A Law Library in Your Pocket

October 10, 2013 § 1 Comment

MC Law scores again in the “Useful Things for the Practice of Law Department.” This time, it’s an almost-app you can add to your home screen on your mobile phone, tablet, or even your laptop. 

I say “almost-app” because it’s really a link to a web site you access via your mobile, but the text is maximized for mobile use.

The link is http://law.mc.edu/mlr/. Enter it in your browser and follow the instructions to add an app-like link to your home screen.

Here’s what you will find in this mini-library:

  • MRCP
  • MRE
  • MRAP
  • Rules of Professional Conduct
  • MCA 1972
  • MSSC Opinions
  • MCA Opinions
  • All Court Rules
  • Constitutions of 1890, 1868, 1832, and 1817.
  • MC Law Library Online Catalog
  • Judicial Data Project
  • Legislative History Project

It also includes the federal rules and even has access to PACER.

MC Law continues to lead the way in innovations that are not only useful and helpful for pratitioners, but also in a readily-accessible form. Almost everyone carries a cell phone around, even to court. When the judge says, “If you would read Rule 81, you would know what I am talking about …” you can whip out your cell phone, tap a couple of screens, and scroll to the very subsection in question.

And when you’re sitting in the back of the courtroom for a couple of hours waiting to present your case, it’s comforting to know that you can spend that time reading (or re-reading) the Constitution of 1817.

We’ve talked here before about MC’s ingenious Judicial Data Project. It’s a treasure trove of appellate information, including a database of briefs, videos of oral arguments, decisions, and more.

The Legislative History Project is a video archive of legislative debate over individual bills and select resolutions as they actually took place on the floor of the Mississippi House of Representatives and Mississippi Senate. Searchable by bill number, bill author, and bill description. The site says, “Provided with each video clip is a summary of legislative action taken that day. The project also links to the Mississippi Legislature Web page where more information may be obtained regarding the individual bills and their principal author.”


August 31, 2011 § 8 Comments

Federal judges have it made.

They can say what’s really on their minds without fear of an inflamed bar, or elective repercussions, or the judicial performance commission.

As Exhibit A, I offer this court order from a Texas federal district court in a discovery dispute:

As I’ve said here before, some judges have no patience for discovery disputes.

Thanks to Attorney Marcus Evans


February 14, 2011 § 1 Comment

You have filed a Complaint for Divorce for your client, and thirty days have elapsed with no answer being filed by defendant. Your client wants you to get this over with, and has been calling and asking when you plan to present his case to the court. Only problem is you received a letter from another attorney the day after the defendant was served with process. The letter says that she wants to settle, and if no settlement can be reached, she intends to defend. Since that letter, though, you haven’t heard anything further.

What do you do? Can you present the case as an uncontested divorce? Do you have a duty to tell the court about the letter?

The facts above are close to those in Holmes v. Holmes, 628 So.2d 1361, (Miss. 1993), in which the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed a chancellor’s refusal to set aside an uncontested judgment of divorce in those circumstances. The supreme court stated:

“In the case at bar, Mrs. Holmes promptly contacted an attorney. Her attorney wrote her husband’s attorney and informed him that Mrs. Holmes was represented by counsel and that she wished to settle the case if possible; however, he made clear Mrs. Holmes’ intent to defend the suit should no settlement be reached. With knowledge of this letter, Mr. Holmes’ attorney nevertheless proceeded to secure a divorce by default against Mrs. Holmes. In this regard, his conduct suggests gamesmanship. In the Comment to M.R.C.P. 1, it is stated that “properly utilized, the rules will tend to discourage battles over mere form and to sweep away needless procedural controversies that either delay a trial on the merits or deny a party his day in court because of technical deficiencies.” Conversely, improper utilization of the rules invariably results in the type of gamesmanship and ambush techniques, employed in the case at bar, that the rules were designed to abolish. We refuse to condone such behavior and therefore reverse the judgment of the chancellor and remand for proceedings consistent with the opinion rendered in this cause.”

So what is your duty to the court? At your first opportunity, tell the judge with all candor what contact you have had from another attorney. The judge will decide whether the contact is sufficient to constitute an appearance. You should offer the court any correspondence for the judge to examine. If your only contact was in the form of a conversation, relate accurately what the conversation was. Sometimes that contact was with the other party. Tell the court and let the judge decide whether it was enough to be treated as a contest. The judge may rule that the other side is entitled to a notice of hearing before you may proceed.

If you fail to disclose contact from another attorney or the other party, you run the risk that the other side may file a motion to set aside that judgment, and the judge may just file away a mental note about you that you are one of those lawyers who doesn’t tell the court all it needs to know to make a fair decision.

Read the entire Holmes decision and keep in mind the supreme court’s use of the distasteful terms “gamesmanship and ambush techniques.” Judges don’t appreciate those kinds of tactics that bring both the courts and the legal profession into disrepute.


December 2, 2010 § Leave a comment

A Meridian lawyer passed this on from his LAWYERS desk calendar …

During a 1989 case in municipal court in Middletown, Ohio, a lawyer asked the judge to be excused from representing his client.

The judge scanned the courtroom, looking for a suitable replacement.  But before he could find one, the defendant stood up and said, “That’s all right, Judge.  I won’t be needing another lawyer.  I’ve decided to tell the truth.”


November 4, 2010 § 1 Comment

In District 7 (Tunica, Quitman, Coahoma, Tallahatchie and Leflore Counties), Place 1, Catherine Farris-Carter of Shaw opposed Tom T. Ross, Jr., of Clarksdale. 

Farris-Carter  52%  Elected

Ross  48%

Also in District 7, Place 3, W. M. Sanders of Greenwood and Jimmy Miller of Marks faced off for a newly-created seat.

