Decisions – Miss.S.Ct. – April 2, 2015

Delbert Hoseman in his capacity as Trustee of the Public Tidelands Trust, Jackson County and Ocean Springs v. David Neal Harris et al.  –  tidelands – This is a dispute over ownership of beach property south of the seawall in Ocean Springs.  Ocean Springs planned to build a sidewalk on the beach.  Some landowners, David Neil Harris and his wife (Harris is a chancellor in Jackson County) and Clyde Gunn filed for an injunction in Hinds County which was granted.  The landowners then went to court in Jackson County and asked to quiet title to the property either via title of adverse possession. A special chancellor was appointed.

The Chancellor granted Plaintiffs’ Partial Summary Judgment regarding the State’s claim that the property south of the toe of the seawall to the water’s edge constituted public trust tidelands holding that  “there is no factual basis for finding that the tidelands of the State extend any further inland than the mean high water line of the existing shoreland.” East Beach, then, is  not Public Trust Tidelands owned by the State. After a trial, the Chancellor found that title was confirmed in the Plaintiffs; that the City had a prescriptive easement to maintain the road known as East Beach Drive and that any and all other claims by the City for a prescriptive easement  were denied and removed as clouds on the title. The Chancellor held that the County had a prescriptive easement with respect to the Plaintiffs’ properties for the purpose of maintaining the sea wall joining East Beach Drive on the south side, which includes protecting the sloping sand beach south of the sea wall and that all other claims of adverse possession or easement were denied and removed as clouds on the title; and that all claims of the State and the Secretary of State were removed as clouds on title. The city, county and state appealed.

The Miss.S.Ct. reverses the grant of partial summary judgment and remands:

It is undisputed that the mean high water mark closest to July 1, 1973, is seaward of the sand beach. However, this Court’s holding in Gilich and the Fifth Circuit’s holding in Harrison County show that the 1973 water line is not controlling with regard to sand beaches created by filling in tidelands. The State created genuine factual issues by producing evidence supporting the conclusion that East Beach was constructed by filling in tidelands. The State produced expert affidavits and testimony and official letters authorizing the creation of a sand beach in Ocean Springs by filling in tidelands. The State additionally produced a tidelands lease, which Gunn himself signed, stating that Gunn agreed that the beach was considered tidelands held in trust by the State and open to public use. “Motions for summary judgment may not be used to determine or decide issues of fact, only to decide whether there are any material fact issues to be tried.” American Legion Ladnier Post [Number] 42, Inc. v. City of Ocean Springs, 562 So. 2d 103, 106 (Miss. 1990). The burden of demonstrating that no genuine issue of material fact exists is on the movant. Gunn and Harris failed in their burden to show that there were no material issues of fact to be determined.

Sass Muni-V, LLC  v. DeSoto County et al.standing of tax sale purchaser to set aside sale –   Sass Muni-V sought to set aside a 2008 tax sale purchase of real property.  The trial court found that Sass Muni did not have standing. The Miss.S.Ct. reverses and remands.  The land had been  owned by Millennium of Mississippi, LLC which sold it to DeSoto County Development, LLC in 2003, at which time DeSoto Development granted Marshall Investments (with Fred Spencer as trustee) a deed of trust lien on the property,   DeSoto Development defaulted and Marshall Investments purchased the property at the foreclosure sale  in 2007.   That year, DeSoto County and Horn Lake levied ad valorem taxes of $520,508.  When the taxes were not paid, SASS was the successful bidder at the subsequent tax sale.  Three years later Sass filed a complaint to set aside the sale alleging various improprieties in the sale (failure to provide notice of the expiration of the redemption period,; grossly exorbitant assessment of taxes, etc.).  The trial court dismissed the suit on the grounds that the relevant statutes do not allow the  tax sale purchaser to set aside a tax sale.  THe Miss.S.Ct. disagrees and reverses and remands.

Jeffrey Havard v. State – the court grants an evidentiary hearing with respect to a claim of newly discovered evidence that was one of the  claims that death-sentenced Havard raised in his pcr petition.

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