Comment Bump: Earwigging the Chancellor

Editor’s note: We are not going to do any analysis or comment on the ex partay until all the kids hand in their homework.  In the meantime, the infamous Nunn Yabidnez weighs in on the ex partay, centered around the rule that forbids anyone from “earwigging the Chancellor” or “putting a bug in his ear.”  Special note for Scott Taylor and those in Rio Linda:  this does not actually mean someone will place an insect in a chancellor’s external auditory meatus.

 

Hilburn, a STATE appointed special judge, Singletary, the Special Master Hilburn appointed in a STATE case and Simpson, the Special Fiduciary appointed in a STATE case had absolutely no plausible need or arguably valid reason to be at such a meeting, “secret” or otherwise. The attorneys for a few members of a putative class, the Defendants’ attorneys, and reps of some of the Defendants were by their own admissions discussing settlement in a FEDERAL lawsuit that involved the exact same set of facts as the parallel STATE case. Even if none of the attendees intended to “discuss” any state cases, the presence of Hilburn, Singletary and Simpson was at best unnecessary and every attorney there including the judges and attorney/trustee Taylor knew or should have known it was a highly improper clear violation of numerous rules.

With it being a Chancery Court matter at the state, they were operating under not only the Rules of Professional Conduct and/or Code of Judicial Conduct, but also the Uniform Chancery Court Rules. Rule 3.10 states in part:

“No person shall undertake to discuss with or in the presence or hearing of the Chancellor the law or the facts or alleged facts of any litigated action then pending in the Court or likely to be instituted therein, except in the orderly progress of the trial, and arguments or briefs connected therewith.” and “Any person who shall violate this rule, knowing that such conduct is prohibited, shall be guilty of a contempt.” If they did not know Rule 3.10, they are not competent lawyers and if they did, they are guilty violating the rules and guilty of a contempt. Continue reading

Supremes to Hilburn: Explain Your Stay

The Mississippi Supreme Court today ordered Judge Breland Hilburn to explain his reasoning for entering a stay in the Almond case.  Judge Hilburn has until noon Wednesday to file his response.

Filing responses today were former SRHS Trustee Scott Taylor, SRHS attorneys Kelly Sessoms and Brett Williams, and Jackson County attorney Billy Guice.

The responses of Special Master Britt Singletary, Special Fiduciary Steve Simpson, along with plaintiffs’ attorneys Jim Reeves and Matt Mestayer are due tomorrow.

Order to Judge Hilburn
Response of Billy Guice
Response of Sessoms & Williams
Response of Scott Taylor

Justice Kitchens on Judge Hilburn

Judge Hilburn, who had been a law school classmate of mine, proceeded to break the news that he was appointing me and another Jackson lawyer, Merrida (Buddy) Coxwell, to defend Byron De La Beckwith, the indigent defendant in the resurrection of an infamous but unresolved murder case from Mississippi’s violent passage through the Civil Rights Era of the 1960s. He went on to tell me, as he was concluding that short phone call, “About fifty lawyers have asked me to appoint them to represent Beckwith.”  “Then why the hell didn’t you appoint couple of them?” I asked, making no effort to conceal my incredulity. “Because I don’t want his conviction to be reversed because of ineffective assistance of counsel,” he answered. “Oh, he’s going to be convicted?” The judge quickly responded, “I mean if he’s convicted.” “See you tomorrow morning,” he concluded. The only thing I could say was “Yes, Sir.”

Excerpt from presentation materials by Mississippi Supreme Court Justice James Kitchens to the Kentucky Bar Association 2015 Convention.

June 17, 2015  Lexington, Kentucky

Midweek Musical Repose

Can’t you just imagine a partner taking his associate along for a ride down to the judge’s chambers? Share some coffee, rehash the National Championship game, talk about how Ole Miss beat Alabama in the regular season, and crack a few jokes.  A few taps on an iPad later and those pesky cases just got stayed. Who cares about the timing? The erstwhile judge already had his mind made up anyways, didn’t he?

What Conway is trying to tell ya, is that it gets easier with practice. Sure, you’re nervous and sweatin’ now, but you’ll be back-slappin’ and glad-handin’ in no time.

 

Rough Notes on Billy Guice and the Ex Partay

An attendee at today’s JCBOS meeting sends in some rough notes taken during Randy Bosarge and Ken Taylor’s questioning of Mr. Guice.  We are informed that Mr. Taylor was thorough in his examination of Mr. Guice and that the questions and answers ranged beyond what is presented below.  We are grateful to the various contributors who take their time to share notes, ideas, and recordings. Without those contributors, this publication would not be what it is.

