Swiss Cheese Chronicles: Is Simpson Misleading the Supremes?

Reading the response of Special Fiduciary Steve Simpson opens more holes and questions:

  1. Why does Simpson not mention the orders he asked Judge Hilburn to sign?
  2. How does a judge hear an oral motion when there is no hearing?
  3. How did Simpson know to have Hilburn sign the motions at that meeting?
  4. Were there earlier, deliberative communications amongst the parties?
No Mention of Signed Orders

Though former Circuit Judge Stephen Simpson spends hundreds of words to explain his actions and impugn other attorneys, he makes one glaring omission:  he doesn’t bother to inform the Supreme Court that Judge Hilburn signed four (4) separate orders at Simpson’s request.  Simpson says that Denham and Barton’s “six cases were not the subject of that meeting.”

Simpson states to the Court that this was a “settlement conference” that had nothing to do with Almond or any other Denham and Barton case. Despite his assertion, Simpson asked Judge Hilburn to issue an order authorizing him to enter into a settlement.  Judge Hilburn makes mention of this in his response: Continue reading

Swiss Cheese Chronicles: Sua Sponte or on Motion of the Parties?

In reading the responses to the Miss. Supreme Court, the phrase “missing the forest for the trees” springs to mind.  It seems that all parties involved have become so focused on the competing federal and chancery cases, they forget the underlying and undeniable facts.  Subsequent to the ex parte hearing, six separate orders were entered in the Almond and Lay cases.  These are orders that were a result of action taken at the January 12 meeting.

  1. Order Granting Motion to Intervene by Special Fiduciary
  2. Order Authorizing Special Fiduciary Trustee to Enter into Settlement and Release
  3. Order Authorizing Payment of Special Fiduciary Fees
  4. Order Approving Invoice for Payment by Parties
  5. Order Approving Fees and Expenses of Charles J. Mikhail
  6. E-mail order staying all cases and cancelling hearings

These are facts that are not in dispute. Some lawyers are now making claims which fly in the face of facts and the record of the court. Continue reading

OPINION: Where is Guice’s Magical Ex Parte Communications Order?

When Jackson County Supervisors Ken Taylor and Randy Bosarge had Billy Guice explain his appearance at an ex parte hearing, he justified it by claiming that there was an “order authorizing ex parte communications.”  Guice did not say which judge entered the order, nor in which case it had been entered. It would seem Guice had a “get out of jail free” card.

SRHS Watch scrutinized the dockets of both the federal and chancery courts and could find no order bearing any similarity to what Guice described.

You might think that if such an order existed, it would be a great defense to scurrilous claims.  If the Mississippi Supreme Court ordered you to explain your conduct at such ex parte hearings, you could point to a court order and simply say “the judge authorized this and I followed his order.”  We waited for Guice’s response to see which order he was talking about.

Guice spends 22 pages in his response to the Supreme Court.  Nowhere within those 22 pages does Guice make the claim that his actions were sanctioned by, or pursuant to, an “order authorizing ex parte communications.”  A “get out of jail free” order that existed a week ago has now magically vanished. Continue reading

Disburse v. Disperse or Your Tax Dollars (not) at Work

The grammatical shortcomings of Judge Hilburn are legendary, but reading the responses to the Supreme Court from other attorneys is a mind warping experience.

Guice: After the departure of Special Judge Hilburn, attendees of the meeting left the room, but did not immediately disburse as a number remained on the street outside the office chatting.

Singletary: The group gradually disbursed and said their good-byes on the sidewalk outside my office.

Maybe Guice and Singletary are correct. Maybe money was exchanging hands. Was it a homophonic error or a Freudian slip?



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

Emergency Motion Filed at Supreme Court – Alleges Judicial Corruption

Attorneys Harvey Barton and Earl Denham have filed a motion with the Mississippi Supreme Court asking for an emergency hearing on their cases in the Singing River pension matter.
Barton and Denham point to video of a secret meeting by the judges in the case and attorneys from SRHS and for other plaintiffs.

The motion alleges a secret meeting was held at Special Master Britt Singletary’s Biloxi office. The meeting concluded less than an hour before Judge Hilburn issued orders on several motions before canceling hearings scheduled the next day. Hilburn has put an indefinite pause in place on all of his cases related to SRHS. A motion asking Hilburn and Singletary to recuse was still pending when Hilburn ordered the pause.

