How African-Americans Dealt with “Southern Hospitality” in the Pre-Desegregation Era

May 13, 2016 § 2 Comments

For African-Americans travelling through the south in the Jim Crow days, it could be a dicey proposition finding accommodations. White hotels, restaurants, night clubs, resorts, and even service stations reserved the “right to refuse service to anyone,” which meant, decoded, that neither persons of color nor their money were welcome. If you waited to discover what might be available locally when you arrived at your destination, you and your family might just wind up spending the night in your car.

To meet the challenges of southern travel in that era, non-white travelers had to rely on guidebooks to help them plan their journeys. One such was The Negro Motorist Green Book published by Victor Green of New York.  The link will take you to an article in the excellent Preservation in Mississippi Blog that talks about the publication.

green book

Green’s guide was initially published to cover the New York City area, but there was such demand for its content that it soon expanded to cover the hinterland. Mississippi was first listed in 1939. You can view the Mississippi lodging page for that year at this link. It lists “tourist homes” — private residences offering lodging for travelers — in eight communities: Charleston, Greenville, Grenada, “Macomb”, Meridian, New Albany, Vicksburg, and Yazoo City. Hotels were listed by name and address in six of those same cities: Queen City, 15th St. and 7th Ave., Columbus; Bass, S. Pine St., Laurel; Kingston Park, N. Section, Kingston community, Laurel; Townsend, 534 Summit St., McComb; Beales, 2411 Fifth St., Meridian; Foot’s, Railroad Ave., New Albany; and Caldwell, Water and Broadway Sts., Yazoo City.

A more detailed article on Meridian’s accommodations from various editions of the Green Book can be found at this link.

Men’s Alcohol and Drug Commitments a Thing of the Past

May 12, 2016 § 5 Comments

The Department of Mental Health announced that, effective July 1, 2016, it will no longer accept new male patients into its drug and alcohol treatment facilities at Whitfield and Meridian. The programs are being discontinued due to budget cuts by the Mississippi legislature.

Men who are on the agency’s waiting list will be admitted until the cut-off date, but no new patients will be added to the list.

More than 50 employees will be laid off, although some will be eligible for reassignment to other jobs.

Women’s alcohol and drug treatment services at Whitfield will continue for now. Those services were unavailable for women in Meridian.

In this part of the state, Weems Community Mental Health offers an alcohol and drug treatment program, but it accepts voluntary patients only, all of whom must pay for treatment on a sliding scale.

Also, I understand that the number of psychiatric beds at East Mississippi, Whitfield, and smaller facilities is being scaled back for budgetary reasons, but I don’t have any particulars.

These are the people in the shadows about whom I have blogged here before.

[Note: This is the best information I could piece together; if I learn anything different, I will edit this post.]

Pleading Malfunction

May 10, 2016 § 2 Comments

Attorney Carlos Moore filed suit in federal court to have Mississippi’s 1894 flag declared unconstitutional. That case is still pending.

Randy Wallace posted a link to an attempted responsive pleading filed by a person or persons self-styled as “CITIZEN’S [Citizen’s] OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI,” purporting to be “with” Governor Dewey Phillip Bryant. You can access Randy’s link to the document here. Randy says that an exhibit to the so-called pleading was a Bible. Oh, and whoever filed this thing is not a named defendant.

Regardless how you view the merits of Mr. Moore’s suit, I am confident that you will concur that, as an attempted pleading, this document is pathetic. U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves apparently agreed; he dismissed it with a cursory order.

 

New Domain Name

May 9, 2016 § Leave a comment

This blog has a new domain name: betterchancery.com. You should continue to be able to access it via chancery12.wordpress.com. I hope you don’t encounter any problems getting here via the old address.

Contested Judicial Elections

May 9, 2016 § 2 Comments

As I mentioned here before, 2016 is not a judicial election year, but there are plenty of contested judicial elections coming up in November due to turnover. The qualifying deadline is past, and here are the posts that will be on the ballot:

MSSC

District 1, Place 3. Jim Kitchens; Kenny Griffis.

