June 30, 2015
DANIEL S. FILLINGAME, APPELLANT
THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI, MISSISSIPPI INSURANCE DEPARTMENT, DIVISION OF MISSISSIPPI STATE FIRE ACADEMY, APPELLEE
OF JUDGMENT: 09/30/2013.
FROM WHICH APPEALED: HINDS COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. TRIAL JUDGE:
HON. JEFF WEILL SR. TRIAL COURT DISPOSITION: DENIED
APPELLANT'S MOTION FOR CONTEMPT.
APPELLANT: JANE E. TUCKER.
APPELLEE: JAMES T. METZ; ALAN M. PURDIE; DION JEFFERY
IRVING, P.J., ROBERTS AND MAXWELL, JJ.
Daniel Fillingame appeals the order denying his motion to
cite the State Fire Academy for contempt of court. Fillingame
claimed the Academy was in contempt for not following a
January 2011 court order that mandated the Academy permit him
to re-enroll. But the Academy indisputably let Fillingame
re-enroll in April 2011. So it could not be held in contempt.
Fillingame's real grievance has to do with the
certificate the Academy issued him at the end of his
training. But the court's order directing the Academy to
re-enroll him did not mandate the type of certificate he
would receive. Rather, this was a later-made administrative
decision by the Academy, for which Fillingame could not seek
circuit court review by simply filing for contempt.
Thus, we affirm the order denying Fillingame's motion for
and Procedural History
Between 2006 and 2008, Fillingame withdrew from the Academy
six times due to medical reasons. And between his fifth and
sixth withdrawal, he left an additional time after failing a
course. While the Academy usually permits a trainee to return
after a medical withdrawal and resume his training where he
left off (like it did the first five times Fillingame
withdrew), given the number of withdrawals, the Academy
refused to let Fillingame back in. So in 2009 he sued the
Academy, which is a division of the Mississippi Insurance
Department, for various torts and breach of contract.
The Hinds County Circuit Court dismissed the tort claims
based on sovereign immunity. See Miss. Code Ann.
§ 11-46-9(1)(c) (Rev. 2012) (reinstating immunity
against allegations of tortious behavior by fire personnel
that does not rise to the level of reckless disregard of
another's safety). But the court granted summary judgment
to Fillingame on his breach-of-contract claim. Because the
Academy's stated policy was to permit a trainee to return
after a medical withdrawal, the court found Fillingame had an
implied contractual right to return. In January 2011, the
court ordered the Academy to allow Fillingame to re-enroll.
The Academy did not appeal this order but instead permitted
Fillingame to return in April 2011.
Upon the completion of his training, the Academy issued him a
certificate. This certificate stated he had completed the
National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1001 Standard,
Levels I and II (2002 Edition). It is this certificate that
was the catalyst for his contempt motion.
Because Fillingame began his training in 2006, when the NFPA
2002 standard edition was in place, the Academy certified him
as having completed that edition. But according to
Fillingame, after he failed a course in late 2007, he had to
start his training all over again when he re-enrolled in
spring 2008. And by this time, he claims, the Academy had
implemented the 2008 edition of the NFPA 1001 Standard--an
assertion the Academy denies.
What particular edition--2002 versus 2008--Fillingame
completed impacts his ability to apply for certification with
the Mississippi Fire Personnel Minimum Standards and
Certification Board (MSCB). To be certified by the MSCB as
having met the minimum training standards for a full-time
professional firefighter, Fillingame would need not only a
certificate from the Academy stating he completed the NFPA
1001 Standard, Levels I and II, but also the certificate must
have a seal of accreditation from the International Fire
Service Accreditation Congress (IFSAC), an independent
non-profit organization based in Oklahoma. Miss. Code Ann.
§ 45-11-203 (Rev. 2011); Miss. Admin. Code 19-101:1.07.
Fillingame's certificate received no seal because, by
April 2011, the IFSAC was no longer accrediting the 2002
edition of the NFPA 1001 Standard.
Feeling aggrieved that his certificate lacked an IFSAC seal,
Fillingame went back to Hinds County Circuit Court in January
2012 and filed a " Motion to Impose Sanctions for
Contempt of Court and to Award Monetary and Consequential
Damages." In this motion, Fillingame conceded the
Academy had permitted him to re-enroll for a seventh time,
per the court's January 2011 order. However, he argued
the Academy failed to act in good faith in doing so.
