RICKY W. WARD
DOROTHY WINSTON COLOM
OF JUDGMENT: 11/18/2011
LOWNDES COUNTY CHANCERY COURT HON. DOROTHY WINSTON COLOM HON.
KENNETH M. BURNS HON. H. J. DAVIDSON, JR. TRIAL JUDGES
ATTORNEY FOR PETITIONER: THOMAS E. PAYNE.
RESPONDENTS: DOROTHY WINSTON COLOM KENNETH M. BURNS.
RANDOLPH, PRESIDING JUSTICE.
In 2011, the Mississippi Legislature amended Mississippi Code
Section 97-37-7, granting enhanced concealed-carry licensees
the privilege of carrying a concealed firearm in the
courthouses of this state, save for courtrooms, which the
Legislature left within the province of judges. Litigants,
witnesses, and family members who do not have enhanced
concealed-carry licenses are subject to the general ban found
in Mississippi Code Section 97-37-1 (Rev. 2014), which makes
carrying a concealed weapon illegal for persons without
enhanced concealed-carry licenses. Nonetheless, the three
chancellors of the Fourteenth Chancery District, on their own
motion, issued a court order prohibiting enhanced
concealed-carry licensees from possessing a firearm in and
around courthouse buildings of the Fourteenth District.
Thereafter, Ricky Ward, an enhanced concealed-carry licensee,
filed a petition to modify or dismiss the order. The
chancellors issued another order denying Ward's petition
and reiterated that enhanced concealed-carry licensees would
be prohibited from possessing a firearm in all Fourteenth
District courthouses. Ward then filed an Extraordinary Writ
of Prohibition in this Court, seeking to have the orders
vacated as unconstitutional and in direct conflict with state
This Court ordered additional briefing, requesting the
parties to address the following issues:
(1) What is the authority of judges to exercise control over
security issues beyond the four walls of the courtroom
(2) Whether the judiciary has the inherent authority to
exercise control of security extending beyond the four walls
of a courtroom.
(3) Whether Mississippi Code Section 97-37-7(2) prohibits
judges from controlling courthouse security. Specifically,
what is the definition of "courtrooms during a judicial
proceeding, " and does that definition either allow or
prohibit judges from exercising control of security beyond
the four walls of a specific courtroom while court is in
(4) If Mississippi Code Section 97-37-7(2) does prohibit
judges from exercising control over courthouse security,
whether it violates the separation of powers doctrine.
The Attorney General, National Rifle Association, Attorney
Virgil Gillespie, and Chancellor James Persons also filed
Having considered the law and arguments offered by the
aforementioned, the Court finds that the orders are facially
unconstitutional. Furthermore, the orders defy existing
Mississippi statutory and caselaw. Accordingly, the orders
are vacated. They are nullius juris-of no legal
The orders defy the Mississippi
Article 1, Sections 1 and 2 of the Mississippi Constitution
establish clear lines of demarcation among the three branches
of government. Section 1 establishes that the executive,
legislative, and judicial branches of our state government
are separate and coequal: "The powers of the government
of the State of Mississippi shall be divided into three
distinct departments, and each of them confided to a separate
magistracy, to-wit: those which are legislative to one, those
which are judicial to another, and those which are executive
to another." Section 2 provides that no person belonging
to one of those departments "shall exercise any power
properly belonging to either of the others." In other
words, when the executive branch or legislative branch has
been properly delegated a power, the judiciary is without
authority to assume that power.
One of the clearest delegations of legislative power in our
Constitution is found in Article 3, Section 12. It provides:
"The right of every citizen to keep and bear arms in
defense of his home, person, or property, or in aid of the
civil power when thereto legally summoned, shall not be
called in question, but the Legislature may regulate
or forbid carrying concealed weapons." (Emphasis added.)
Without equivocation, the Legislature is the branch of
government that the citizens of Mississippi chose to regulate
or forbid concealed weapons.
A plain reading of these provisions in our Constitution
renders the orders unconstitutional on their face, for
"no set of circumstances exists under which the [orders]
would be valid." U.S. v. Salerno, 481 U.S. 739,
745, 107 S.Ct. 2095, 2100, 95 L.Ed.2d 697 (1987). "[T]he
key to a successful facial challenge . . . is whether [the
orders], as [they are] currently written, could
never be constitutionally applied and valid."