District 2, Place 2. Dawn Beam; Michael T. Shareef.

District 3, Place 1. James T. Kitchens; John Brady; Bobby Chamberlain; Steve Crampton.

District 3, Place 2. Jimmy Maxwell.

COA

District 1, Place 1. Jim Greenlee.

District 2, Place 2. Ceola James; Latrice Westbrooks.

District 3, Place 1. Jack Wilson; Ed Hannan; Dow Yoder.

District 5, Place 2. David Ishee.

Chancery Court

District 1, Place 4. T.K. Moffett;

District 20, Place 1. John McLaurin; Jim Nix.

Circuit Court

District 5, Place 2. George M. Mitchell, Jr.; Doug S. Crosby.

District 10, Place 1. Justin M. Cobb.

District 11, Place 2. Linda F. Coleman.

The next regularly-scheduled judicial election year for trial judges is 2018, but all of the appointments that were made in 2015 will make for an unusually busy judicial election cycle this year, since appointees appointed more than nine months before the general election are required to stand for election at the next regular general election.

“Quote Unquote”

May 6, 2016 § 1 Comment

“A madman is not cured by another running mad also.”  —  Antisthenes.

“Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”  —   Voltaire

“The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently.”  —  Nietzche

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Non-Compete Clauses

May 4, 2016 § 2 Comments

Every now and then a suit is filed in chancery court to enforce a non-compete clause in an employment contract. I have heard cases involving bank employees, employment counselors, and broadcasting sales personnel. There may have been others that I don’t recall right now.

Non-competes are used in the legal profession, although the professional rules would seem to proscribe divulging the kinds of confidential information that those clauses aim to prevent.

Our law requires that they be reasonable in scope, geographical coverage, and time, and the reasonableness is relative to the nature and responsibilities of the position. A three-year prohibition against working as a managing nuclear engineer at a competitor anywhere in Mississippi could well be reasonable, while a three-year prohibition against working as a teller at a competing bank anywhere in Mississippi likely would not.

One of the most interesting non-competes I have heard about involves a fast-food sandwich chain that requires sandwich-makers and delivery drivers not to take a similar job within two years at a competitor within three miles of one of their stores, which means practically nowhere. Most people at that level of the pay scale don’t have the money to fight an injunction in a case like that.

An interesting article by Justin Fox on the Bloomberg site explores how non-competes stifle entrepreneurship and innovation, and how their absence allowed Silicon Valley to thrive at the expense of Boston, which (with its MIT and numerous other universities) had been the early seat of technology advancement.

 

The Right to do Harm to Your Own Interests

May 3, 2016 § Leave a comment

Have you ever stopped to ponder the flip side of the right to remain silent in the face of police interrogation? The flip side is that you have the right to blab uninterruptedly until every smidgeon of defense that you could possibly later assert is totally obliterated.

Likewise, the flip side of the right to appointed counsel is that one may represent one’s self. In criminal cases that is recognized to be such a self-destructive tactic that judges often appoint a lawyer to “consult” with the accused who chooses to act as his own lawyer.

In chancery, there are few matters in which appointed counsel is appropriate or required. But in every case the parties have the right to forego the benefit of counsel and represent themselves, seldom with any positive results.

The most recent example in our appellate courts is Cooper v. Higgins, decided by the COA on March 22, 2016. In that case, Jeremy Cooper and Laquitta Higgins had been involved in custody battles in Michigan and Florida before they wound up in a Mississippi chancery court. Their son, Langston, who was 12 years old at the time of the Mississippi custody modification hearing, had a “post-developmental disorder” on the autism spectrum, but not “full-blown autism,” and he continued to develop toward being autonomous.

Higgins was awarded sole custody in Michigan in 2004. Cooper later filed for custody in Florida, but that suit was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. In 2008, Cooper filed aa petition to modify in Mississippi, and the chancellor denied relief on the merits. In 2013, he again filed to modify, which was denied. Cooper appealed and the MSSC remanded because the original court reporter had resigned and the transcript could not be produced.