Attendees of the Tuesday, January 12, 2015 meeting are alleged to include:

  • Judge Breland Hilburn
  • Special Master Britt Singletary
  • Special Fiduciary Steve Simpson
  • Brett Williams, attorney for SRHS
  • Kelly Sessoms, attorney for SRHS
  • Scott Taylor, SRHS trustee and also a licensed attorney
  • Billy Guice, special counsel for the Jackson County Board of Supervisors
  • Jim Reeves, attorney for one group of plaintiffs
  • Matt Mestayer, partner with Jim Reeves, attorney for plaintiffs

Reeves, Guice, and attorneys for SRHS have recently signed a settlement agreement which seeks to stop all litigation against Singing River.

Barton and Denham’s motion asks the court to:

  • Allow the cases to continue
  • Remove Judge Breland Hilburn from overseeing the cases
  • Remove Britt Singletary as special master in the cases
  • Remove Steve Simpson as special fiduciary
  • Remove Dogan & Wilkinson, Brett Williams and Kelly Sessoms from representing SRHS
  • Remove Jim Reeves and Matt Mestayer from representing anyone in connection to the case
  • Remove Scott Taylor from his position as a trustee of SRHS
  • Appoint a new judge to oversee the cases

SRHS Watch will update this story as more information comes available.

Read the 57 page motion here.


Opinion: Harris & Board Should Respect Citizens, Public Policy

For anyone to top the imperious style with which Barry Cumbest presided over the JCBOS would be a tough act, yet Melton Harris has succeeded.  The voters and citizens of this county (for whom Mr. Harris seemingly has little regard) should not be at all surprised.  Harris gave a preview of what was to come two weeks ago in his comments to a reporter.

Harris remarked that he had trouble understanding why the public (read: voters) kept referring to “the new board.”  He was quite animated when he noted that only two board members were new and three incumbents remained.  Harris felt that the idea that there was a “new board” was one of the “most asinine” ideas he’d heard. It appears the colloquialism was lost on him.

Today Harris is quoted by Karen Nelson in the Sun Herald as saying, “our meeting is not to be swayed by public comment.”  This makes clear how Harris feels about the public policy of this state.  He further stated that such comments “bog down” the meetings.  Apparently Harris has a million trillion things he’d rather do than listen to you.

It seems that Mr. Harris finds the idea of public service to be inconvenient and distasteful and has little respect for the traditions of transparent government upon which this nation was founded. Mr. Harris cites as support for his limiting public comments the US Congress and the Mississippi Legislature.  He notes that there are no public comments available in such forums. This argument fails as these two bodies are ultimately more transparent.  There is a robust process of deliberation,  the full text of all legislative proposals are made available online well in advance of votes, the proceedings are broadcast live, and there are almost no sessions held in secret.  Both bodies also have regular committee meetings wherein testimony, both written and oral, is solicited from those to be affected by legislation. Committee hearings are indeed the ultimate “Q&A” session.

The last year left the JCBOS somewhat immune from pressure from open government groups. The prospect of electoral change was thought to eliminate the need to expend limited resources and funds on litigation with a board who might soon be replaced. The next election is four years away and certain members of the board are starting off on the wrong foot.  Again, we encourage the board to read, digest, appreciate, and apply Common Cause v. Hinds County. The board should do the same for our state’s Open Meetings Act.

There stands ready a group of volunteers, lawyers, and open government groups to file complaints with the ethics commission and to file suit in chancery court to enforce the orders of same.

SRHS Watch has already learned of at least one actionable item based on Common Cause that took place at today’s meeting.

PLEASE TAKE NOTICE: The discussion of any item of county business in executive session which was not cited as a reason for entering executive session is in violation of our state’s Open Meetings Act.

Media Coverage:

New board members shot down on issues of public input, comment, Karen Nelson, Sun Herald

Jackson County supervisors decide to replace board attorney Yancey, Karen Nelson, Sun Herald



Elvis’ Greatest Hits

The scene from Tuesday’s meeting on Lake George was one that could have been set In the Ghetto. Elvis Mark Cumbest (his full name) probably wants to Make the World Go Away today after “the slap heard ’round Jackson County” left him All Shook Up. The Trouble started when Cumbest began his Harum Scarum address to the audience, for some it was simply Too Much. It appears many had Suspicious Minds regarding the potential profits for the Cumbest family. With the people of Jackson County Catchin’ on Fast, answers to questions were in short supply.

Mark Cumbest currently serves on two state boards: the Mississippi Real Estate Commission and the Mississippi Windstorm Underwriting Association. He was appointed by Gov. Haley Barbour and re-appointed by Gov. Phil Bryant. Cumbest has donated to and helped fund-raise for both. Continue reading