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Loftin v. Jefferson Davis County Sch. Dist.

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

February 18, 2014

JAMES LOFTIN, APPELLANT
v.
JEFFERSON DAVIS COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT, APPELLEE

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: JEFFERSON DAVIS COUNTY CHANCERY COURT. DATE OF JUDGMENT: 06/19/2012. TRIAL JUDGE: HON. JOE DALE WALKER. TRIAL COURT DENIED MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION.

FOR APPELLANT: ROBERT M. LOGAN JR., BRIAN DOUGLAS MAYO.

FOR APPELLEE: NATHANIEL ALANDAS ARMISTAD, JOHN SIMEON HOOKS.

BEFORE GRIFFIS, P.J., ROBERTS AND FAIR, JJ. LEE, C.J., GRIFFIS, P.J., BARNES, ISHEE, ROBERTS, MAXWELL AND JAMES, JJ., CONCUR. CARLTON, J., DISSENTS WITH SEPARATE WRITTEN OPINION, JOINED BY IRVING, P.J.

OPINION

Page 1099

NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - OTHER

FAIR, J.

¶1. Dr. James Loftin filed a petition in the Chancery Court of Jefferson Davis County seeking to compel the production of public records relating to his employment with the local school district. The chancery court denied the petition. Loftin's notice of appeal was filed months later, from the denial of his motion for reconsideration. But because the motion for reconsideration was filed more than ten days after the entry of the order denying Loftin's petition, the motion must be viewed as having been brought under Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) for relief from judgment. Because Rule 60 motions are an extraordinary remedy and not a substitute for a timely appeal, we affirm the chancery court's denial of Loftin's motion to reconsider.

DISCUSSION

¶2. Loftin was the principal of Prentiss High School. In February 2012, during his second year, he was informed that the superintendent did not intend to renew his contract. Loftin requested a nonrenewal hearing before the Jefferson Davis County Board of Education, pursuant to the Education Employment Procedures Law (EEPL), Mississippi Code Annotated sections 37-9-101 through -113 (Rev. 2013). Loftin also submitted a public records request to the school district for certain documents relating to his employment. The district took the position that it would provide only the documents Loftin was entitled to under the EEPL, in the time frame specified by that law. Numerous documents were eventually provided to

Page 1100

Loftin, though there is a dispute as to whether they satisfied the public records request.

¶3. On April 16, 2012, Loftin filed a " Petition to Compel Production of Public Records and to Enjoin Nonrenewal Hearing" in the Chancery Court of Jefferson Davis County. Notwithstanding Loftin's petition seeking to delay the hearing, the nonrenewal hearing was held on April 27, and the Board voted not to renew his contract. On July 12, the chancery court entered an order finding that Loftin " waived his right to request enforcement of his public records request" because he " allowed the non-renewal hearing . . . to proceed and participated therein." Loftin filed a motion for reconsideration on July 24. The motion was denied October 24 and the notice of appeal followed on November 2.

¶4. " A timely-filed notice of appeal is a jurisdictional prerequisite to invoking [appellate] review, and we review jurisdictional matters de novo." Calvert v. Griggs, 992 So.2d 627, 631 (¶ 9) (Miss. 2008). " [T]he time to file a notice of appeal is a jurisdictional issue that cannot be waived by the parties." Dawson v. Burt ...


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