When is a plurality not a plurality? Only one person knows!

The Mississippi Supreme Court does it again, today in Hartfield v. State (Chandler, J.):

WALLER, C.J., RANDOLPH, P.J., AND PIERCE, J., CONCUR. LAMAR, J., CONCURS IN PART AND IN RESULT WITHOUT SEPARATE WRITTEN OPINION. DICKINSON, P.J., DISSENTS WITH SEPARATE WRITTEN OPINION JOINED BY KITCHENS, KING AND COLEMAN, JJ. COLEMAN, J., DISSENTS WITH SEPARATE WRITTEN OPINION JOINED BY DICKINSON, P.J., KITCHENS AND KING, JJ.

Justice Coleman in his dissent refers six times to the Court’s decision as a “plurality.” Is it,though? Four justices joined in it. Justice Lamar concurs “in part.” Which part? Evidently no one knows, except presumably Justice Lamar.

With five votes, the decision (or parts thereof) would have precedential effect. With four votes, it does not. The question of which part Justice Lamar agreed with is therefore of more than academic (or bloggish) interest.

Why does the Court keep doing this? The opinion could easily be drafted in such a way that Justice Lamar could indicate she joins in (say) parts I, II, and IV. The U.S. Supreme Court manages to do this, as in 44 Liquormart:

JUSTICE STEVENS announced the judgment of the Court and delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I, II, VII, and VIII, an opinion with respect to Parts III and V, in which JUSTICE KENNEDY, JUSTICE SOUTER, and JUSTICE GINSBURG join, an opinion with respect to Part VI, in which JUSTICE KENNEDY, JUSTICE THOMAS, and JUSTICE GINSBURG join, and an opinion with respect to Part IV, in which JUSTICE KENNEDY and JUSTICE GINSBURG join.

Failing that, Justice Lamar (for example) could write that she agrees with the plurality except as to _______.  TBA does not understand what public good is being served by the present system, which could even lend itself to one justice’s deliberately “concurring in part & in result” to make the decision non-precedential, like the bad old unpublished decisions that aren’t supposed to be issued any more. That is not how the common law is supposed to work.

Of Gunn and goats for God

So, last week llamas were all the rage, and now Philip Gunn (our House speaker here in Mississippi) is explaining income-tax cuts in terms of goats: Continue reading

Can a circuit judge ban a lawyer from his courtroom?

Jane posted on this pretty wild mess going on in Hinds Circuit Court nowadays:

This is pretty fascinating.  As I understand it, both the public defender’s office and the district attorney’s office assign lawyers to cases before certain judges.  APD Allison Kelly is assigned to cases before Judge Weill. According to pleadings filed by the Hinds County Public Defender’s Office in the Miss. S. Ct, Judge Weill is taking all of the cases assigned to Ms. Kelly and appointing private counsel on those cases to be paid by the county.  He wrote a letter to the Hinds County Board of Supervisors explaining that he was required to do this because Ms. Kelly is unethical and unprofessional. I assume this is to justify the extra expense it will cost the county to pay appointed attorneys.

The Hinds County Public Defender has filed in the Miss. S. Ct. some thirty-odd Petitions Seeking Review of Judge’s Actions and Motion for Writ of Prohibition.  Here’s one of them.   I’m a little shocked by the Judge’s allegations against Ms. Kelly and would be surprised if there is any merit to them whatsoever.  As it happens, Ms. Kelly is a formidable criminal defense attorney who gets great results.

As Jane explains in her post, she is skeptical that Judge Weill actually has the authority to do this, and that sounds right to me. If the attorney’s done something unethical, report her to the Bar, or sanction her in the particular case. If someone needs sanctioning here, I’m not convinced it’s Ms. Kelly.

Clarion-Ledger picked it up yesterday (h/t to anon commenter @ Jackson Jambalaya).

Harris said Kelly is a senior assistant public defender who is a zealot for her clients and has a high percentage of winning cases. Harris said in court papers that Weill presented no specific misconduct. * * *

Harris said Monday that it would be inappropriate to discuss the case but that her office will continue to do its job and not be “deterred by personal animus.”

Citation to opinions in Miss. briefs (do I even need to say this is dull?)

In comments to the previous post, reader JH brought up an interesting point: Continue reading

Miss. COA docket calendar is up

Second sitting. As always, we appreciate comments with information about any of these cases. Thanks!

… Delta folks who would like to see an oral argument can visit Valley on March 31 at 1:00 p.m. for the appeal in the criminal case of Kuebler v. State. The argument will be held in the W.A. Butts Social Science Building Auditorium. If you’re unfamiliar with the campus, just tell a security guard you are looking for Butts.

… 71 cases. Oral argument in two of them.

Miss. S. Ct. wants more briefing on gay-divorce case — but 3 votes are in (UPDATE: or maybe 2? see comments)

The “gay divorce” case (can a gay couple lawfully married outside Mississippi obtain a divorce in this state?) was argued January 21, and today the Court requests supplemental briefing, to wit: Continue reading

Miss. S. Ct. 2d sitting is posted (with a note on withdrawing as counsel in an appeal)

Here ya go. There’s also a special setting. COA isn’t up yet.

Anyone with any specific knowledge about the cases, please post in comments? Thanks!

… We were curious about the case of the Nichols Center (a Madison County nursing home) v. Junker. It’s an appeal from the trial court’s denial of a motion to compel arbitration.

The case also gives an example of the pitfalls in trying to withdraw from a case. One of Junker’s attorneys left the firm handling her case, so a “notice” of withdrawal was filed. The “notice” was denied:

According to the Mississippi Rules of Appellate Procedure, should an attorney who has appeared before the Court seek to withdraw his representation of a client, the attorney must file a motion to withdraw requesting the Court’s approval, and “[s]uch motion shall be served upon the attorney’s client and upon all parties.” Miss. R. App. P. 46(c). Willis has not shown that his client was given notice of his intent to withdraw as required by Rule 46(c). Therefore, the undersigned Justice finds that Willis’s “notice” is not well taken and, treated as a motion under Rule 46(c), it should be denied.

So, that’s how not to do that.