December 28, 2011 § 2 Comments

Here is a table showing the various standards of appellate review that apply to chancery court matters, based for the most part on material distributed to the judges at our annual meeting in October.
Knowing the standards of review can help you evaluate your case as to whether it warrants an appeal, as well as whether you have made a record that will satisfy the applicable standard.




Appeal to trial court from administrative agency action or ruling Arbitrary and capricious When this court reviews a decision by a chancery court or circuit court concerning an agency action, it applies the same standard of review that the lower courts are bound to follow. We will entertain the appeal to determine whether the order of the administrative agency (1) was supported by substantial evidence; (2) was arbitrary or capricious; (3) was beyond the power of the administrative agency to make; or (4) violated some statutory or constitutional right of the complaining party. Miss. Sierra Club v. Miss. Dept. of Environmental Quality, 819 So.2d 515, 519 (Miss. 2002). 
Attorney’s fees Abuse of discretion Whether to award attorney’s fees rests entirely within the discretion of the trial court. A trial court’s decision on attorney’s fees is subject to an abuse of discretion standard. Unless the trial court is manifestly wrong, its decision regarding attorney’s fees will not be disturbed on appeal. Ward v. Ward, 825 So.2d 713, 720 (Miss. App. 2002).
Contempt – civil Manifest error In civil contempt actions, the trial court’s findings are affirmed unless there is manifest error. Riley v. Wiggins, 908 So.2d 893 (Miss. App. 2005).
Contempt – criminal Ab initio This court proceeds ab initio to determine whether the record proves the appellant is in contempt beyond a reasonable doubt. Brame v. State, 755 So.2d 1090, 1093 (Miss. 2000).
Domestic relations Manifest error/clearly erroneous In domestic relations cases the scope of review is limited b y the substantial evidence/manifest error rule. This court may reverse a chancellor’s findings of fact only when there is no substantial credible evidence in the record to justify his finding. Our scope of review in domestic relations matters is limited under the familiar rule that this court will not disturb a chancellor’s findings unless manifestly wrong, clearly erroneous, or if the chancellor applied an erroneous legal standard. Jundoosing v. Jundoosing, 826 So.2d 85, 88 (Miss. 2002).
Evidence, admission or exclusion Abuse of discretion The standard of review regarding the admission or exclusion of evidence is abuse of discretion. Yoste v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 822 So.2d 935, 936 (Miss. 2006).A trial court’s decision to admit or exclude evidence will not be reversed unless a substantial right of a party is adversely affected. Robinson Prop. Group, L.P. v. Mitchell, 7 So. 3d 240, 243 (Miss. 2009).
Expert testimony Abuse of discretion/clear error The qualifications of an expert in fields of scientific knowledge are left to the sound discretion of the trial court. Its determination on this issue will not be reversed unless it clearly appears that the witness is not qualified. This court reviews the trial court’s decision to allow expert testimony under the well-known clearly erroneous standard. Similarly, an expert’s testimony is always subject to MRE 702. For a witness to give MRE 702 opinion, the witness must have experience or expertise beyond that of an average adult. Thus, we generally defer to the discretion of the trial court in determining whether an expert is qualified to testify, and we will only reverse when there was clear error or abuse of discretion in the decision to admit the testimony. Cowart v. State, 910 so.2d 726, 728-29 (Miss. App. 2005).  
Findings of fact by chancellor Manifest error/clearly erroneous A chancellor’s findings of fact will not be disturbed unless manifestly wrong or clearly erroneous. This court will not disturb the findings of a chancellor when supported by substantial evidence unless the chancellor abused his or discretion, was manifestly wrong, clearly erroneous, or an erroneous legal standard was applied. Sanderson v. Sanderson, 824 So.2d 623, 625-26 (Miss. 2002).
Law, questions of De novo We conduct a de novo review for determinations of legal questions. Russell v. Performance Toyota, Inc., 826 So.2d 719, 721 (Miss. 2002).
Jurisdiction, in personam De novo An appellate court reviews jurisdictional issues de novo by examining the facts set out in the pleadings and exhibits to determine the propriety of the proceedings. American Cable Corp. v. Trilogy Commun., Inc., 754 So.2d 545, 549 (Miss. App. 2002).
Jurisdiction, subject matter De novo Whether the trial court had jurisdiction to hear a particular matter is a question of law, to which this court must apply a de novo standard of review. Edwards v. Booker, 796 So.2d 991, 994 (Miss. 2001).
Reconsideration under MRCP 59 Abuse of discretion A petition for reconsideration is treated as a motion to amend judgment pursuant to M.R.C.P. 59(e). Boyles v. Schlumberger Tech. Corp., 792 So.2d 262, 265 (Miss. 2001) (quoting In re Estate of Stewart, 732 So.2d 255, 257(Miss.1999)). [I]n order to succeed on a Rule 59(e) motion, the movant must show: (i) an intervening change in controlling law, (ii) availability of new evidence not previously available, or (iii) need to correct a clear error of law or to prevent manifest injustice. Brooks v. Roberts, 882 So.2d 229, 233(¶ 15) (Miss.2004) (citation omitted). This Court reviews the denial of a Rule 59(e) motion for abuse of discretion. Id.



§ 2 Responses to STANDARDS OF REVIEW

  • Anderson says:

    It seems that “manifest error,” “abuse of discretion,” and “clear error” are synonymous.

    There’s also the observation from the Falco Lime case that a decision based on substantial evidence cannot be arbitrary and capricious.

    • Larry says:

      Down here in the lowly trenches, we do not have to observe such precise distinctions, thank goodness. We just call ’em as we see ’em and leave it to the gods on Mt. Olympus to second-guess us.

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