Bell Dates for 2020

January 17, 2020 § Leave a comment

Might as well annotate your calendars now for the Bell Family Law seminars upcoming in 2020. Here are the dates:

July 10     Jackson

July 24     Oxford

July 31     Mississippi Gulf Coast

I have said it here before: there are other Mississippi family law seminars, but there is no better Mississippi family law seminar. You will receive a handout summarizing all of the 2019-2020 cases. The lectures analyze the case law and discuss related issues, which in the past have included reproductive technology and bankruptcy. There is an ethics hour.

The only benefit I gain from mentioning this is the improved performance of lawyers who have attended the seminar. And for any judge that is quite a valuable benefit indeed.

A Couple of MEC Points

January 7, 2020 § Leave a comment

Effective yesterday, MEC will allow you to file a combined guardianship/conservatorship. And the civil cover sheet has been amended to add that category for both MEC and non-MEC filers.

Also, MEC does not allow a petition to approve a minor’s settlement to be filed in a conservatorship (reminder: GAP Act term for guardianship of the estate). When the order or judgment approving the settlement is filed, MEC wants to close the file, which can not be done because the conservatorship must remain open. If the order or judgment is filed and the case is not closed, then the order or judgment is not final according to MEC, which means that the clerk can not collect the fee, and the case is not final in the district’s stats. So, you need to file two separate actions with two separate filing fees.

December 31, 2019 § Leave a comment


Next post January 3, 2020.

December 24, 2019 § Leave a comment


Next post December 30, 2019

GAP Act Forms

December 20, 2019 § Leave a comment

The GAP Act forms published by the MSSC are now available on the Mississippi Judicial College web site.

Click on this link to access them. I will also add a page with the link at the GAP Act materials tab on this site.


“Quote Unquote”

December 6, 2019 § Leave a comment

“It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.”  —  James Baldwin

“And the horrible thing about all legal officials, even the best, about all judges, magistrates, barristers, detectives, and policemen, is not that they are wicked (some of them are good), not that they are stupid (some of them are quite intelligent), it is simply that they have got used to it.”  — G. K. Chesterton

“Power concedes nothing without demand. It never did and never will.”  —  Frederick Douglass

November 28, 2019 § Leave a comment

Thanksgiving Holiday

Courthouse closed

Next post December 2, 2019

R.I.P. Chancellor William Willard

November 27, 2019 § 3 Comments

Chancellor Willard of Clarksdale, was retired Chancellor of the 7th District.

Reportedly died when he suffered a heart attack while scuba diving with his family in the Caymans on November 25, 2019.

The official MSSC press release:

Retired Chancellor William G. Willard Jr. of Clarksdale died Nov. 25 while vacationing with his family in the Cayman Islands. Funeral arrangements are incomplete. Meredeth Nowell Funeral Home in Clarksdale is handling arrangements.

Judge Willard retired from the bench in December 2010 after serving 12 years as Chancellor of the 7th Chancery District that includes Bolivar, Coahoma, Leflore, Quitman, Tallahatchie and Tunica counties. He returned to private law practice in Clarksdale. Before his service as chancellor, he served for nine and one-half years as Clarksdale Municipal Judge. He also served on the Bar Complaints Tribunal.

R.I.P. Judge Billy Bridges

November 26, 2019 § 4 Comments

From the MSSC press release:

Retired Mississippi Court of Appeals Chief Judge Billy G. Bridges died on Nov. 25 at his home in Brandon. He was 85.

A funeral service will be held on Saturday, Nov. 30, at 11 a.m. at Ott and Lee Funeral Home in Brandon. Visitation will be Friday, Nov. 29, from 5 to 7 p.m. and Saturday, Nov. 30, from 9 to 10:30 a.m. Interment will be in Floral Hills in Pearl.

Judge Bridges served on the Court of Appeals for 11 years. He was one of the original members of the Court of Appeals. He was elected in 1994, and the Court of Appeals began hearing cases in January 1995. Judge Bridges served as Chief Judge from January 31, 1997, until February 17, 1999. He was named Presiding Judge on April 30, 2004. He retired Dec. 31, 2005, but did not hang up his robe. He became a senior status judge and presided over cases in the trial courts as a special judge for many years.

