Before Sullivan, P.j., Roberts And Waller, JJ.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Waller, Justice
DATE OF JUDGMENT: 02/28/97
TRIAL JUDGE: HON. PAT H. WATTS, JR.
COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: JACKSON COUNTY CHANCERY COURT
NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - OTHER
DISPOSITION REVERSED AND REMANDED
¶1. On May 28, 1996, Dr. Lester Spell, Jr., Commissioner of the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce, Appellee herein, filed a complaint in the Chancery Court of Jackson County, Mississippi, against the Appellant herein, Paul Walls, Sr. In his complaint, Dr. Spell ("State") alleged that Paul Walls ("Walls") was engaged in entomological work in violation of laws of the State of Mississippi. Specifically, Walls did not have a license to spray pesticides in residential homes.(1) The court issued a temporary injunction prohibiting Walls from spraying residential homes until a hearing could be held concerning a permanent injunction. Subsequently, the State filed a Petition for Citation of Contempt alleging that Walls was in violation of the temporary injunction. At a full hearing on February 27, 1997, the court found Walls guilty on three (3) counts of criminal contempt and sentenced him to six (6) months in jail to be served consecutively, and a $500.00 fine on each count. Walls appealed to this Court assigning the following as error:
I. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN NOT GRANTING A CONTINUANCE PENDING THE COMPLETION OF THE FEDERAL CRIMINAL MATTER.
II. THE TRIAL JUDGE ERRED IN NOT RECUSING HIMSELF.
III. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR A JURY TRIAL.
IV. THE EVIDENCE FAILED TO PROVE ACTUAL AND KNOWING CRIMINAL CONTEMPT AND INTENT ON THE PART OF THE APPELLANT.
V. THE JUDGMENT OF CRIMINAL CONTEMPT IS CONTRARY TO LAW AND REPRESENTS A VIOLATION OF THE DEFENDANT'S FIFTH AMENDMENT RIGHTS.
¶2. This Court holds that Walls should have been afforded a jury trial. Thus, we reverse and remand his conviction of contempt for proceedings not inconsistent with the following opinion.
STATEMENT OF THE CASE AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
¶3. This action began when the Department of Agriculture filed a complaint against Walls for illegal pesticide spraying. The chancellor issued a preliminary injunction on June 11, 1996, which prohibited Walls from engaging in residential fumigation until a hearing could be held. A hearing on the permanent injunction was set for October 8, 1996.
¶4. Before the hearing was held, the State and Walls, who was represented by counsel, entered into an agreed permanent injunction. The permanent injunction prohibited Walls from engaging in entomological spraying for a fee, from giving advice or prescriptions concerning pest control for a fee, and from applying pesticides in the State of Mississippi, except as allowed under his private applicator's license. On November 12, 1996, the State filed a Petition for Citation of Contempt against Walls alleging that Walls had violated the agreed permanent injunction on six occasions. Subsequently, the State amended the petition to include three counts instead of the original six counts.
¶5. Walls was represented at the contempt hearing by his current counsel. Walls' new counsel moved for a continuance until the completion of Walls' federal criminal matter. The chancellor refused to allow a continuance pending completion of the federal matter, but did grant Walls a continuance to allow his new attorneys time to prepare for the contempt hearing. The hearing was reset for January 29, 1997.
¶6. On January 10, 1997, the court reconvened for a motion hearing. Walls moved for a continuance again because of a possible conflict with his federal criminal trial. The chancellor granted Walls a continuance and reset the contempt hearing for January 31, 1997. Walls also moved for the chancellor to recuse himself based on the possibility that the chancellor may be called as a witness in Walls' federal criminal matter, and the fact that the chancellor's son was the county prosecutor handling the prosecution of Walls in state court. The chancellor denied the motion for recusal. Walls also moved for a jury trial, as contemplated under the statute, asserting that the criminal contempt proceedings were serious in nature and not a petty offense. However, the chancellor denied Walls' motion for a jury trial.
¶7. On January 22, 1997, the court convened to hear Walls' Motion for a Continuance. Walls requested a continuance to allow him time to take a hearing test in order to determine whether the court should obtain hearing device so that Walls would be able to hear the trial proceedings. The court granted the continuance and reset the matter for trial on February 27, 1997. After a bench trial, Walls was found guilty of three counts of contempt and sentenced to six (6) months in jail, with ...