Some of the notes are direct quotes, some are made in the form of meeting minutes.


 

On Thursday or Friday I received a communication from the Special Master to attend a meeting at 2:30 at the Special Master’s office.  A meeting where Judge Hilburn will attend to discuss the Special Fiduciary and pending action in US District Court.

Meeting was to be with the Special Fiduciary, Reeves, myself, and Brett Williams with Singing River.

Meeting called by Special Master was consistent with an order earlier entered allowing ex parte communications with the Court and the special master.

Court has used me to communicate. Celeste Oglesby was present at the meeting.

There was limited discussion related to football and jokes. During the course, Judge Hilburn arrived at 3:30. He entered, sat down and indicated “I don’t’ want to do anything improper, don’t want to discuss motions…”

Guice was asked why he was so quiet, to which he replied he didn’t have much to say.  After he [Judge Hilburn] left they discussed what will happen tomorrow. Judge Guirola will rule on the settlement.

The trust was the intent of the event – but not the content.

Were there any other meetings?  Yes. There were other meetings early on with special master, David Houston, and Guice met under the order for ex parte communications. Guice explained calculations of plain explained actuarial projects etc. He provided the information to the Court when requested to give to special master under the order authorizing ex parte communication.  Guice stated he did this so the special master and mediator would not have to reinvent the wheel – they could not reinvent the wheel.

Lucy Tufts and Cal Mayo played a role in drafting the settlement agreement. Mayo told Guice that “attorneys’ fees given to plaintiffs are not to stand in the way of a deal.”

Guice couldn’t cite the section of the Mississippi Constitution which prohibits funding the pension plan. No one else attended by telephone.

As the Fan Turns

It’s flying everywhere.  Round up time.

Over in Ocean Springs it’s John McKay day, which is appropriate as his legacy on the SRHS Board of Trustees just ended and Scott Walker got out of jail. The Mississippi Pravda reached peak kiss-ass today, but what else did you expect?

A new lawsuit filed in federal court on behalf of a retired nurse names SRHS entities, KPMG, Transamerica Retirement Solutions, Jackson County, and John Does A-Z as defendants.

District 5 Supervisor Randy Bosarge has issued an open call for resumes for anyone interested in serving on the SRHS Board of Trustees – you must reside in District 5.

At the JCBOS meeting, Billy Guice got called on the carpet for his attendance at the “ex partay” with a couple of judges and a bushel of lawyers. He implicated Celestial Reep Oglesby as also being present.  He claims the “meeting called by the Special Master was consistent with an order earlier entered allowing ex parte communication with the Court and Special Master.”

The Mississippi Supreme Court issued an order to everyone involved at the “ex partay” to file a response by next Tuesday, Jan. 26.  See the order here.

SRHS filed their response in the Supreme Court case.   Nowhere in the response to do they assert the existence of the order of which Billy Guice speaks.

So far Scott Taylor must feel safe ensconced in Ocean Springs’ only gated neighborhood.  The Jackson County Sheriff’s Department has no mention of any reports of threats of arson.

 

What Gains Does Settlement Provide?

When Singing River voted to terminate the pension plan, that vote also contemplated setting up a new plan. The new pension plan would have:

  1. Paid a fixed percentage average compensation multiplied by years of credited service
  2. Credited service would stop at the date of the “hard freeze”
  3. No “cost of living” increases or adjustments
  4. No employee contributions
  5. The choice to take benefits as a lump sum, or roll over to 403(b) plan, or to continue in the new plan

Continue reading

Timeline of Ex Parte Meeting

Billy Guice entered Singletary’s office at 2:26 p.m. Guice is alone with Singletary for 52 minutes until 3:18 p.m. when Scott Taylor arrives.

  • 2:26  Billy Guice arrives
  • 3:18  Scott Taylor arrives
  • 3:24  Jim Reeves & Matt Mestayer arrive
  • 3:27  Kelly Sessoms & Brett Williams arrive
  • 3:28  Breland Hilburn arrives
  • 3:37  Steve Simpson arrives
  • 4:04  Everyone begins to leave
  1. Billy Guice represents a non-party to the Lay case
  2. Billy Guice represents a defendant in the Almond case
  3. Singletary is Special Master in the Almond Case
  4. Billy Guice was in Singletary’s office 52 minutes before the next party, Scott Taylor, arrived
  5. Scott Taylor sits on the board of SRHS, also a defendant in the Almond case

If counsel for non-parties to Lay were invited to this conference, surely counsel for KPMG would have been as well. Maybe someone at Brunini or Sutherland can inform us.