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Smith v. Hood

Supreme Court of Mississippi

March 1, 2018

RALPH ARNOLD SMITH, JR., INDIVIDUALLY, AND EX REL. THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI
v.
JAMES M. HOOD, III, WHO PURPORTS TO BE ACTING AS ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 10/04/2016

         HINDS COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. WINSTON L. KIDD

          TRIAL COURT ATTORNEYS: WILLIAM CHARLES BELL HAROLD EDWARD PIZZETTA, III

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: WILLIAM CHARLES BELL

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL

          BEFORE WALLER, C.J., CHAMBERLIN AND ISHEE, JJ.

          ISHEE, JUSTICE.

         ¶1. Ralph Smith sued the Attorney General of Mississippi, Jim Hood, in the Hinds County Circuit Court. Smith filed various causes of action, each of which was premised on Smith's purely legal argument that the Office of the Attorney General is in the judicial branch of the state government. The circuit court disagreed with Smith and found that, as a matter of law, the Office of Attorney General is in the executive branch, and so, the circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of Hood. Smith now appeals.

         ¶2. This case requires this Court to address whether the Office of Attorney General-located in Article 6 of our state Constitution-is a member of the executive or judicial branch of our government. We find our caselaw on this question is clear: the Office of Attorney General is a member of the executive branch of the government. And so, we affirm the circuit court's grant of summary judgment.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶3. In 2012, Smith was arrested and indicted in Leflore County for capital murder, conspiracy, and burglary. This arrest led to a litany of suits filed against various parties including: the State of Mississippi, the District Attorney for the Fourth Circuit, the Attorney General's Office, the Department of Mental Health, and the Greenwood Police Department.

         ¶4. Relevant to this appeal, on June 27, 2016, Smith filed a civil action against the Attorney General of Mississippi, Jim Hood, in the Hinds County Circuit Court. The specific cause of action brought by Smith was, initially, a complaint for quo warranto under Mississippi Code Section 11-39-1 (Rev. 2012). But, over the course of the proceedings, the circuit court twice allowed Smith to amend his complaints. The second amended complaint contained three causes of action: a statutory writ of quo warranto, a declaratory judgment, and a statutory writ of prohibition. All of Smith's causes of action were premised on the legal theory that the Attorney General is a judicial officer, and thus, he was precluded from carrying out any law-enforcement or prosecutorial duties, as those are duties reserved for the executive branch.

         ¶5. After Smith filed his first amended complaint, the Attorney General filed an answer and moved for summary judgment-arguing among other things that, as a matter of law, this Court had determined conclusively that the Attorney General is housed in the executive branch of our state government. After additional procedural actions, and a hearing on the matter, the circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of the Attorney General. In granting the summary judgment, the circuit court agreed with the Attorney General that, as a matter of law, the Office of Attorney General is within the executive branch of the state government. And so, on October 4, 2016, the circuit court entered a final judgment. The next day, Smith timely filed his notice of appeal.

         STANDARD ...


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