Decisions – Miss.S.Ct. – March 26, 2015

The Court orders the recusal of the chancellor in the Singing River case.

Denies a Motion to clarify the mandate in Cheeks v. Autozone but, in doing so, makes it clear that where a jnov is reversed, the plaintiff would be entitled to interest from the date of the original judgment if the original  judgment included interest.

Makes a small change to Rule 6.B(2) of the Rules of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance.

Suspends Justice Court Judge Bill Weisenberger with pay pending an inquiry into whether he assaulted someone at the Canton Flea Market.

Robert Terrell v. Statedismisses interlocutory appeal that was not filed as an interlocutory appeal – Three people including Terrell were charged with conspiring to defraud someone out of their land.  Terrell moved to dismiss some of the charges on double jeopardy grounds.  When the trial court denied the motion, Terrell took an appeal claiming that the ruling on the double jeopardy motion was a final order.  The Miss.S.Ct. disagrees. “Where the Court has not granted permission to appeal, we do not have the authority pursuant to our rules to hear the appeal, and neither the parties nor the lower court can confer the authority to hear it.” “Because Terrell did not seek permission to appeal pursuant to Rule 5, we decline to consider his appeal.”

Community Care Center of Aberdeen v. Mary Barrentine –  suit for wrongful termination under McArn subject to 3-year SOL – Mary Barrentine was employed as a registered nurse at Community Care Center of Aberdeen.  She was fired on May 4, 2011, for failing to report suspected abuse of residents by a co-employee.  Two days earlier she had been reprimanded for the conduct at which point she contacted a state omsbudsman about her suspicions and admitted to the omsbudsman that she had not reported her suspicions to her employer. Barrentine filed suit against CCCofA on November 15, 2012.  CCCofA moved for summary judgment on several grounds including the one year statute of limitations for non-written employment contracts. Barrentine argued that a tort for wrongful termination in violation of Mississippi’s public policy exception to the employment at-will doctrine is governed by a  three-year statute of limitations.  The Court finds that “McArn wrongful-discharge claims are independent tort actions” and are subject to a 3-year SOL.

Greater Fairview Baptist Church v. Danny Hollins –  church v. pastor –  The pastor of Greater Fairview was placed on administrative leave after he was accused of some sexual indiscretions.  When the church tried to vote him out, Hollins sought an injunction which the chancellor granted.  The chancellor then prescribed rules for a church vote following  Pilgrim Rest Missionary Baptist Church ex rel. Board of Deacons v. Wallace, 835 So. 2d 67 (Miss. 2003).  The church filed for an interlocutory appeal which the Miss.S.Ct. granted. The Court finds that Pilgrim Rest was a narrow exception to the policy that the court does not get involved in church matters. That case “addressed a dispute between two opposing factions in a Baptist Church.”

Here, we are not faced with two factions of a church fighting over money and property and arguing about whether the by-laws have been followed. Rather, we are faced only with an aggrieved pastor who is unhappy that his church voted to terminate him. As this Court stated in Pilgrim Rest, the ‘“court’s jurisdiction is limited to purely secular issues, and the court must not be involved in ecclesiastical issues.’” Id. at 72 (citation omitted). In sum, we find that the chancery judge erred when he treated this ecclesiastical controversy as a secular one—a pastor who is unhappy about being terminated by a church simply does not present a secular controversy. As such, the chancellor had no authority initially to issue the TRO or to vacate Greater Fairview’s vote and order a new one, as Hollins cannot prevail on the merits of his claim.

Sherwood Brown v. State –  Mental retardation claim in death penalty case –  On post conviction, after being sentenced to death, Sherwood Brown was granted a hearing to prove that he was too mentally retarded to be put to death (pursuant to Atkins v. Virginia).  The trial court found that he failed to prove he was mentally retarded.  On appeal, the Miss.S.Ct. affirms.

One thought on “Decisions – Miss.S.Ct. – March 26, 2015

  1. The Barrentine case provides an important clarification of the nature of the McArn claim. Glad to see the MSSC got it right. Jim Waide takes down another one!

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