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JERRY BULLARD v. J. S. (JOHNNY) MORRIS

JULY 19, 1989

JERRY BULLARD
v.
J. S. (JOHNNY) MORRIS, PRESIDING CHANCELLOR OF THE EIGHTH CHANCERY COURT DISTRICT, HARRISON COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI



BEFORE ROY NOBLE LEE, C.J., PRATHER AND SULLIVAN, JJ.

PRATHER, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDAMUS

This extraordinary writ seeks relief under Mississippi Supreme Court Rule 21 (a) to review action of a trial court" outside the ambit of the normal appellate practice. "Mississippi Supreme Court Practice, Munford, On Point Press. The petition alleges a failure of the Chancery Judges of Harrison County to grant an uncontested irreconcilable divorce without personal appearance of a party or of an attorney.

 I.

 Jerry Bullard and his wife, Lanita Bullard, filed a joint complaint for divorce, pro se, in the Chancery Court of Harrison County. The Complaint alleges that Bullard is a resident of Harrison County, but presently incarcerated in the Rankin County Correctional Facility serving a ten year sentence. His wife, Lanita, allegedly is a resident of California. The parties allege that no children were born of the marriage, that irreconcilable differences have developed between the parties, and that they have resolved their property rights by execution of a property settlement agreement which is attached to the Complaint. An affidavit of non-collusion as to the ground for the divorce is attached, together with an affidavit of poverty. The Complaint has been on file for the required sixty day period, but no action has been taken by the Court.

 Having no response from the Court, Bullard made inquiry of the chancery clerk as to the status of his case, and was informed that the Chancery Judge required the personal attendance of one of the parties or of their attorney before a decree of divorce would be entered.

 Upon learning of this requirement, Bullard has filed with this court a Petition for Writ of Mandamus asking this court to direct the Chancery Judge to enter a divorce decree by signing the proposed decree furnished by the Complainant or to show cause why the same should not be entered. The chancellor was noticed, but elected not to respond.

 II.

 The first issue is whether Bullard and his wife may proceed pro se in this civil case. There are constitutional provisions that relate to this question.

 The Mississippi Constitution Art. 3, Sec. 25 states that" no

 person shall be debarred from prosecuting or defending any civil cause for or against him or herself, before any tribunal in the state, by him or herself, or counsel, or both. "Likewise, Miss. Const. Art. 3, Sec, 24 provides that" all courts shall be open; and every person for an injury done him in his lands, goods, person, or reputation, shall have remedy by due course of the law, and justice shall be administered without sale, denial, or delay. "

 Considering all of these provisions, it is without question that the Mississippi Constitution permits a person to represent himself, pro se, in a civil proceeding. It is not necessary that an attorney be employed. However, having elected to proceed without an attorney, a person is bound by the same rules of practice and procedure as an attorney. Needless to say, it is sometimes that a person acts at his peril to proceed in this fashion. Constitutionally speaking, it is permissible for a party to proceed pro se.

 III.

 The second issue presented is whether a chancery judge may refuse to hear an uncontested divorce based upon irreconcilable differences, assuming that the pleadings are in order, unless one of the co-complainants or their attorney personally presents the decree to him. The answer to this question brings our consideration to the particular statutory proceeding applicable to this request. A divorce sought on the grounds of irreconcilable differences has a special ...


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