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CITY OF GULFPORT v. BILLY D. SAXTON

SEPTEMBER 28, 1983

CITY OF GULFPORT
v.
BILLY D. SAXTON



BEFORE PATTERSON, C.J., BOWLING AND ROBERTSON, JJ.

ROBERTSON, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

I.

This case presents the question of whether an order entered by a circuit court acting within its appellate jurisdiction and without notice to the parties becomes final and irrevocable at the close of the court's next regular term. Or, to put the matter another way, once the appellate Circuit Court had affirmed (without notice to the parties), did the closing of the next succeeding regular term of the Circuit Court oust that court of jurisdiction to consider what in effect was a petition for rehearing, leaving aggrieved parties with further appeal to this Court as their sole remedy?

 The loss of power that normally accompanies the closing of a term of circuit court does not occur when that court is acting within its appellate jurisdiction. We, therefore, answer the above questions in the negative and affirm the Circuit Court's judgment wherein it reconsidered its original affirmance of a Civil Service Commission order and thereupon reversed.

 II.

 Prior to the advent of the proceedings in question, Billy D. Saxton served as a lieutenant with the Gulfport Police Department. He was discharged by Chief of Police Larkin Smith on September 22, 1977. This action was upheld by the City of Gulfport's Civil Service Commission. Saxton then perfected an appeal to the Circuit Court of the First Judicial District of Harrison County, Mississippi. Miss. Code Ann. 21-31-23 (1972).

 Saxton's appeal was docketed in the Circuit Court on November 15, 1979. On December 17, 1979, Saxton, as Appellant, filed a brief in support of his appeal. After two extensions of time were granted, the City of Gulfport, as Appellee, on February 28, 1980, filed its brief in the Circuit Court. And there the matter lay until September 2, 1981 - a period of some 578 days. We take judicial notice that the Circuit Court of the First Judicial District of Harrison County, Mississippi, holds a term every month. *fn1 The net effect of this is that the court is almost continuously in session. Between the filing of Appellee's brief and the September 2, 1981, order, some 19 terms came and went.

 Without prior notice as to when the parties might expect a ruling, the Circuit Court on September 2, 1981, entered its order affirming the decision of the Civil Service Commission. For reasons explained by the parties as" inadvertent error ", no notice of this ruling was given at the time. In fact, it was not until October 15, 1981, that the parties had any actual knowledge of the September 2, 1981, order. *fn2

 In the meanwhile, the September, 1981, term of Circuit Court had come and gone - having begun on September 14, 1981, and having ended on October 2, 1981. *fn3 On October 23, 1981, approximately one week after receiving advice that the Court had ruled upon the appeal, Saxton filed in the Circuit Court a motion to vacate and reconsider.

 On February 5, 1982, the Circuit Court granted the motion to reconsider and reversed. On the merits the Circuit Court vacated the order of the Civil Service Commission and ordered Saxton reinstated with full back pay. In pertinent part, the Circuit Court found that through oversights or mistakes neither party was notified of the order of September 2, 1981. The Circuit Court expressly provided that the September 2, 1981, order should be treated for all purposes as having been entered no earlier than October 16, 1981, and that all rights of the parties should be preserved the same as if the order had been entered on that date.

 The City of Gulfport has perfected its appeal to this Court and has assigned only one error, *fn4 to-wit: That the Circuit Court was without jurisdiction to reconsider the September 2 order. We find the assignment of error without merit and affirm.

 III.

 This case was heard by the Circuit Court within its appellate jurisdiction, a jurisdiction separate and distinct in law from its original jurisdiction. Article 6, Section 156 of the Mississippi Constitution of 1890 provides that the Circuit Court shall have" such appellate jurisdiction as shall be prescribed by law ". The same language is found in Miss. Code Ann. 9-7-81 (1972):" The Circuit Court shall have . . . such appellate jurisdiction as prescribed by law. "Nothing in the constitutional power nor the general legislative grant of that power places temporal limits upon the circuit court's exercise of its appellate jurisdiction. Terms of court are not mentioned.

 The instant appeal has been taken from the Civil Service Commission of the City of Gulfport. Jurisdiction of such appeals are vested in the Circuit Court by virtue of Miss. Code Ann. ...


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