Decisions – MSSC – 5/9/2019

Hand down list

The Mississippi Bar v. Merry Caitlin Johnsonlawyer discipline – Johnson took the Bar Exam in July 2016. She was working as a paralegal for Stephen L. McDavid’s law firm while awaiting her results.  McDavid asked Johnson to review a local rule of court referenced in an order issued by Magistrate Jane Virden.  Johnson misinterpreted the rule and McDavid relied on the incorrect interpretation. When Johnson  realized she had wrongly interpreted the rule, instead of correcting her mistake,  she created an email purporting to be an amended text order clarifying the original order.   Johnson sent the email containing the forged order to McDavid, who forwarded it to opposing counsel, Mark A. Dreher. Dreher then informed Judge Virden’s law clerk of the email containing the forged order.  Judge Virden issued a show cause order whereupon Johnson confessed.  Judge Virden sanctioned McDavid’s firm and admonished everyone of the duty to report misconduct.  Opposing counsel reported the incident to the Bar which investigated and recommended a private reprimand.  The MSSC decides that a private reprimand is insufficient. Johnson had a duty to self report her misconduct.  The MSSC suspends her for 3 years with a requirement that she apply for reinstatement. .

David Stanfield v. State of Mississippi –  felon in possession – self defense v. necessity – David Lee Stanfield was convicted of aggravated assault and of felon in possession
of a firearm.  On appeal he argues that the trial court erred  in instructing the
jury that self-defense is not a defense to the crime of felon in possession of a firearm.  The MSSC affirms. “Because self-defense and the defense of necessity are two distinct affirmative defenses with different origins, applicable to different situations, the trial court correctly instructed the jury, and we affirm Stanfield’s conviction.”

The Court grants cert. in Chelsey Ferguson v. Mississippi Department of Public Safety – (the link is to the COA opinion) – expungement and registration as a sex offender – In May of 2011, Ferguson pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor crime of dissemination of sexually oriented material to a minor. A few years later she filed a petition to expunge her record. The trial court granted the motion. Thereafter the Mississippi Department of Public Safety-Criminal Information Center issued an Expunction Resolution Notice to the Warren County Circuit Clerk which stated that the expungement could not be processed because a sex offense was exempt from expungement. Ferguson’s attorney contacted the attorney for the Criminal Information Center which ultimately resulted in the Criminal Information Center expunging the criminal record. The Dep’t of Public Safety, though, refused to relieve her of the obligation to register as a sex offender. Ferguson then filed a Complaint for Relief from Duty to Register under Miss. Code Ann. § 45-33-47. The trial court denied relief and she appealed. The COA reverses and renders. “Our Supreme Court has unequivocally held that ‘Mississippi law on the effect of an expungement . . . relieves [one] from the duty to register that he had before the expungement.’” Stallworth, 160 So. 3d at 1163.

The MDPS filed a cert petition.   MDPS’s  position is that it has been urging the MSSC to overrule Stallworth and that since the case was assigned to the COA which has no authority to overrule MSSC opinions, it deserves an opportunity to have the case heard by the MSSC so that its argument that Stallworth should be overruled can be considered by a court with authority to do so.


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