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Arnold Line Water Association Inc. v. Mississippi Public Service Commission

March 25, 1999

ARNOLD LINE WATER ASSOCIATION, INC.
v.
MISSISSIPPI PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sullivan, Presiding Justice

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 10/23/1997

TRIAL JUDGE: HON. KENNETH BARKLEY ROBERTSON

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: LAMAR COUNTY CHANCERY COURT

NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - STATE BOARDS AND AGENCIES

DISPOSITION: AFFIRMED - 03/25/1999

MOTION FOR REHEARING FILED:

MANDATE ISSUED:

EN BANC.

STATEMENT OF THE CASE

¶1. This case began when Arnold Line Water Association, Inc. (hereinafter "ALWA"), filed a motion, on November 15, 1993, before the Mississippi Public Service Commission (hereinafter "Commission"), to set aside a previous order issued by the Commission. ALWA complained that the Commission had failed to give ALWA notice that a portion of its certificated area was to be canceled in favor of the City of Hattiesburg (hereinafter "the City"). ALWA alleged that it had no opportunity to be heard on the issue.

¶2. The City filed a response to the motion on December 2, 1993, as a real party in interest. The City asserted that ALWA was given notice of the Commission's order. The City claimed that a purchase agreement concerning the disputed area was entered into between the City and ALWA in August of 1988. The City asserted that the purchase agreement, upon which the Commission relied in canceling a portion of ALWA's certificate, required no further notice to ALWA.

¶3. The Commission conducted a hearing in January of 1994, and the Commission entered its order on March 14, 1994. The Commission found that it had canceled a portion of ALWA's certificated area in an order dated September 25, 1992. Because the purchase agreement between ALWA and the City involved no sale or assignment of a certificate, the Commission held that the notice provisions of Miss. Code Ann. § 77-3-23 (1991 & Supp. 1998), were not applicable. As a result, the Commission found that the mailing of the September 25 order to all interested parties served as sufficient notice.

¶4. ALWA filed its notice of appeal with the Chancery Court of Lamar County, Mississippi on April 13, 1994. The City requested that the chancellor recuse himself because of the elaborate background of facts relating to the City's growth west into Lamar County and the resulting political tensions. The chancellor granted the motion, and Chancellor Kenneth B. Robertson of Pascagoula was subsequently appointed by this Court as special chancellor.

¶5. After all interested parties filed briefs, the special chancellor filed his opinion on October 27, 1997. The chancellor stated that the situation between ALWA and the City relating to the 1988 Purchase Agreement was complex: ALWA had sued the City in federal court and the 1988 Purchase Agreement was a result of the compromise and settlement between them.

¶6. The chancellor also noted as a factual matter that at the hearing, ALWA had not produced the person employed by the Commission charged with sending the notice of the September 25, 1992, order, nor had it produced its own secretary-treasurer, the person responsible for receiving the notice.

¶7. The chancellor held that since post-deprivation notice and due process were available in circumstances where the parties had previously agreed on the conveyance of a certificated area, that ALWA had failed to demonstrate a due process violation. As a result, the chancellor found that the Commission had not acted in an arbitrary or capricious manner.

ΒΆ8. Taking exception to the chancellor's judgment, ALWA appealed to this Court on November 26, 1997, ...


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