Crook v. City of Madison, 168 So.3d 930, 942 (Miss.
2015) (Coleman, J., dissenting) (emphasis in original).
Applying this standard to the present case, the
chancellors' orders, as they currently are written, could
never be constitutional. The Mississippi Constitution vests
only the Legislature with the authority to regulate or forbid
carrying concealed weapons. The orders at issue usurp that
Notwithstanding the clarity of our Constitution and the
statute, the chancellors urge this Court to approve their
actions as an "inherent power, " despite the orders
reaching beyond the Constitution. The chancellors cite
Newell v. State, 308 So.2d 71, 72 (Miss. 1975), and
Hosford v. State, 525 So.2d 789 (Miss. 1988).
While Newell establishes Mississippi courts'
"inherent power, " it clearly holds such power is
limited by the Constitution and separation-of-powers
doctrine. See Newell, 308 So.2d at 76-77 (holding
the Court's inherent powers emanate from the
separation-of-powers doctrine in the Constitution, but also
holding that "[t]he phrase 'judicial power' in
[S]ection 144 of the Constitution includes the power to make
rules of practice and procedure, not inconsistent with
the Constitution . . . .") (emphasis added). A
review of the Mississippi Constitution, the Code, and caselaw
reveals that judges do not have "inherent power" to
control security beyond their courtrooms or to regulate
concealed weapons outside their courtrooms. These powers are
nonexistent, for there simply is no language in our
Constitution that grants courts such power, and "this
Court must declare the Mississippi Constitution as it is
written . . . ." In Re Hooker, 87 So.3d 401,
423 (Miss. 2012) (Randolph, P.J., dissenting). Turning to the
separation-of-powers doctrine, the Constitution specifically
vests the Legislature with authority to regulate concealed
weapons. The judicial branch therefore is without
constitutional authority to exercise that power, for it
properly belongs to the Legislature, as mandated by our
Constitution. Miss. Const. art. 1, § 2.
The chancellors next argue that Hosford provides
validity to the orders. Hosford, 525 So.2d at 789.
In Hosford, a trial judge petitioned this Court for
direction regarding how to handle external noise affecting
trial court proceedings. Id. at 797. Examining the
Constitution and state law, this Court held that it is the
statutory duty of boards of supervisors and the sheriff to
provide adequate court facilities and security for each
county. Id. The Hosford Court held that
if, and only if, either the board of
supervisors, sheriff, or the Legislature fail in their
constitutional and statutory obligations to enable the
judicial branch to operate, then, and only
then, can "the Judicial branch [have] the authority as
well as the duty to see that courts do not atrophy."
Hosford, 525 So.2d at 798. The record reveals that
no such claim has been advanced in this case.
In a unanimous opinion penned just three years ago by
this Court, we expressly rejected a similar attempt by a
circuit judge. Lewis v. Hinds Cty. Circuit Court,
158 So.3d 1117, 1119 (Miss. 2015). In Lewis, this
Court was presented with a dispute between the Hinds County
Sheriff and the Hinds County Circuit Court that arose from
another local court order, which attempted to prescribe
several requirements on the sheriff, sheriff's deputies,
and bailiffs by which to abide in carrying out their
statutory duties. Id. at 1125-26. The Hinds County
order contained sections which addressed the hours, uniform,
discipline, and duties of bailiffs, inter alia.
Id. One section of the order stated that "the
sheriff must establish a discipline for the security
and maintenance of the court that must be approved by the
court . . . ." Id. at 1125 (emphasis
added). Applying the aforementioned constitutional
separation-of-powers principles, this Court held that, under
Article 5, Section 135 of the Mississippi Constitution,
"[t]he sheriff is a member of the executive branch of
government, " and is '"the executive officer of
the circuit and chancery court of his county."'
Id. at 1124 (citing multiple authorities). We
further held that, under Mississippi Code Section 19-25-69
(Rev. 2012), "the Legislature has given the sheriff the
duties of protecting the courthouse." Id. at
1123. Because the order required judges to approve security
measures-a statutory duty of the executive branch-this Court
found that section "to be void in full" because it
completely contradicted statutory law. Id. at 1126.
