Decisions – MSSC – 3/22/18

Natchez Hospital Company, LLC and Natchez Community Hospital, LLC v. Adams County Board of Supervisors tax appeal –  Natchez Hospital contested the amount of tax assessed on software by Adams County.   Pursuant to MCA Sect. 27-35-119, the Hospital filed a  filed a Complaint and Petition For Reduction of Assessment on Software in circuit court.   Prior to appealing to the circuit court, the Hospital paid the ad valorem taxes as assessed. The Board filed a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, arguing that the Hospital had failed to post the necessary appeal bond required by MCA Sect. 11-51-77. The circuit court determined that the Hospital’s failure to post the bond deprived the court of jurisdiction.  The Hospital appealed. The COA affirms.

Charles Ray McCollum, Jr. v. State of Mississippi –  use of transcript of deceased witness’s testimony – The Court grants the State’s Motion to Dismiss McCollum’s interlocutory appeal.  This involves McCollum’s second trial for the brutal beating and robbery of 89-year-old  Bill Russell.  At his first trial,  McCullum was appointed a lawyer.  Five days before trial, the attorney moved to withdraw on the basis that  there had been a total breakdown in the attorney-client relationship. McCollum had filed a bar complaint against counsel and had written letters to two key defense witnesses in which he warned that counsel was a liar who could not be trusted. As a result, the witnesses refused to talk to counsel or return his phone calls.  Counsel also reported that he had met with McCollum several times but that McCollum was consistently deceptive and uncooperative. McCollum told the court  he was sorry that counsel had seen the letters; someone else had advised him to file a bar complaint and he was “not sure [he] did the right thing on that.” McCollum stated that he did not want to fire counsel and did not want counsel to withdraw. McCollum did not want to fire his attorney.   The circuit judge granted counsel’s motion to withdraw and ordered that McCollum proceed to trial and if he found an attorney in four days he could be represented by counsel.  McCollum represented himself at trial with armchair counsel available to consult. On appeal, the state confesses error.  The COA reversed McCollum’s case.  Before McCollum could be tried a second time, the victim died. The State moved to introduce Russell’s testimony from the first trial.  McCollum objected on the grounds that he was forced to cross-examine Russell on his own without a lawyer and introduction of his testimony would be unfair under those circumstances.  The trial court ruled that the transcript of Russell’s testimony could be introduced.  McCollum requested an interlocutory appeal which was granted but is now dismissed.

The Court grants cert in   Mississippi Department of Public Safety and Albert Santa Cruz, in his Official Capacity as Commissioner of the Mississippi Department of Public Safety v. Stacy Smith, Greg Nester, and Kristopher Wingert –  )the link is to the COA aopinion)  – civil service – Smith, Nester and Wingert were  permanent state civil-service employees working at the Crime Lab.  In 2005 MDPS told them they were being transferred to the  MBI but that they would retain their positions, salaries,
and position identification numbers (PINs).  In 2008 they learned that they lost their  Crime Lab PINs when MDPS assigned them MDPS PINs. In February 2011, they filed grievances with MBI, claiming that the loss of their Crime Lab PINs limited their opportunities for promotions and pay increases and that other forensic scientists were allowed to retain their Crime Lab PINs and corresponding career paths.   They eventually filed a petition for mandamus.  The trial court  remanded the case to the Employee Appeals Board for exhaustion.  The EAB dismissed the matter.  Smith et al appealed and moved for summary judgment arguing that the MDPS failed to follow the Mississippi State Personnel Board’s  rules regarding “intra-agency transfer.” The trial court granted the motion and ordered MDPS to  “(1) . . . reinstate [the Appellees’ MDPS] Crime Lab PINs with the appropriate job description; (2) place [the Appellees] in the forensic[-]scientist step appropriate with their experience and performance; (3) pay [the Appellees] all
back pay due along with fringe benefits, including contributions to PERS and
on[-]call pay; and (4) give [the Appellees] prospective placements and steps
earned by experience.”   MDPS appeals. The COA affirms. MDPS filed a petition for cert. arguing that “The majority’s holding that the Appellees’ were not required to exhaust their administrative remedies by filing an appeal with the EAB before seeking judicial review – on the ground that the EAB would have deemed their complaints to be non-grievable and refused to  provide them any relief – is directly contrary to several decisions rendered by this Court.  The  MSSC grants the petition.

MDCP’s petition for cert.





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