WILLIE J. PERKINS, SR. APPELLANT
JAMES K. LITTLETON APPELLEE
OF JUDGMENT: 01/23/2017
LEFLORE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT TRIAL JUDGE: HON. W. ASHLEY
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: WILLIE J. PERKINS SR. (PRO SE)
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: JAMES K. LITTLETON (PRO SE)
CARLTON, P.J., WILSON AND GREENLEE, JJ.
During a lengthy radio advertisement in support of his
campaign for circuit court judge, James K. Littleton stated
that "the father of one of [his] opponents" had
"conspired" with Littleton's family "to go
public with [a] family dispute to derail [Littleton's]
campaign." Littleton had only two opponents in the
election. One opponent's father was deceased. The other
opponent's father was Willie K. Perkins Sr. Perkins
perceived that Littleton's statement was directed at him,
he informed Littleton that the statement was false and
demanded a retraction, and he subsequently sued Littleton for
The Leflore County Circuit Court granted summary judgment for
Littleton on the ground that his statement was "not
clearly and unmistakably directed toward [Perkins]." We
affirm the circuit court's ruling but for different
reasons. Littleton's statement was clearly directed at
Perkins because it could not have been directed at anyone but
Perkins. In addition, there are factual disputes as to
whether the statement was false and whether Littleton knew it
was false. Nonetheless, we affirm the circuit court's
ruling because, as a matter of law, Littleton's statement
was not defamatory.
OF FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Perkins and Littleton are both practicing attorneys in
Greenwood. Perkins is also a state legislator. Littleton is
also a justice court judge.
In 2014, Littleton was one of three candidates for circuit
court judge in the Fourth Circuit Court District, Place 3.
The other two candidates were Perkins's daughter (Takiyah
Perkins) and Carol White-Richard.
In August and September 2014 the Greenwood
Commonwealth published articles about a lawsuit that
Littleton's mother and sister had filed against Littleton
in the Bolivar County Chancery Court. In the lawsuit,
Littleton's mother and sister alleged that Littleton had
forged deeds related to his deceased father's estate. As
the newspaper articles reported, Littleton denied the
In September 2014, Littleton ran a lengthy advertisement on
two local radio stations. In the ad, Littleton stated in part
This is James Littleton, candidate for Circuit Court Judge of
the Fourth District, Place 3. In addressing the story first
reported by the Greenwood Commonwealth, I'm not
surprised that they would report a misleading and half-truth
story as they did.
Now, let's get to the whole truth. First, it was reported
that I cursed my mother out. The Commonwealth has
been armed with this story for two weeks, and the reporter
writing this story has interviewed me, recorded me, but has
never asked me to respond to this false allegation. I am a
child of God and I am obedient to my parents.
Second, they failed to report that I have known about a
conspiracy and meeting between my family and the father of
one of my opponents for several months where they conspired
to go public with this family dispute to derail my campaign.
Prior to being contacted by the Commonwealth, my sister sent
derogatory and false comments to one of my campaign workers
via facebook and stated she supported Takiyah Perkins for
Circuit Court Judge.
I'm aware of the allegations made by my mother who
birthed me into this world and my sister that I forged their
signatures on various documents in the handling of my
deceased father's estate several years ago. I love my
mother and my sister but I am disappointed in them. These
allegations were made by them approximately one year ago well
in advance of my decision to run for circuit judge. I want
the voters . . . to know that these allegations are not true,
and that I have not forged the signatures of my mother or
sister on any document relating to my father's
The following day, Perkins sent Littleton a cease-and-desist
letter and demand for retraction. Perkins identified the
following statement from the ad as false and defamatory:
"I have known about a conspiracy and meeting between my
family and the father of one of my opponents for several
months where they conspired to go public with this family
dispute to derail my campaign." Perkins asserted that
the statement clearly was directed toward him because
Littleton knew that White-Richard's father was deceased.
Perkins asserted that the statement was false because he had
never met or spoken to Littleton's mother or sister.
According to Littleton, the ad already was scheduled to stop
running on or about the day he received Perkins's letter.
Littleton did not retract his statement because he says he
believed it to be true. Littleton claims that his mother told
him "that she had met with the father of one of his
opponents" in an effort to derail his campaign.
Littleton also says that his mother did not tell him whose
father she met with, and he did not know. Littleton denies