Lewis established that the judiciary is without
"inherent power" to exercise control of security
extending beyond the courtroom, as '"[n]o . . .
governmental official can exercise power beyond their
constitutional authority."' Id. at 1124-25
(quoting Barbour v. State ex rel. Hood, 974 So.2d
232, 239 (Miss. 2008)) (citations omitted). By striking the
aforementioned section of the Hinds County order, this Court
held that the judiciary's authority to control security
begins and ends at the courtroom door. Any attempt by the
judiciary to assume or exercise control over the statutory
responsibilities of the executive branch is void.
The orders defy statutory law.
Pursuant to its constitutional authority, the Legislature
amended Mississippi Code Section 97-37-7(2) authorizing
certain categories of people,  including enhanced
concealed-carry licensees, to carry a concealed pistol in
courthouses except in courtrooms during a judicial
proceeding, so long as they also (1) meet specific
requirements under Mississippi Code Section 45-9-101 (Rev.
2015) and (2) have voluntarily completed an
instructional course in the safe handling and use of
firearms. Miss. Code Ann. § 97-37-7(2) (Rev.
2014).The statute specifically exempts
"courtrooms during a judicial proceeding, " and
further states that "[t]his section shall in no way
interfere with the right of a trial judge to restrict the
carrying of firearms in the courtroom."
Id. (emphasis added).
"In considering a statute passed by the Legislature, . .
. the first question a court should decide is whether the
statute is ambiguous. If it is not ambiguous, the court
should simply apply the statute according to its plain
meaning and should not use principles of statutory
construction." Barbour, 974 So.2d at 240
(internal citations omitted) (quoting Miss. Dep't of
Transp. v. Allred, 928 So.2d 152, 154 (Miss. 2006))
(citation omitted). In deciding the first question, as we
must, there is simply no ambiguity in Section 97-37-7:
enhanced concealed-carry licensees may possess a concealed
weapon in a courthouse, except in courtrooms, which the
Legislature left within the province of judges.
Courts must enforce the law "unless it appears
beyond all reasonable doubt to violate the
Constitution." Tunica Cty. v. Town of Tunica,
227 So.3d 1007, 1015 (Miss. 2017) (quoting Pathfinder
Coach Div. of Superior Coach Corp. v. Cottrell, 216
Miss. 358, 62 So.2d 383, 385 (Miss. 1953)) (emphasis in
original). The parties have failed to prove beyond a
reasonable doubt that Mississippi Code Section 97-37-7 is
unconstitutional. Id. The "inherent power"
of Mississippi courts, which is limited by our Constitution,
lends no support to the dissenting justices' opinions
that the statute is unconstitutional. See Newell,
308 So.2d at 76-77; see also Spec. Conc. ¶ 22
(Maxwell, J.). Thus, we are duty-bound to enforce the law as
written. Applying a plain reading of Section 97-37-7 to the
orders at issue, the chancellors effectively repealed a
statute as applied to the seven courthouses of the Fourteenth
Judicial District, which is, ipso facto, a violation
of Mississippi law. See Lewis, 158 So.3d at 1125
("[C]ourt[s] may not issue orders that contradict
statutory law. . . .")
The chancellors may have good and noble intentions, and their
concerns are well-founded. However, their personal fears and
opinions do not trump, and cannot negate, constitutional
guarantees. The ultimate outcome of today's issue is
reserved for the Legislature, not to be commandeered by
unilateral local judicial proclamations. Courts must give
more than lip service to the rule of law; they must insist
upon its lawful application. Judges cannot allow their sense
of superior knowledge, perceptions, or understandings to
justify open defiance of the very laws that they are called
upon to uphold. Indeed, we have held repeatedly that courts
are guardians of the Constitution,  not guardians of the
courthouse. Without question, the orders defy existing law
and seek to exercise a power that plainly is reserved for the
other branches of government. The orders contain no authority
to suggest otherwise. The law of Mississippi is clear:
enhanced-carry licensees are permitted to possess a firearm
in courthouses. No matter how well-intentioned, judges are
without the power to limit enhanced concealed-carry
licensees' right to carry a firearm beyond courtrooms in
the State of Mississippi. The orders are vacated.
