Court issues decision in Weill-HCPD dispute

The decision is here.

The en banc opinion authored by Justice Dickinson  contains the following:

But Section 25-32-13 is not a substitute for the bar complaint process. An adjudication of incompetency to practice law is within the exclusive province of this Court. And, absent a finding through the bar complaint process that Kelly is incompetent to practice law, Judge Weill is without authority to deny Kelly the right to practice law before him, based on his belief that she generally is incompetent. Additionally, it would be inappropriate and premature for this Court to review the merits of Judge Weill’s allegations concerning  Kelly’s general competency to practice law, as those allegations have not reached this Court through the proper channels. Therefore, we decline at this time to address Judge Weill’s allegation that Kelly is incompetent to practice law.

The remedy, though, is this:

The HCPDO requests us to reassign to it the fifty-five cases Judge Weill assigned to private counsel. In the interest of the efficient administration of justice, we deny those motions, as the cases are in various stages of development, and the best interests of justice may be served by leaving them as they are. However, we do find it appropriate for the HCPDO, should it so desire, to inform each of its previous clients in the fifty-five cases before us, that they may choose to continue with the private counsel Judge Weill has appointed to represent them, or they may choose to have the HCPDO reassume their representation.

Justice Kitchens writes to opine that everything but the complaints they have filed against each other should be unsealed. He is joined in part by Justice King.  According to J. Kitchens, “While I agree with much of the majority’s order, I would require Judge Weill’s recusal in Ms. Kelly’s cases, and I would not have the public defender initiate contact with those of its former clients who now are represented by other lawyers. I agree with Justice King that such contacts should be made by the judiciary and not by attorneys.”

Justice Chandler writes (joined in part by Justices Kitchens and King):

I agree with Justice Dickinson that Section 25-32-13 is not a substitute for the bar complaint process and that this Court should therefore decline at this time to address Judge Weill’s allegation that Kelly is incompetent to practice law. I also agree with Justice Dickinson that, having reviewed each of the incidences alleged by Judge Weill, they are not sufficient-individually or taken as a whole-to merit the extreme sanction of excluding Kelly from appearing before Judge Weill. I also agree with Justice Dickinson’s position that, at this stage, there is insufficient evidence to compel Judge Weill’s recusal.  I must disagree, however, with Justice Dickinson’s position thatthese fifty-five cases should remain assigned by default to the private attorneys assigned by Judge Weill absent individual decisions by respective defendants to return to Hinds County Public Defender’s Office (HCPDO). “The efficient administration of justice” is not the correct standard governing such appointments. Judge Weill’s authority to appoint such outside counsel,  counsel ultimately paid for by Hinds County outside of HCPDO’ s budget, is tied to a finding of good cause, and this Court is finding that good cause is not apparent from the information before us.

I also take the position that all of the exhibits in this case should be removed from under seal (with the exception of the respective complaints against Kelly and Judge Weill). The citizens of Hinds County who are footing the bill for all of this behavior have no way of knowing the entirety of what has transpired. I see no evidence that unsealing the documents would create a possible danger to the parties or anyone else. While I appreciate the idea of not wanting to release additional fodder for a public spectacle, lack of transparency creates the danger of inaccurate public inference and speculation.

TBA always has the best characterizations of things (in part, because he is semi-anonymous; also he’s smart and rather witty).  His post is headed “Miss.S.Ct. finds Weill off-balance and in need of realignment.”

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