Oral arg. – Miss.S.Ct. – August 4, 2014 – jurisdiction of county court to decide custody

At 1:30 on Monday, August 4, 2014, the Miss.S.Ct. will hear an interlocutory appeal in the case of Bronk v. Hobson.

In 1999, a county court heard a paternity case and awarded custody of the child to the mother. There have been subsequent orders modifying the original order. In February 2012, Hobson filed a petition to modify support. According to Bronk’s brief:

In preparation for the hearing set for May 20, 2013, Bronk’s counsel realized that the County Court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to determine Bronk’s request for modification of custody and visitation (in fact, the County Court had been without subject matter jurisdiction to enter any prior judgments determining custody). On the date set for hearing, Bronk’s counsel presented a motion, ore tenus, to dismiss “any and all actions, judgments, [and] orders, as it pertains to child custody of the minor child in Civil Action Number CA-99-0062[,]” or in the allternative to transfer to Chancery Court of Lauderdale County, Mississippi.

The county court denied the motion. In so doing it held (as described in Bronk’s brief)
that SB 2010, effective on April 24, 2013, merely affirmed that county courts possess subject matter jurisdiction to determine child custody matters. Tr.13, R.E.6. The County Court determined that SB 2010 was a “clarification” to Miss. Code Ann. § 93-9-15 and, therefore, in the County Court’s opinion, the issue of its retroactive application was moot. Tr.11-13, R.E.6; Tr.27-28, R.E.6. The County Court further remarked that “Senate Bill 2010 of the 2013 Mississippi legislative session did not amend Section 93-9-15. If it had amended that section, the court would probably be in agreement with defense counsel at this point and that any amended law could not be retroactively applied to any pending litigation.”

Argument can be viewed here live. (click on the link for Bronk v. Hobson just before 1:30)

Bronk’s brief

Hobson’s brief

The panel is composed of Justices Dickinson, Pierce and Coleman (I think given the fuzzy video). One thorny issue: what happens in this 15-year-old case if the original custody order is void?

2 thoughts on “Oral arg. – Miss.S.Ct. – August 4, 2014 – jurisdiction of county court to decide custody

  1. This has been an issue hotly debated in Warren County. Seems inherent that if the county court can adjudicate child support in paternity actions, and only non-custodial parents pay child support, then the county court must determine custody in order to adjudicate the child support owed by the noncustodial parent to the custodial parent. There’s no telling how many DHS cases will be upended if the Court rules that county courts don’t authority to determine custody.

    • That’s interesting because the justices did ask the lawyers whether there were any other cases out there. Both stated there were no reported cases and Bronk’s attorney said he knew of none. I don’t remember whether Hobson’s attorney was aware of any. cases. I was sort of listening and working at the same time.

      When I clerked for the Miss.S.Ct. in the late 80s, my judge wanted to know about the results of murder cases wherein a change of venue was granted. I called every circuit clerk to get an answer (sometimes OCD can be a good thing!). I suppose if the Court really wanted the answer to this question, someone could do the same thing.

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