COLEMAN, MAXWELL, CHAMBERLIN AND ISHEE, JJ., CONCUR. MAXWELL,
J., SPECIALLY CONCURS WITH SEPARATE WRITTEN OPINION JOINED BY
RANDOLPH, P.J., COLEMAN, CHAMBERLIN AND ISHEE, JJ.
CHAMBERLIN, J., SPECIALLY CONCURS WITH SEPARATE WRITTEN
OPINION JOINED BY RANDOLPH, P.J., MAXWELL AND ISHEE, JJ.;
WALLER, C.J., AND BEAM, J., JOIN IN PART. WALLER, C.J.,
CONCURS IN PART AND DISSENTS IN PART WITH SEPARATE WRITTEN
OPINION JOINED BY BEAM, J. BEAM, J., CONCURS IN PART AND
DISSENTS IN PART WITH SEPARATE WRITTEN OPINION JOINED BY
WALLER, C.J. KING, J., DISSENTS WITH SEPARATE WRITTEN OPINION
JOINED BY KITCHENS, P.J.; WALLER, C.J., AND BEAM, J., JOIN IN
MAXWELL, JUSTICE, SPECIALLY CONCURRING:
I agree with the majority that, while certainly well-meaning,
the chancellors' orders prohibiting enhanced
concealed-carry licensees from possessing firearms in
courthouses of the Fourteenth District are overly broad and
facially unconstitutional as applied. Thus, we have no option
but to vacate them.
Article 3, Section 12 of Mississippi's Constitution is
crystal clear. Its text expressly delegates to the
Legislature the authority to regulate concealed weapons:
The right of every citizen to keep and bear arms in defense
of his home, person, or property, or in aid of the civil
power when thereto legally summoned, shall not be called in
question, but the Legislature may regulate or forbid
carrying concealed weapons.
Miss. Const. art. 3, § 12 (emphasis added).
Whether by wisdom or folly, Mississippi's Legislature has
exercised its express constitutional power to authorize a
small class of concealed-carry licensees to possess firearms
in non-courtroom areas of courthouses. While I understand and
share some of the chancellors' concerns, neither my own
personal observations or experiences, nor those of others,
trump express constitutional authority.
I do, however, emphasize that our judiciary has inherent
constitutional authority to secure its courtrooms. But the
orders here broadly apply to non-judicial hallways, rooms,
and offices located within the District's
courthouses-areas that by no definition qualify as
courtrooms. Further, to the extent the dissenting justices
rely on inherent-authority cases from other jurisdictions,
they fail to acknowledge a glaring difference between the
constitutions of those states and Mississippi's. That
prominent distinction is that not one of the cited states has
a constitutional provision like Mississippi's-a
constitutional provision that expressly authorizes the
Legislature to regulate the concealed carry of firearms.
CHAMBERLIN, JUSTICE, SPECIALLY CONCURRING:
I agree with the analysis of the majority and its ultimate
holding that the Mississippi Constitution and the doctrine of
separation of powers require nullification of the orders in
question. However, as the Legislature clearly recognized,
judges are in control of their courtrooms. Courtrooms (while
in session) are specifically excluded from the legislation.
A courtroom is not always an easily defined structure. Judges
must have discretion in defining the courtroom (i.e.,
judges' chambers, witness rooms, jury rooms, etc.).
Further, the design of some courthouses may still require
jurors to exit the main courtroom and travel through a public
hallway to the jury room. The same applies to witness rooms.
A judge certainly has the right to deem these areas to be
part of the courtroom while court is in session.
Though not specifically before us, as set forth in
Hosford, judges may have the authority to step
outside of the courtroom limitation where the facts of a
specific case so warrant. Hosford v. State, 525
So.2d 789, 797-98 (Miss. 1988). This might include issues
such as gang-related trials or highly emotional circumstances
such as those involving crimes against children. This is
allowed only upon specific findings of such exigent
However, the orders at issue today are merely blanket orders
that overstep the authority of the judges and attempt to
negate the constitutionally backed legislation. Remote
hallways and nonjudicial offices certainly are not ...