 1, 2A, 2B, 3B(1), 3B(2), 3B(5), 3B(7), 3B(8), and 3C(1) of the Code of Judicial Conduct. Judge Curry stipulated she: (1) “has signed warrants based on affidavits sworn by her relatives . . . .” then would not set bond even though the charges were misdemeanors and recuse herself from the case; (2) displayed a pattern of dismissing Petition for Order of Protection From Domestic Abuse without having statutorily mandated hearings; (3) granted a bond reduction for a relative whose initial appearance she presided over; (4) waived an expungement fee and directed the clerks to void the receipts and refund the money; and (5) requested the complainant-clerk be transferred from her position as Justice Court Clerk once the Judge learned a complaint regarding her conduct had been filed. The Mississippi Supreme Court granted the parties’ joint motion for approval of the Commission’s recommendation and ordered Judge Curry be publicly reprimanded. Judge Curry was ordered to appear on the first day of the next term of the Circuit Court of Claiborne County in which a jury venire would be present, after the mandate in this case has issued, to be reprimanded by the presiding judge. View "Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance v. Curry" on Justia Law

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This civil action arose out of the alleged mishandling of the Conservatorship of Victoria Newsome. Victoria Newsome’s mother and conservator, Marilyn Newsome, filed suit against former chancellor Joe Dale Walker, Chancellor David Shoemake, and other parties. Victoria’s severely infirm condition was the result of medical malpractice. A trust was established out of the proceeds from settlement of the malpractice case. Newsome raised numerous claims seeking redress, and a full accounting of the conservatorship, when the two chancellors were sanctioned by the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance. The Mississippi Supreme Court determined the doctrine of judicial immunity applied to bar Newsome’s claims, made on behalf of the Victoria Newsome Conservatorship, against former chancellor Joe Dale Walker and Chancellor David Shoemake. The Court therefore affirmed the judgment of the Chancery Court of Simpson County granting a Rule 54(b) dismissal. In addition, the Court granted Keely McNulty’s Motion to Strike Allegation and others involved in the administration of the conservatorship. View "Newsome v. Shoemake" on Justia Law

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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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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