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Lewis v. Hinds County Circuit Court

Supreme Court of Mississippi

February 19, 2015

TYRONE LEWIS, SHERIFF HINDS COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI
v.
HINDS COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT

As Corrected February 23, 2015.

Page 1118

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: HINDS COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. DATE OF JUDGMENT: 09/30/2013. TRIAL JUDGE: HON. WILLIAM A. GOWAN, JR.

FOR APPELLANT: DANA P. SIMS.

FOR APPELLEE: ANNA MARIE LIVINGSTON.

BEFORE WALLER, C.J., KITCHENS AND COLEMAN, JJ. WALLER, C.J., DICKINSON AND RANDOLPH, P.JJ., LAMAR, KITCHENS, CHANDLER, PIERCE AND KING, JJ., CONCUR.

OPINION

Page 1119

COLEMAN, JUSTICE.

¶1. The instant appeal arises out of a dispute between Sheriff Tyrone Lewis of Hinds County and the judges' chambers of the Hinds County Circuit Court over the role of bailiffs. Lewis attempted to make hiring, firing, and compensation changes affecting bailiffs. In response, the circuit court issued an Order and Opinion in 2012 upholding a previous Order from 1996. The 1996 Order stated that, in several respects, further detailed below, bailiffs fell under the authority of the judiciary rather than the sheriff. Lewis filed a Motion for Relief, and the circuit court subsequently issued another order, granting the power to compensate bailiffs to the sheriff only if he follows the terms of the 1996 Order. Lewis appealed. We hold that the 1996 Order and the 2012 Order and Opinion are void in part to the extent they directly violate the Constitution and statutory law.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY AND BACKGROUND

¶2. In 1996, the Hinds County Circuit Court issued an Order to Establish Rules and Regulations for Court Bailiffs. The stated purpose of the 1996 Order, signed by all four then-serving Hinds County Circuit Court judges, was to maintain order and efficiency within the Hinds County Circuit Court. The Order addressed the

Page 1120

hours, uniform, discipline, and duties of bailiffs. The Order stated: " Court Bailiffs shall not be assigned duties which are non-judicial except upon permission of the Judge . . . Bailiffs do not function as part of any law enforcement agency." The Order also stated:

Bailiffs may be assigned by the Sheriff to special duties such as fair duty, football game duty and other duties of similar nature. Bailiffs may be utilized by the Hinds County Sheriff should they be needed for County emergencies. Salaries for Court Bailiffs shall be set by the Sheriff on an equitable basis.

¶3. Sheriff Tyrone Lewis took office in January 2012. Lewis then submitted Special Orders before the circuit court pertaining to the demotion, transfer, and reduction of salaries of bailiffs. In response, the circuit court issued an Order and Opinion on February 12, 2012. The 2012 Order and Opinion stated that the 1996 Order is binding, and bailiffs are court personnel. The Order and Opinion concluded that Lewis's Special Orders violate the 1996 Order and are, therefore, void. Further, the Order and Opinion stated that " any party attempting to violate this order shall immediately SHOW CAUSE . . . ."

¶4. Lewis appealed the 2012 Order and Opinion to the Supreme Court, and the circuit court moved to dismiss the appeal. We issued an Order granting the motion to dismiss without prejudice. Subsequently, on April 23, 2012, Lewis filed a Motion for Relief from Order and Opinion in the circuit court. The circuit court did not respond; thus, Lewis again appealed to the Supreme Court. On May 11, 2012, we issued a mandate dismissing the appeal without prejudice and compelling the circuit court to respond. On September 30, 2013, the circuit court finally entered an Order. The Order found that the 2012 Order and Opinion enforced the 1996 Order that Lewis failed to properly appeal; thus, it stands. The Order further found that " the Court has no authority to control salaries of bailiffs so long as the terms of the 1996 Order are met; i.e. [The Sheriff] shall . . . set [bailiffs'] salaries on an equitable basis congruent with other deputies."

¶5. Lewis then appealed to the Supreme Court under a Writ of Mandamus, and we dismissed his appeal as moot. Subsequently, Lewis properly appealed the circuit court's September 30 Order to the Supreme Court.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

¶6. The Court " will not engage in statutory interpretation if a statute is plain and unambiguous." Mississippi Methodist Hosp. & Rehab. Ctr., Inc. v. Mississippi Div. of Medicaid, 21 So.3d 600, 607 (Miss. 2009) (citing In re Guardianship of Duckett, 991 So.2d 1165, 1181 (Miss. 2008)). Statutory interpretation is appropriate when a statute is ambiguous or silent on a specific issue. Mississippi Methodist Hosp. & Rehab. Center, Inc. 21 So.3d at 607 (citing In re Duckett, 991 So.2d at 1181-82). If statutory interpretation is appropriate, the Court has written:

Statutory interpretation is a matter of law which we review in its entirety. Wallace v. Town of Raleigh, 815 So.2d 1203, 1206 (Miss. 2002). We presume a statute is constitutional unless the challenging party is able to prove unconstitutionality beyond a reasonable doubt. Id; see also Miss. Power Co. v. Goudy, 459 So.2d 257, 263 (Miss. 1984). All doubt must be resolved in favor of the validity of a statute. Loden v. Miss. Pub. Serv. Comm'n, 279 So.2d 636, 640 (Miss. 1973).

University of Mississippi Med. Ctr. v. Robinson, 876 So.2d 337, 339-40 (Miss. 2004). Whether the statute is ambiguous or unambiguous, the " ultimate goal of [the] Court in interpreting a statute is to discern and give effect to the legislative intent."

Page 1121

Allred v. Yarborough, 843 So.2d 727, 729 (Miss. 2003) (quoting City of Natchez v. Sullivan, 612 So.2d ...


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