United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Greenville Division
M. VIRDEN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
matter came before the court for a hearing on this
court's Order to Show Cause  why the conduct of
Candace Williamson, outlined in the court's June 26,
2017, Order , does not constitute a violation of
MISS.R.PROF'L CONDUCT 8.4(d) and/or why the sanction
proposed therein concerning new entries of appearance by Ms.
Williamson in the Northern District of Mississippi is not
warranted. For the reasons detailed herein, the undersigned
concludes that the subject conduct does violate
MISS.R.PROF'L CONDUCT 8.4(d) and that the recommendation
that Ms. Williamson not be permitted to enter a new
appearance as counsel in any case in the Northern District of
Mississippi for a 120-day period from the date of an order,
if any, by the District Judge adopting said R&R is
consolidated actions, filed in late 2015, involve a dispute
over whether Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company
(“Mass Mutual”) owes insurance proceeds for
certain care received by Dr. Purvis William Hill, Jr.,
deceased. Ms. Williamson originally appeared as counsel for
Dr. Hill, her father, with co-counsel who subsequently
withdrew from representation, leaving Ms. Williamson as sole
counsel. On or around July 26, 2016, Dr. Hill passed away.
See Dckt. Entry . Ms. Williamson, however, never
moved to withdraw from the case.
November 15, 2016, in response to a motion of Mass. Mutual
for an order regarding substitution of parties , the
court, while denying some of the relief sought, ordered,
pursuant to Webb v. Town of St. Joseph, No.
3:12cv02644, 2016 WL 2726648, at *3 (W.D. La. May 9, 2016),
that within 14 days Ms. Williamson, as counsel of record in
the case, file a declaration stating: 1) whether an estate
has been or will be opened and the identity of the
estate's representative; 2) if no estate has been but
will be opened, by what date this will occur; and 3) if no
estate has been or will be opened, the identity of the
decedent's legal successor(s) or representative(s).
See Dckt. Entry . Counsel was warned that
failure to file such declaration in accordance with that
Order may result in an appropriate sanction. See id.
Williamson did not timely comply or otherwise respond to the
court's order. Accordingly, the court set a telephonic
status conference for December 9, 2016, to address
counsel's failure to comply. At the conference, counsel
was given an additional 3 day period to comply, and no
sanctions were awarded. On December 12, 2016, Ms. Williamson
filed what she styled “a suggestion of death”
 but failed to include all of the requested information.
Order  dated January 18, 2017, the undersigned denied
Mass. Mutual's Motion  which requested, among other
things, that Ms. Williamson file periodic status reports
detailing her efforts to have an administrator appointed for
Dr. Hill's estate. Instead, the undersigned ruled that
the court would hold status conferences as needed and that
one such conference would be set within 10 days. The same day
a telephonic status conference was set, this time for January
19, 2016. Ms. Williamson did not appear or otherwise respond.
As a consequence, the court ordered Ms. Williamson to file a
status report by January 24th-and at 21-day
intervals-regarding certain matters relating to the estate
(or proposed estate) of the deceased. See Dckt.
Entry . Ms. Williamson then filed a status report ;
however, it did not fully comply with the requirements of the
court's January 20th Order . Ms. Williamson failed to
file any of the subsequent reports required by the
March 6, 2017, Mass. Mutual moved for counsel to show cause
why Dr. Hill's claims against it should not be dismissed
for failure to prosecute or comply with court orders.
See Dckt. Entry . Mass. Mutual's motion was
noticed for hearing, in person, requiring Ms.
Williamson's attendance. See Dckt. Entry .
Ms. Williamson, again, did not appear or otherwise respond.
See Dckt. Entries [71 & 72]. At the hearing, the
court declined to recommend dismissal but, after reducing
Mass. Mutual's counsel's fees incurred in connection
with the motion from approximately $13, 000.00 to $3, 000.00,
awarded the fees on account of Ms. Williamson's repeated
and flagrant failure to appear or respond in accordance with
court orders. See Dckt. Entries [72 & 74]. Ms.
Williamson was given until May 19, 2017, to pay the fees
awarded, but she did not do so or otherwise seek relief from
the court. As a result, on June 1, 2017, Mass. Mutual moved
to compel payment of the sanctions or for contempt. The
motion was noticed for a hearing to take place on June 22,
2017, and Ms. Williamson was required to appear in person.
