JEFFREY A. WEILL, SR.
KARLA WATKINS BAILEY
OF JUDGMENT: 08/19/2015
COUNTY COUNTY COURT TRIAL JUDGE: HON. HENRY L. LACKEY
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: DIANE PRADAT PUMPHREY NICHOLAS
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: JAMES ASHLEY OGDEN JAMES W. SMITH,
COURT ATTORNEYS: JAMES ASHLEY OGDEN JAMES W. SMITH, JR. TYLER
ARTHUR ROYALS DIANE PRADAT PUMPHREY NICHOLAS DENSON GARRARD
DICKINSON, P.J., COLEMAN AND CHAMBERLIN, JJ.
Karla Watkins Bailey, former court administrator to Hinds
County Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey A. Weill Sr., filed a
complaint against Judge Weill in his individual capacity,
alleging that he had committed libel against her.
Bailey's complaint and amended complaint were based on
language in a footnote contained in four orders entered by
Judge Weill in separate criminal cases that were before him.
The alleged libelous language in the orders provided that
Bailey had been reprimanded by Judge Weill for engaging in
improper ex parte communications while she was his court
administrator and she had added a certain public defender as
counsel of record in her current position as deputy clerk.
Judge Weill filed a motion to dismiss Bailey's complaint
and amended complaint, raising several grounds for dismissal,
including judicial immunity. The trial court denied the
motion and ordered the parties to commence discovery. Judge
Weill filed a petition for interlocutory appeal. The Court
granted the petition. We hold that the trial court erred by
failing to correctly apply the doctrine of judicial immunity
to Bailey's claim that Judge Weill libeled her via the
underlying orders. Accordingly, the trial court's order
is reversed and we remand for further proceedings consistent
with the instant opinion.
On April 16, 2015, Bailey filed a complaint in the County
Court of Hinds County against Judge Weill in his individual
capacity alleging "libel, slander, defamation of
character, intentional infliction of emotional distress,
negligent infliction of emotional distress, intentional
interference with an advantageous situation, negligent
interference with an advantageous situation, making
defamatory statements with the intent to deprive [Bailey] of
her job, defamation of character, harassment, general
negligence in releasing information that [was] not accurate
or supported by facts."
Bailey was employed as Judge Weill's court administrator
from January 2011 until November 29, 2012. Bailey claimed
that during her employment, Judge Weill engaged in a pattern
of abusive language and disrespectful actions against her.
Bailey alleges that, after she left her position as court
administrator, a dispute developed between Judge Weill and
Hinds County Public Defender Alison Kelly. In the midst of
the dispute, Kelly filed motions requesting that Judge Weill
recuse himself from fifty-six criminal cases that she had
been assigned and in which she was counsel of record. On
February 10, 2015, Judge Weill entered separate orders
denying Kelly's multiple motions. Four of the orders
(February 2015 orders) also addressed a motion for
clarification of representation that Kelly also had filed in
the criminal cases. Bailey alleges that the following
language, found in a footnote appearing in each of the four
orders, libeled her:
The Court notes that the entry of the Motion for
Clarification was made by Deputy Clerk Karla Bailey, f/k/a
Karla Watkins, who was previously employed as the court
administrator for the undersigned and who resigned after
being reprimanded for improper ex parte contacts with Ms.
Kelly about substantive issues involving the criminal docket.
It is presumed that since Ms. Bailey was the deputy clerk who
entered the Motion for Clarification, she is also responsible
for adding Ms. Kelly's name as an attorney of record.
Bailey addressed the February 2015 orders in her complaint:
In the [o]rders, [Judge Weill] specifically named [Bailey]
and falsely stated [he] had reprimanded [Bailey] for making
improper ex parte contacts with Ms. Kelly. Judge Weill also
stated it was his assumption that since [Bailey] was a deputy
clerk in the Hinds County Clerk's office she was the one
who entered the Motion for Clarification and she was the one
who added Ms. Kelly's name to the document. Judge Weill
continues to make false statements about [Bailey] and her
character as he continues his ill-conceived vendetta to
discredit Ms. Kelly and attack her character.
Bailey claimed that she suffered physical injuries, emotional
injuries, and loss of reputation as a result of the acts of
On May 8, 2015, Bailey filed an amended complaint. According
to Bailey, the purpose of filing an amended complaint was to
make the allegations in the initial complaint complete and to
address the issues more specifically. The amended complaint
mirrors the initial complaint. However, Bailey elaborates on
her accusations of Judge Weill's improper conduct while
she was employed as court administrator that she had alleged
generally in the initial complaint.
Bailey added that Judge Weill's statements made in the
February 2015 orders denying Kelly's motions for recusal
were "willfully and intentionally made with a desire to
harm [Bailey's] personal, professional and public
reputation." Bailey alleged: "Since the filing of
[Bailey's [c]omplaint[, she] has been targeted by [Judge
Weill's] associates who on at least two occasions on
April 20, 2015 and April 21, 2015 came to her desk in the
clerk's office and made harassing gestures and
inappropriate jesters [sic] of intimidation." Bailey
also alleged that Judge Weill "has carried out a pattern