Supreme Court Justice Leslie D. King served together with Judge Bridges on the Court of Appeals. “We became close friends as we worked together. Billy was a very thorough and considered individual in his work. He took his time in looking very carefully at the matters before the Court. He cared a great deal about his work and the people who came before the Court,” Justice King said. “He was also concerned about the judiciary and the appearance of the judiciary to the public. Billy was a fine example of what you would want to see in a judge. He is someone whom I’m happy to have known as a colleague and a friend.”

Court of Appeals Chief Judge Donna Barnes of Tupelo also served with Judge Bridges. “It was an honor to serve with him. The vast experience he brought to Court of Appeals deliberations was truly remarkable,” she said.

Before his election to the Court of Appeals, Judge Bridges served as a chancery judge of the 20th Chancery District of Rankin County. He was district attorney for the 20th Circuit Court District of Rankin and Madison counties, and Rankin County prosecuting attorney. He served in other legal positions including board attorney for the Town of Florence, the Town of Pelahatchie, the Rankin Medical Center, and the Rankin County School Board. He spent more than 38 years in public service, not including his work as a senior status judge. He practiced law in Rankin County for 33 years. Former Supreme Court Chief Justice James W. Smith Jr. was one of his law partners in private practice.

Judge Bridges grew up in Pearl. His family moved from Simpson to Rankin County when he was two. He graduated from Pearl High School in 1952. He attended Hinds Community College before going to the University of Mississippi, where he earned a bachelor of business administration degree in 1958. Judge Bridges pursued his study of law at the University of Mississippi School of Law and was awarded an LLB degree in 1961 and a Juris Doctor in 1968.

Judge Bridges served in the U.S. Marines during the Korean War, attaining the rank of sergeant. He went to college on the GI Bill.

Judge Bridges held membership in a number of prestigious legal organizations including Who’s Who of American Judges, American College of Trial Judges, Mississippi Bar Foundation, Mississippi Municipal Attorneys Association, American Society of Hospital Board Associations, Mississippi Hospital Board Attorneys, and the Mississippi Continuing Judicial Education Committee.

He was a member of Crossgates Baptist Church in Brandon and was affiliated with Gideons International.

Reprise: What’s in a Name … Change?

November 22, 2019 § Leave a comment

Reprise replays posts from the past that you may find useful today.

Naming Names

April 15, 2015 § 7 Comments

Requests for name changes are something every family practitioner encounters.

There are two general categories: (1) the change of name only; and (2) correction or change of birth certificate.

If you are seeking to change a person’s name only, without affecting the birth certificate, you proceed under MCA 93-17-1(1). Most often, this type name change is in the context or wake of a divorce action, where the woman wants her surname restored to her former name. That is an ex parte matter, since there is no other interested party. Except, however, in the context of the divorce, in which the estranged spouse may object. I represented a woman in an ID divorce once, and her husband adamantly and quixotically refused to agree to any provision in the PSA allowing her to change her name. I advised her to agree, and threw in a separate name-change action after the divorce was final.

Divorces are not the only reason for a name change. Some people simply don’t like their given name, or want to honor someone. I signed a judgment not long ago for a young man who wanted to change his surname to that of his step-father, who had raised him and was the only father he had ever known. If you are changing the name of a child, both parents must join.

In neither of the above scenarios does the birth certificate change. In order to change the birth certificate, more is required.

If you wish to change any birth fact on the birth certificate, then you proceed under MCA 41-57-23, which requires that you make the State Registrar of Vital Records a party. Typically, lawyers simply mail a copy of the complaint to the State Board of Health with a request for a response, and the agency will file an answer, most often either admitting the relief sought or leaving it up to the court. If you fail to make the agency a party, the judge will send you back to the drawing board.

Keep in mind that changing birth facts requires some proof, more than mere assertions. If you are trying to correct an incorrect name on the birth certificate, produce driver’s license, Social Security card, school records, and affidavits showing the correct information. If you are trying to correct a birth date, baptismal records, affidavits, school records, and the like will support your claim.

Another kind of birth certificate change is set out in MCA 93-17-1(2), which allows the court to “legitimize” a child when the natural father marries the natural mother. Again, you must make the State Registrar of Vital Records a party.

