I am Tom Freeland, a lawyer in Oxford, Mississippi. The picture in the header is my law office. I'm on Twitter as NMissC

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Notes on the Mississippi Supreme Court May 28th decisions list

The big news from last Thursday at the Mississippi Supreme Court was three divided opinions involving Justice Pierce, which makes this his biggest decision list yet (He had one opinion, a post-conviction case, on the April 2nd list, and two opinions, a divorce and a criminal case, on the April 23rd list. The last drew a Kitchens dissent and the others were unanimous. I’ve not posted about those decisions lists yet), and a unanimous decision by Justice Dickinson about child custody.

I’m just going to quickly summarize a few of the unanimous opinions:

  • Wallace v. State is a Randolph opinion involving sexual battery of a minor.  The issue is whether a defendant convicted of assault on a minor was entitled to a lesser included offense instruction for simple assault; the court held it was not a lesser included offense and affirmed.
  • Greene County, Mississippi v. Corp. Management is a Dickinson opinion involving the cancellation of a hospital management contract, it is largely occupied by questions about the relative authority of the county board of supervisors and the trustees of the county’s hospital.
  • Dr. K.B. and Dr. R.M. v. J.G. is a Dickinson opinion about the rights of a father when the mother allows the adoption of twins born out of wedlock.
  • Rogers v. Cain is a Kitchens order (to be published in the reporter) in an election case, heard en banc, about appeals from a ballot access decision in Ackerman.

The three split cases all had Pierce opinions on one side or the other.  Of those, one, Duckworth v. Warren, is a civil case, involving a high speed police pursuit that began in Alabama and ended with a head-on collision in Monroe County.  The question is liability of the State of Alabama and one of its patrolmen; Carlson wrote (overturning a defense summary judgment) and Pierce dissents, alone.  Another is a Pierce opinion about entitlement to a competency hearing.  In that case, Sanders v. State, he’s joined by Carlson, Dickinson, and Lamar.  Kitchens, with Dickinson, concurrs in the result only and explains.  Waller dissents, joined by Randolph and Chandler.  Graves doesn’t participate.  The last is a death penalty direct appeal, Goff v. State, in which Pierce wrote the majority opinion.  The case splits on whether there was proof of robbery (Kitchens dissents on this in an opinion in which Chandler joins) and whether there should have been a 2-theory circumstantial evidence instruction on the robbery charge (Waller dissents, joined by Graves and Kitchens).  Dickisnon specially concurs in Pierce’s opinion, joined by Carlson, Randolph, Lamar, Pierce;  Randolph specially concurs joined by Carlson, Dickinson, Lamar & Pierce

The last opinion I think is a very important one. It’s a unanimous Dickinson opinion in a child custody case, S.G. v. D.C., in which the Court reverses for the trial court refusal to allow a grandparent to intervene in a custody dispute.  Justice Dickinson goes deep into the record and uses the opinion for a very useful and very thorough explanation of the role and responsibilities of a guardian ad litem in such cases.  It has been discussed in comments, following this one, with some discussion by one of the lawyers who won the case.

I’m going to try to post more later about the three split opinions involving Justice Pierce.  For now, I’ll post this to see what folks think.

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