Decisions – Miss.Ct.App. – Feb. 3, 2015

James Welch v. Christopher Epps –  credit for time spent prior to conviction –  Welch was out on parole when he was arrested for three counts of grand larceny.  He was held in  jail for eight months before pleading guilty to the larcenies.  Welch’s parole was revoked after his  plea, leaving him with two sets of sentences to be served concurrently.

 Welch contends that he is entitled to credit toward his second, longer sentences for the time he spent in jail before pleading guilty. The Mississippi Department of Corrections does not dispute this, exactly, but it argues that based on the way it calculates his time to be served, Welch is getting the benefit of the pretrial detention (and then some), even if it is not labeled pretrial detention.

We conclude that Welch has not shown that he has been harmed by the way the
MDOC has calculated his term of incarceration, and so we affirm the judgment of the lower
court denying relief.

In re Guardianship of DeMon McClinton –  contempt – As a child, DeMon inherited a large sum of money (his grandfather was Aaron Henry).  His father,  Thomas McClinton,  and the estate’s lawyer,  Michael J.  Brown were  alleged to have misappropriated substantial funds from DeMon’s  estate some of which ended up in the hands of the father’s girlfriend.  Apparently Thomas purchased properties with funds from the estate but the properties were titled in the father’s name only.  Brown loaned a cemetary owner, Lionel Shackelford,  $550,000 from the estate.  This went on for years until DeMon’s new lawyers moved for an accounting.  Thomas, Brown, and Shackelford were all found in contempt and ordered to cough up the money they took.  All three appealed.  Brown is serving forty years for embezzlement.  On appeal, the Court of Appeals affirms the chancellor’s ruling vis-a-vis Brown.  As for the father and girlfriend: “We affirm the chancery court’s finding McClinton and Campbell in contempt; however, we reverse and remand for a determination of the correct amounts owed due to settlements and credits received and for a determination on their present abilities to pay.”

Lauron Smith v. Christopher Epps prison rules violation –  Smith was an inmate in MDOC after having been convicted of auto theft in Harrison County in 2012.  He was written up (issued a rules violation report) for  walking out of a building  without permission and refusing to obey staff’s orders. The MDOC hearing officer found Smith guilty of the violation and punished him with a  thirty-day loss of privileges.   Smith refused to attend the hearing but filed an appeal  through the MDOC’s Administrative Remedy Program claiming he never received notice of the RVR hearing. Four days later, the MDOC returned Smith’s ARP complaint because he had failed to attach a copy of the required RVR to the form.  Smith then  filed a complaint with the Rankin Count Circuit Court  seeking review of the MDOC’s administrative decision. The MDOC requested dismissal for failure to exhaust  administrative remedies.  The  the circuit court affirmed the MDOC’s decision and entered
a judgment of dismissal. Smith appeals to the Miss.Ct. of Appeals which affirms.

We find that Smith has failed to prove that the MDOC’s decision was not supported by substantial evidence, arbitrary or capricious, beyond the agency’s scope or powers, or violative of his constitutional or statutory rights. Although Smith argues his due-process rights were violated, this Court has held that not all administrative disciplinary actions are subject to a due-process analysis. Smith’s punishment was a thirty-day loss of privileges, which is not generally considered to be a constitutionally protected liberty interest.

Cypress Springs v. Charles Donald Pulpwood contract interpretation – Cypress Springs Inc. entered into a timber sales agreement with  Charles Donald Pulpwood Inc. and later sued arguing that CDPI breached its contract when it: (1) failed to cut all timber specified in the agreement, and (2) failed to remove all debris and restore all roads used on the property. The trial court granted CDPI’s motion for summary judgment. The contract called for payment of “$36.00/ton for hardwood palletwood . . . (minimum 16 foot length, 10 inch tip, small end) and $4.00/ton for hardwood pulpwood[.]” It also required CDPI to restore the “logging and access roads and trails, as near as possible, to the conditions in which they were prior to logging.”  CDPI cut  half of the sycamore trees by the fall of 2009 when it either  voluntarily left  due to increased ground water (making logging impossible) or a representative from Cypress Springs asked CDPI to vacate the land.   Cypress Springs hired a different contractor to finish the logging operation and claims it had to pay a higher price for the removal of the trees than it would have paid CDPI. Cypress Springs sued.  CDPI filed a motion for summary judgment arguing that the contract allowed CDPI discretion in the number of trees it could harvest. Cypress Springs countered that the contract provided that CDPI remove all
of the timber that met the specifications outlined in the contract.  The trial court granted summary judgment for CDPI.  Cypress Springs appeals arguing that the judge should not have relied on extrinsic evidence when it made its ruling.  The Court of Appeals reverses.  As to the clean up, it was disputed as to whether  Cypress Springs gave CDPI an opportunity to enter the property for clean up.

On the amount of trees to be cut the Court states:

After looking at the four corners of the agreement and reviewing the actual language the parties used in their agreement, we find that the language is not so clear or unambiguous as to allow this Court to effectuate the parties’ intent. See Chapel Hill LLC, 112 So. 3d at 1099 (¶10). We also find that the language of the contract is not so clear as to allow this Court to harmonize the provisions in accord with the parties’ apparent intent. See id. As a result, we find it is necessary for the trial court to employ canons of contract construction and consider parol or extrinsic evidence if necessary. See id.

Breeden v. Buchanon and Nationwide – the Court denies rehearing but substitutes this opinion for the one issued April 1, 2014. Shortly after the Breedens divorced and Donald moved to Kentucky, their Marion County Home, insured by Nationwide, burned down.  A claim was submitted and Nationwide claimed it owed Donald nothing on the claim because he no longer had any ownership (Nationwide paid the remaining loan off, $123,384, and the rest, $172,015,  to WIllie Faye).  In August 2011, Breeden filed a complaint against his ex,  Willie Faye,  and Nationwide. The trial court dismissed both claims.  On appeal, the Court reverses the decision as to Willie Faye but affirms as to Nationwide.

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