Name changes are fairly simple. Just keep in mind that if it’s for an adult, it’s ex parte. If it’s for a child, the parents must be joined. If it effects a change in a birth certificate, the state must be made a party. It’s embarrassing and costly to drive two counties over only to have a judge say, “Sorry, you have to make the parents or the State Department of Health a party.”


§ 7 Responses to Naming Names

  • The most interesting name change I have ever witnessed was after the Saints won the Super Bowl in 2010. One day while waiting to be heard in a case, I sat through a name change in which the Chancellor changed a little boy’s middle name to Brees. His first name was already Drew, making his new name Drew Brees _____. His mother had promised him before the season started that “if the Saints win the Super Bowl,” he could change his name to Drew Brees. She made good on her promise!

  • Lou Walker

    I practice in DeSoto County, and one of the issues I have seen is a Mississippi resident trying to change a Tennessee birth certificate. courts in TN will not hear the action because they parents are not TN residents. That leaves them in the position to ask a MS court to order the TN BVS to change a birth certificate. The TN BVS does not require any notice (I have called them and asked where to send notice and they told me not to. I also am licensed in TN. I have not had a problem thus far with TN recognizing the order to change the name from the MS court and changing the name on the birth certificate, but it is with a line through the old name and the corrected name noted above.
    I am concerned about one that I have recently been asked to do. TN law provides that BVS will change the name based on a court order and they recognize the out of state order that changed the name, but the BVS requires that a court order must specifically order them to block and delete if the name should be completely removed. I now have a couple who what that done, and I am concerned that the MS court will refuse to order the TN BVS to take any action. It is one thing to declare a name changed. It is entirely another to order an agency of another state to make specific changes to a birth certificate. I will try to remember to update this when I see how that works out!

    • Lou Walker

      Wow! I need an editor to check my grammar before I hit the enter key! Sorry for the mistakes.

    • I have signed orders for other states — Alabama and Louisiana for sure (maybe more that I do not recall) to change BC’s. In each case the lawyers told me that they had contacted the agency in the other state and were advised to get Mississippi court order. I was dubious at first, but the lawyers tell me that it worked.

  • Ben Conner

    Rule 81(d)(1) says “The following actions and matters shall be triable 30 days after completion of service of process…., to-wit: ….correction of birth certificate; alteration of name….” 81(d)(3) then says, “Complaints and petitions filed in the actions and matters enumerated…shall not be taken as confessed.”

    I’ve had to name-change three elderly ladies. In each case, the Department of Public Safety had refused to renew a drivers license because the name on the DL was not identical to the name on the Social Security Card. State statute requires that their first name from their birth certificate must appear as their first name on their drivers license. Each of these ladies had been called by their middle name all their lives. Each had Social Security records using [middle name][initial][recent married name]. Department of Public Safety now insists that all identification cards reflect the same name. I think it has something to do with the Patriot Act and its progeny. DPS won’t let them adopt a different “first name”. Each lady had used multiple variations and iterations of initials, names, and multiple surnames through the years. The problem presenting to the attorney practitioner is that these ladies could not renew their drivers licenses because their names were different as between social security card and drivers license.

    They do not need to correct a birth certificate because there is no error in the record of their birth. Discrepancies arose much later. They could change their social security card name, but then all of their employment, and credit history, private retirement benefit, tax records, and property ownership records would be inconsistent with their id cards.

    The solution is a name change. Not correction of birth certificate.

    So far, I’ve had good success by reciting all of the different iterations of name used by Complainant in her lifetime. Upon presentation of proof, I ask my chancellor to make a finding that each of these names is one and the same person as the Complainant. So far, a certified copy of this Judgment has satisfied DPS, Social Security, U.S. Customs (Passports), and private investment holders. Complainant picks one of her names and is told to stick to that one.

    Procedurally, there are two obstacles. First, 81d matters cannot be confessed. There must be a record. Second, 81d matters are not triable until 30 days after somebody is served with process. If Complainant names the Bureau of Vital Statistics as a party defendant, the special assistant AG assigned to BVS will answer and refuse to amend, correct, or alter the birth certificate and offer to make a “marginal notation” of the name change on their records. This procedure satisfies Rule 81 and provides a trackable history of identity changes in conformity with DPS, BVS, and the Patriot Act.

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