Grass Roots Rules of Court

March 17, 2014 § 9 Comments

Before you set off on a trek to a far-flung chancery court district, it would behoove you to discover how they do business there. As an example of what a lack of behooving can do for you, consider my own rueful experience:

Years ago I called a court administrator in a distant county and told her I wanted to set a motion for a hearing. She gave me a date, and I, in turn, gave her the CA number, the parties, my name, and that of opposing counsel. I filed my motion, sent out the notice of hearing and, on the day appointed, travelled 90 miles or so to court.

I noticed when court opened that opposing counsel was not there. The judge called the docket and my case was not there, either. I approached the bench after docket call and inquired about my motion hearing. The judge flipped through the file and pointed out that I had not obtained a fiat setting the case for that day. Ergo, no setting. A fiat to set the hearing was required in that district by local rule.

A fiat, as anyone who operated in the pre-MRCP legal world can tell you, is simply an order directing that process or notice of hearing be issued for a given day. It’s the court’s way of ensuring that the case is set for an appropriate day. And it’s that district’s way of complying with R81(d)(5), which says that the date for a hearing in a matter like that “… shall be set by special order, general order or rule of the court.”

Had I bothered to look for a local rule, I would have gotten that fiat before setting the hearing, and I would not have wasted a trip.

In this district, where we have no local rules, a lawyer simply calls the court administrator, finds a date assigned by the court for hearing of matters such as the one the lawyer desires to set, and notifies the court administrator of the identity of the matter being set, and the time required. The lawyer then notices it for hearing, either via R81 or R5, whichever applies.

In the first instance above, the hearing is set per local rule, and in the second, by R81.

So, how do you discover how to do it?

You can find a complete set of local court rules approved by the MSSC at MC Law’s Mississippi Legal Resources web site. While I’m on the subject, that site is a super resource where you can find instant access to all kinds of Mississippi legal resources that you use daily. And it works as a mobile app, too. You can also find the local chancery court rules on the MSSC’s Mississippi Judiciary site at this link.

Note that all local rules must be approved by the MSSC before taking effect. They must be consistent with the MRCP, and, in the event of a conflict, the MRCP prevails.

Of the now-existing twenty chancery districts, thirteen have their own local rules, and seven do not. The seven districts without local rules are:

  • Third. (DeSoto, Tate, Panola, Yalobusha, Grenada and Montgomery). Chancellors Cobb, Lundy and Lynchard.
  • Ninth. (Humphreys, Issaquena, Sharkey, Sunflower, Warren and Washington). Chancellors Barnes, Weathersby and Wilson.
  • Twelfth. (Lauderdale and Clarke). Chancellors Mason and Primeaux.
  • Thirteenth. Local rules repealed in 2006. (Covington, Jefferson Davis, Lawrence, Simpson and Smith). Chancellors Shoemake and Walker.
  • Fifteenth. (Copiah and Lincoln). Chancellor Patten.
  • Eighteenth. Local rules repealed in 2006; BUT SEE ERRATUM BELOW. (Benton, Calhoun, Lafayette, Marshall and Tippah). Chancellors Alderson and Whitwell.
  • Twentieth. (Rankin). Chancellors Fairly and Grant.

ERRATUM: The 18th District Rules were renumbered and codified by order entered May 18, 2006, but not repealed. I apologize for the mistaken information.

In the districts without their own local rules, you can call the court administrator, who should be able to help you get done what you need to get done. If you encounter a judge who has no court administrator whom you can identify (I know of only one), you might try calling the clerk first, and, if that is unproductive, then call one of the court administrators of another judge in the district.

NOTE: Since grass is green, the title of this post qualifies as appropriate for St. Patrick’s Day.

And thanks to attorney Sean Akins of Ripley for pointing out my error about the 18th District.

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§ 9 Responses to Grass Roots Rules of Court

  • bellesouth says:

    Seventeenth Chancery Court District – By order entered May 18, 2006 the local rules for
    the Seventeenth Chancery Court District were repealed.

  • thusbloggedanderson says:

    It is disappointing, to say the least, to call a court administrator about setting a hearing and not be told anything about the local practice for doing so.

    • Larry says:

      Reminds me of catching the train at the Santa Lucia station in Venice. The sleepy-eyed, mustachioed, cigar-smoking Italian train official with loosened tie and wrinkled shirt who validated our tickets to Munich only asked, “Munich? Via Eurail?” Shrugged, stamped them, and pushed them back at us. He did not bother to tell us that Eurail pass was not good in Austria, through which we had to travel, and that we would be required to purchase anothter tickeet for that leg of the trip. When the Austrian ticket officials boarded at the Brenner Pass, a comical scene ensued after we were told they could not take a credit card, and we had to dug up (in pre-Euro days) every dollar, Dutch Guilder, French Franc, Swiss Mark, Italian Lira, etc. we could find in our bags. We were about $20 short, so we were “downgraded” to a C class car, but they let us stay in our compartment. If that Italian official had simply directed us to a ticket window …

      • thusbloggedanderson says:

        Austria has a long reputation for efficient bureaucracy; Italy … has a long reputation. Great story!

  • Bob Wolford says:

    Been there, done that, have the t-shirt and the tongue lashing from my boss to prove it. The chances of your local procedures being similar with or compatible to another district are inversely proportional to the distance between your local district and the other district. That’s a fact.

  • Richard says:

    In the Fourteenth Chancery Court District, in spite of there being no local rule stating as much, all temporary “hearings” in a divorce/custody, etc. matter are done strictly by affidavit before Judges Davidson and Colom. Judge Burns will give a temporary hearing, at his discretion. If you draw Judge Davidson or Colom, you might well get a “hearing” date, but this is just the date that the Affidavit must be submitted. Certainly something that non-local practitioners should probably know, in my humble opinion. An excellent post, by the way.

    • Larry says:

      Thanks for the input. I used to sail a lot, and any sailor will tell you that “local knowledge” of the waters was more important than even what the charts said. Same with local knowledge of practice. Before local rules became so widespread, when I practiced, I would look up and call a lawyer I knew, or even call and introduce myself, and ask how the judges tended to business. A little local knowledge can keep you from running agrround, no matter what the charts (i.e., local rules) say.

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