On remand Cooper filed a pro se petition to modify, alleging that Higgins assaulted him in 2005, that she interfered with visitation in 2005, and she misrepresented her place of residence (presumably in a UCCR 8.06 filing). Here is how the COA describes what transpired at trial:

¶8. Cooper subpoenaed Langston to testify, but after talking to the child in camera, the chancellor determined that he lacked the capacity to participate effectively in the hearing. In addition, the chancellor noted that Langston’s testimony was not necessary to determine whether there had been any material change in circumstances. Cooper did not voice any objection to this ruling below, nor does he challenge it on appeal.

¶9. Before Cooper called his first witness, the chancellor emphasized that it was his burden to prove a material change in circumstances. The chancellor also discussed that a custody hearing is a complicated matter and asked Cooper whether he was certain that he wanted to proceed pro se. Cooper confirmed that he desired to do so.

¶10. Cooper called Higgins as his first witness. During a brief examination by Cooper, Higgins testified that she had lived at her present residence for approximately five years, that she was raised by both her biological father and her stepfather, and that she collects books. Cooper then announced that he had no further questions.

¶11. Cooper then took the stand himself. He accused Higgins of acts of violence and of interfering with his visitation in 2005 and 2006, and he attacked her character generally. Cooper also testified that Langston would be better off living with him because he believed that he had a condition similar to Langston when he was a child. Cooper opined that he understood Langston and how his brain worked better than Higgins.

¶12. After Cooper testified, he rested. Higgins then moved to dismiss the petition on the ground that Cooper failed to prove a material change in circumstances. The court granted the motion and dismissed the petition on that ground.

Pretty predictable result, I would say, based on that recitation of the proof that was presented. Judge Wilson, for the unanimous COA, found “not the slightest indication of a material and adverse change in circumstances,” and affirmed on that point.

Cooper’s other substantive argument was that the chancellor was biased against him, which is patently absurd in light of ¶9, above, where the chancellor took pains to explain in advance how modification of custody can be a complicated matter, and offered him the opportunity to proceed other than self-represented. If the chancellor had been truly biased she would have sat there silent behind a crocodile smile while he self-destructed.

As I have said here many times before, I have never seen any self-represented party walk out of a courtroom in better shape than when they walked in.

Oh, and Cooper’s appeal was pro se, also.

Weeks Turn into Years

May 2, 2016 § Leave a comment

The continuing legal saga of Roland and Deborah Weeks took its latest turn with another remand by the COA on March 1, 2016. For those of you who haven’t been keeping score, here is a recap:

  1. The pair were divorced in 2001 after a 9-year separation. Deborah was denied alimony, although she received only 1/3 of the marital estate;
  2. In Weeks v. Weeks, 832 So.2d 583 (Miss. App. 2002), the COA reversed and remanded for the trial court to award alimony;
  3. The chancellor on remand assessed Roland with $3,900 a month in combined periodic alimony, health insurance, and life insurance;
  4. In Weeks v. Weeks, 29 So.3d 80 (Miss. App. 2009) (Weeks II), the COA affirmed the alimony, but remanded yet again on child support and attorney’s fees;
  5. In 2012, Roland filed a petition to modify his alimony obligation, which prompted Deborah to file motions claiming a fraud on the court. The chancellor denied everything but an award of back child support. He denied Deborah’s request for attorney’s fees finding them unreasonable and within her ability to pay. Roland appealed, and Deborah cross-appealed.
  6. In the latest installment of Weeks v. Weeks (Weeks III), the COA affirmed most of what the chancellor ruled, but remanded yet again for the chancellor to reconsider the issue of attorney’s fees from Weeks II.
It has been 24 years since the Weeks’s separation, and 15 since their divorce. The aftermath of the divorce has seen almost continuous litigation, and it is still not done. There is another round yet to go, and another possible appeal. Some cases just be this way.
As for the legal issues in this latest appeal, you won’t find a lot of authority to chew on. This is another decision illustrating how difficult it can be to terminate or reduce periodic alimony, as we have mentioned here not too long ago.

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