Fillingame claimed the Academy's contractual duty to
re-enroll him carried the obligation to " issue proper
credentials upon completion of the training." According
to him, because certifying him under the 2002 edition was not
proper, the Academy was in further breach of its implied
contract with him.
After a hearing, the circuit court denied Fillingame's
motion. The judge--who was not the same judge who issued the
January 2011 order--found his predecessor's order only
required the Academy to permit Fillingame to re-enroll,
without delving into any issues of certification. The judge
also found the Academy had no authority to issue an IFSAC
seal of accreditation, so it could not be held in contempt
for failing to do so.
After an unsuccessful motion to alter or amend the judgment,
Fillingame timely appealed. On appeal, he argues the circuit
court's decision not to hold the Academy in contempt was
not supported by substantial evidence. He further argues the
decision to certify him under the 2002 edition, as opposed to
the 2008 edition, of the NFPA Standard belonged to the
Academy. Thus, a contempt order could have remedied what
Fillingame viewed an improper certificate that led to lack of
an IFSAC seal.
Compliance with the Court Order
When reviewing a contempt decision, we must first determine
whether the alleged contempt was civil or criminal in nature.
Riley v. Wiggins, 908 So.2d 893, 896 (¶ 5)
(Miss. Ct.App. 2005). Here, we are dealing with civil
contempt, because Fillingame was seeking enforcement of the
January 2011 court order and the contractual right that order
recognized. See id. ( " Where the primary
purpose of the contempt action is to enforce the rights of
private litigants, or if the penalty is to enforce compliance
with a court order, then the contempt is civil." ).
" We review civil-contempt decisions for manifest
error." Jones v. Mayo, 53 So.3d 832, 838
(¶ 21) (Miss. Ct.App. 2011) (citing Dennis v.
Dennis, 824 So.2d 604, 608 (¶ ¶ 7-8) (Miss.
Here, we find no manifest error with the circuit court's
determination that the Academy was not in contempt. In
January 2011, the circuit court had ordered the Academy to
permit Fillingame to re-enroll following his latest medical
withdrawal. And as acknowledged in motion for contempt,
Fillingame was in fact permitted to re-enroll in April 2011.
Because the Academy complied with the circuit court's
order, the judge properly refused to find any civil contempt.
Issue Outside the Court Order
Fillingame argues, however, that the January 2011 order--in
addition to giving him the right to re-enroll--carried the
implied right that he would receive the "
proper credentials upon completion of the training." But
we agree with the circuit court that the January 2011 order
did not direct which specific credentials the Academy had to
issue Fillingame when he completed his course work. Nor could
At the time the January 2011 order was entered, there was no
way for the circuit court to know if Fillingame would
complete his training. So it could not have ordered the
Academy to issue any certificate, let alone one
certifying he completed the 2008 edition, as opposed to 2002
edition, of the NFPA 1001 Standard.
Further, the type of certificate Fillingame should have
received upon completion of his training was not a matter of
contract law that could be resolved by going back to the 2009
breach-of-contract action. It was instead an
administrative decision, which the Legislature
expressly conferred upon the Academy. Miss. Code Ann.
§ 45-11-7(6) (Rev. 2011) ( requiring the Academy to
" present an appropriate certificate signifying the
successful completion of its prescribed courses" ).
While agency decisions may be subject to judicial review, the
procedural posture of this case is not an appeal of
an agency's decision, filed after the exhaustion of
administrative remedies. Rather, Fillingame filed a motion
for contempt, seeking to enforce a court order entered
before the Academy even made the decision to certify
Fillingame under the 2002 standards.
We thus find any grievance Fillingame may have with his
certificate is a separate administrative issue completely
outside the circuit court's January 2011 order. So
Fillingame could not use his motion for contempt, based on
that order, to prompt judicial review of the Academy's
decision. For this additional reason, we find the judge
properly denied the motion for contempt.
THE JUDGMENT OF THE HINDS COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT IS AFFIRMED.
ALL COSTS OF THIS APPEAL ARE ASSESSED TO THE APPELLANT.
C.J., IRVING AND GRIFFIS, P.JJ., BARNES, ISHEE, ROBERTS,
CARLTON, FAIR AND JAMES, JJ., CONCUR.
 " It is the intent of the Legislature
to require and provide minimum standards for [fire fighting]
training and to declare that the State Fire Academy is the
principal facility for such purposes." Miss. Code Ann.
§ 45-11-201 (Rev. 2011). See also Miss.
Code Ann. § 45-11-7(7) (Rev. 2011) ( requiring the
Academy to use MSCB-approved standards for classroom