A. RANDALL HARRIS
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI
OF JUDGMENT: 08/04/2015
COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. JEFF WEILL, SR. TRIAL JUDGE.
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: DAVID NEIL McCARTY SAGE EGGER
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY:
ABBIE EASON KOONCE.
On the morning of his client's trial, defense attorney
Randall Harris tried to withdraw as counsel. When the judge
declined his request, Harris told the judge he was
"wrong" for doing so, and he "was not going to
participate" in the trial. Harris's refusal to abide
by the court's order forced a continuance. And the judge
held him in direct criminal contempt.
"Direct criminal contempt includes words or actions
before the court that tend to embarrass the court or prevent
the orderly administration of justice. " We find
Harris's actions clearly fell within this category. Thus,
we affirm the judgment finding Harris guilty of direct
criminal contempt and ordering Harris to pay a $100 fine and
$1, 200 for the cost of the jury venire.
Facts and Procedural History
This Court's En Banc Order
In early 2015, Hinds County Circuit Court Judge Jeff Weill,
Sr., ordered the cases of more than fifty indigent criminal
defendants be reassigned from Alison Kelly with the Hinds
County Public Defenders Office (HCPDO) to appointed counsel.
One of those cases was Cameron Travelsted's. Randall
Harris was appointed to take over his defense.
The HCPDO sought this Court's intervention. And on May
21, 2015, we entered an En Banc Order lifting Judge
Weill's blanket ban against Kelly. In re: Office of
the Hinds Cty. Pub. Defender, 2015-M-00303-SCT, En
Banc Order (May 21, 2015). But this Court denied the
HCPDO's request to automatically reassign all fifty-five
cases back to Kelly because those "cases [were] in
various stages of development, and the best interest of
justice may be served by leaving them as they are."
Id. Instead, we permitted the HCPDO "to inform
each of its previous clients in the fifty-five cases . . .
that they may choose to continue with private counsel Judge
Weill has appointed to represent them, or they may choose to
have the HCPDO reassume their representation."
Soon after the En Banc Order, the HCPDO met with Travelsted,
who elected to stay with his appointed counsel, Harris. In
June, the HCPDO informed Judge Weill about Travelsted's
decision. And Harris assured Judge Weill he was prepared to
go forward with Travelsted's trial set for Monday, July
Harris's Motion to Withdraw
But the Friday before trial, on July 10, Harris filed a
motion to withdraw. In his motion, Harris asserted that the
Hinds County Board of Supervisors (Board) would not pay for
private counsel in cases in which the criminal defendant had
elected to stay with appointed counsel instead of going back
to the HCPDO. So if he was not permitted to withdraw, he
would be put in the difficult position of having to sue the
Board for payment.
Judge Weill heard Harris's motion Monday morning, before
the trial began. Public defender Alison Kelly also was
present. On July 2, she had filed a motion to appear in
When asked to present his motion, Harris told the court:
I am here today to ask the Court to allow me to withdraw from
this case, because it's become clear to me that the board
of supervisors-who pays the court-appointed attorney's
fees-they have made clear that they're not going to pay
me for services that I have rendered and will continue to be
compelled to render in the event that you don't allow me
also told Judge Weill that Travelsted "has now opted to
go back to the public defender's officer." And
"[t]he public defender has accepted that
responsibility" and "is desirous of representing
him." So as Harris saw it, "by allowing [him] to
withdraw, that settles the whole compensation issue with the
board of supervisors."
Judge Weill then asked Harris about the email the HCPDO had
sent the month before saying it had met with Travelsted and
Harris, and that Harris would represent Travelsted at trial.
Harris acknowledged he too had received that email and had
been prepared at that time to go to trial on July 13.