See Dckt. Entry . She, yet again, failed to do
so or otherwise respond.
the gravity of this matter, the court entered an Order 
on June 26, 2017, awarding as additional sanctions for
counsel's misconduct, fees of an additional $1, 000.00 to
be paid to Mass. Mutual by Ms. Williamson for the benefit of
its counsel, bringing the total fees awarded to $4, 000.00.
The court further ordered that the total fees shall be paid
in full on or before 7 days from the date of that Order. If
Ms. Williamson failed to pay the fees timely or otherwise
seek and obtain relief from this court for inability to do
so, the undersigned ordered that an additional sanction of
$100.00 a day would accrue, until the total was fully
satisfied. The court also ordered that all counsel, including
Ms. Williamson, were required to research and comply with
their obligation, if any, to report violations of the
Mississippi Rules of Professional Conduct to the Mississippi
29, 2017, consistent with L.U.Civ.R. 83.1(c), this court
entered an Order  that required a show cause hearing and
allowed Ms. Williamson the opportunity to show cause why the
conduct outlined in the June 26th Order did not constitute a
violation of Miss.R.Prof'l Conduct 8.4(d) and/or why said
sanction is unwarranted. The Order required that Ms.
Williamson appear in person and gave her the opportunity to
file a written response before the hearing. The hearing was
set by a separate Notice  for July 11, 2017, at 11:00 AM.
Ms. Williamson neither filed a response nor appeared for the
in-person hearing on July 11th. Nor did Ms.
Williamson notify the court as to a reason for her
Law and Analysis
state's rules of professional conduct “do not
expressly apply to sanctions in federal courts . . . [but] a
federal court may nevertheless hold attorneys accountable to
the state code of professional conduct.” Resolution
Trust Corp., 6 F.3d 336, 341 (5th Cir. 1993); see
also In re Snyder, 472 U.S. 634, 645 n. 6 (1985); In
re Finkelstein, 901 F.2d 1560, 1564 (11th Cir. 1990).
The Fifth Circuit's “source for professional
standards has been the canons of ethics developed by the
American Bar Association.” Resolution Trust
Corp., 6 F.2d at 341. Notably, Mississippi Rule of
Professional Conduct 8.4(d) and the American Bar Association
Rule of Professional Conduct 8.4(d) are identical. Both rules
provide that “It is professional misconduct for a
lawyer to: engage in conduct that is prejudicial to the
administration of justice.” The U.S. Supreme Court has
stated that conduct prejudicial to the administration of
justice (as described in Rule 8.4(d)) is synonymous with
“conduct unbecoming a member of the bar” or
“conduct contrary to professional standards that show
an unfitness to discharge continuing obligations to clients
or the courts.” See In re Snyder, 472 U.S. at
645. The Mississippi Supreme Court has deemed Rule 8.4(d)
applicable in the context of preventing conduct of attorneys
(as officers of the court) that is detrimental to orderly
determination and disposition of judicial proceedings.
See Rogers v. Miss. Bar, 731 So.2d 1158, 1170 (Miss.
1999) (citing Howell v. State Bar of Texas, 843 F.2d
205, 207 (5th Cir. 1988)).
Williamson, as outlined above, has repeatedly failed to
comply with instructions of the court related to several
proceedings in this matter, and her conduct has caused the
opposing party to needlessly incur fees and has unduly wasted
the court's time. Ms. Williamson has been given fair
notice and an opportunity to be heard. Specifically, a show
cause hearing was noticed for July 11, 2017, yet Ms.
Williamson, as she has done repeatedly, did not find it fit
to appear for the hearing or provide the court with an excuse
as to why she was unavailable. Accordingly, there is clear
and convincing evidence to support a specific finding that
Ms. Williamson has acted in bad faith by flagrantly failing
to obey numerous orders of this court as outlined above. Such
conduct by an officer of the court is prejudicial to the
administration of justice in violation of Miss.R.Prof'l
Conduct 8.4 (d). Further, this conduct warrants the making,
by separate report, of a recommendation to the district judge
assigned to the case that Ms. Williamson not be permitted to
enter a new appearance as ...