Sanders  63%  Elected

Miller  37%

District 8 (Hancock, Harrison and Stone Counties) to take the place of retiring Chancellor Margaret Alfonso.  Candidates were:  Jennifer Schloegel and Dara Skinner, of Gulfport; and Robert G. Harenski, William E. Tisdale and Fran Yeatts, all of Biloxi. 

Schloegel  51%  Elected

Skinner  13%

Harenski  11%

Tisdale  21%

Yeatts  3% 

In District 10 (Forrest, Lamar, Pearl River and Perry Counties), for Place 2, to replace Judge Sebe Dale.  The candidates were Dawn H. Beam of Sumrall, Scott Phillips of Columbia, and Aaron L. Russell of Carriere.

Beam  47%  Runoff

Phillips  36%  Runoff

Russell  17%   

In District 10 (Forrest, Lamar, Pearl River and Perry Counties), to replace deceased Judge James H. Thomas, write-in.

I learned from an unofficial but well-placed source that Judge Thomas actually received 54% of the vote, and, as a result, Governor Barbour will appoint a replacement. 

In District 13 (Covington, Jefferson Davis, Lawrence, Simpson, and Smith Counties), incumbent Judge Larry Buffington of Collins faced opponents Douglas MacArthur Magee of Mendenhall and David Shoemake of Collins.

Buffington  44%  Runoff

Magee  11%

Shoemake  45%  Runoff

In District 18 (Benton, Calhoun, Lafayette, Marshall and Tippah Counties), incumbent Judge Edwin H. Roberts, Jr. was opposed by Helen Kennedy Robinson of Oxford.

Roberts  69%  Elected

Robinson  31%

A comprehensive recap of all the election results is here.


June 23, 2010 § Leave a comment

Around 120 people gathered Tuesday afternoon to honor Judge J. Max Kilpatrick, who retires from his seat in District Six (Attala, Carroll, Choctaw, Kemper, Neshoba and Winston).  

Enjoying the company and refreshments in the beautifully-refurnished Neshoba County Court House.

Among the crowd were elected officials from throughout the district, lawyers, court house personnel and judges. 

Judges included Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice William Waller, Circuit Judges Clarence Morgan of Kosciusko and Vernon Cotten of Carthage, and Chancellors Ed Fenwick of Kosciusko, Ed Patten of Hazelhurst, and I, as well as incoming Chancery Judge Joey Kilgore.

(L to R) Incoming Judge Kilgore, Judge Kilpatrick and Judge Patten

Choctaw Attorney General Don Kilgore and Chief Justice Waller


June 22, 2010 § Leave a comment

Lauderdale County Deputy Clerk Cerlenza Grace is STAR OF THE WEEK in Monday’s MERIDIAN STAR.  You can read all about it here.   

Congratulations, Cerlenza.


June 21, 2010 § 7 Comments

Court time in Clarke County is always enjoyable thanks to the friendly staff in the court house who go out of their way to be helpful and hospitable.  As good as it is, though, that favorable atmosphere is about to improve. 

The new court room upstairs in the main building is near completion.  The supervisors and the contractor are in the final phases, going over punch lists.  When the work is finally accepted by the supervisors, Clarke County will have a shining jewel that every citizen can be proud of.

The new court room is airy and modern

It wasn’t too many years ago that the Clarke County Court House was shabby and inadequate.  Cheap plywood panelling covered the walls and the windows in the court room — someone’s ineffective notion about how to keep out the roar of the big trucks passing on Hy 45 in front of the building.   The balcony and vintage pressed-tin ceiling were concealed by a suspended celotex ceiling.  The building had a shabby sense of decay that was heightened by its dusty, dirty state. 

I tried many cases in that old court room.  It was common to hear the cooing of pigeons nesting between the panelling while a witness droned on.  Before the bypass took the heavy trucks out of town, one could hear the big windows shaking behind the panelling as they rumbled through the stoplight.  I remember during one trial a thunderstorm raged outside and a water leak flooded counsel’s table.  Sad to say, but the court house back then reflected what many people thought of Quitman and Clarke County:  A community in decline, its better days in the past.

Looking from behind the bench toward the audience and balcony

All that changed in the late 90’s, when the Board of Supervisors took an interest in upgrading the court house.  They added the new building with its new, modern court room and offices.  The new building provided plenty of space for the courts, with meeting space for the Grand Jury and a D.A.’s office, as well as a library.  With the new building came a renewed sense of pride, and the dust, dirt and grime were banished in both the new and old buildings.  Floors were polished and windows cleaned.  The court house staff was energized. 

A treasure concealed for many years

Meanwhile, the lights were turned off in the old court room, which was left to languish.  Before long, however, some Clarke Countians interested in preserving the best of the past were nosing around the old court room to see whether it could be restored to its pre-plywood-panelling days.  They found the old, pressed-tin ceiling, an Edwardian architectural detail that can not be duplicated today.  They also found behind the celotex a labyrinth of ventialtion ducts and utilities.  Conventional wisdom would have dictated that it was simply too big a job for little Clarke County, with its shrunken tax base and many other priorities.  It seemed too much to hope for that the court room could actually be restored.

To their credit, the supervisors stepped up and committed to the work.  It has taken around 5 years, but the work is nearly completed now, and when the court room is furnished it will be ready for business.

Clarke County deserves praise for recognizing that a clean, orderly, businesslike court house with attractive court facilities is not only a service to its citizens, but also is a reflection on the community as a whole.  Where Clarke County’s Court House used to send the message of a tired, dying community in decline, the new facilities speak loudly of a progressive community alive with potential and ready to roll up its sleeves and go to work.

Clarke County:  Give yourselves a pat on the back.

Something to be proud of in Quitman

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