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Cockrell v. City of Southhaven

December 31, 1998

BILLY HUGHEY COCKRELL, CAROLYN VIRGINIA COCKRELL AND WILLIAM JEFFREY COCKRELL, A MINOR CHILD
v.
CITY OF SOUTHAVEN, STATE OF MISSISSIPPI



Before Prather, C.j., Banks And McRAE, JJ.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: McRAE, Justice, For The Court:

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 09/04/97

TRIAL JUDGE: HON. GEORGE C. CARLSON, JR.

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: DESOTO COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT

NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - EMINENT DOMAIN

¶1. Billy Hughey Cockrell, Carolyn Virginia Cockrell and William Jeffrey Cockrell appeal the September 4, 1997 judgment of the DeSoto County Circuit Court affirming the issuance of an order of removal by the County Court of DeSoto County pursuant to a judgment entered by the Special Court of Eminent Domain awarding the Cockrells just compensation for their property and vesting ownership of the property in the City of Southaven, Mississippi. Finding no merit to the assignments of error now raised, we affirm the opinion of the court below.

I.

¶2. By letter dated July 31, 1987, the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority's Noise Compatibility Program advised some 1,3000 households in the vicinity of the airport subject to noise levels in excess of 75 Ldn that they were eligible for relocation under a five-year $100 million Property Acquisition Program. The Cockrells were among the families affected by the program. On June 4, 1987 and December 28, 1988, they transferred title to their two lots to their infant son, William Jeffery Cockrell.

¶3. Apparently, the Airport Authority donated some fifty-nine acres of land it had acquired through the Noise Compatibility Program to the City of Southaven for use as a public park. The City then sought to acquire, through eminent domain proceedings, three remaining parcels of land which the Airport Authority had been unable to obtain through its negotiated "buy-out" program, including the Cockrell residence, to eliminate non-conforming property usage within the designated park area. Thus, eminent domain proceedings were instituted by the City of Southaven. *fn1

¶4. A jury of the Special Court of Eminent Domain awarded the Cockrells compensation and damages in the amount of $66,000 for their house at 8767 Woodbine Place in the Greenbrook Subdivision of DeSoto County, with judgment entered on March 3, 1995. The Airport's Noise Compatibility Planning Manager sent a check for $68,438.03 to the City's attorneys, payable to the Circuit Court of DeSoto County, for judgment and costs in the Cockrells' case. Although noting that their motion for a new trial or j.n.o.v. was neither timely filed nor in proper form, the Special Judge of the Special Court of Eminent Domain granted the motion on March 31, 1995 because of an unqualified juror. That order was set aside by the Special Court in an April 12, 1995 order granting the City's motion to reconsider and holding the March 3, 1995 judgment to be in full force and effect.

¶5. Subsequent to the decision of the Special Court of Eminent Domain, the Cockrells filed a series of actions in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi against the Airport, the City, the Court of Eminent Domain, and various City and Airport officials, alleging a panoply of civil rights violations. Some of these actions were dismissed on January 11, 1996, while the remaining claims were dismissed by the District Court in an opinion and order filed June 5, 1996. The District Court's various orders were appealed to the Fifth Circuit, where two of the Cockrells' appeals were dismissed *fn2 and in two others, the court affirmed the lower court's orders without written opinion. Cockrell v. Memphis-Shelby County Airport Auth., 125 F. 3d 851 (5th Cir. 1997); Cockrell v. Cates, 121 F.3d 705 (5th Cir. 1997).

¶6. The City filed an Affidavit of Eviction pursuant to Miss. Code Ann. § 89-7-27 on February 7, 1996. An Order Setting Return Date of Eviction was entered nunc pro tunc September 13, 1996, with a motion hearing and trial set in County Court for October 2, 1996. The County Court, fearing a conflict in interest between the minor child and his father, appointed a guardian ad litem and attorney for him. On October 7, 1996, the County Court entered an Order of Removal, ordering the Cockrells to put the property in the possession of the City of Southaven by January 17, 1997. At the same time, an order denying the Cockrells' various motions for recusal, dismissal, summary judgment and a jury trial was entered.

ΒΆ7. The Cockrells appealed the County Court decision to the Circuit Court of DeSoto County, which, by order dated September 4, 1997, affirmed the lower court's decision and directed that court to issue a warrant of removal not before October 4, 1997, so as to allow the Cockrells time for ...


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