OF JUDGMENT: 11/06/2017
COUNTY CHANCERY COURT TRIAL JUDGE: HON. JACQUELINE ESTES MASK
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: GWENDOLYN BAPTIST-RUCKER DEREK D.
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: MORTON WARD SMITH ALEXIS L. FARMER
BARNES, C.J., WESTBROOKS AND LAWRENCE, JJ.
Joseph Rucker is appealing an order from the Lee County
Chancery Court granting the Mississippi Department of
Revenue's (MDOR) motion to dismiss. Rucker claims that
the chancery court erred by granting MDOR's motion and
dismissing his claim. After review of the record, we affirm.
In September 2010, Rucker purchased a building located at
2702 North Gloster Street, Tupelo, Mississippi, with the
intentions of starting a restaurant, Papa Joe's. But, due
to a family emergency, the restaurant never opened, and
throughout the years Rucker leased the property to other
restaurateurs. In March 2014, Rucker received an
audit-closing notice from MDOR. Rucker checked the option
stating, "I am in disagreement with the audit findings.
I will likely execute my rights to appeal," and after
signing and dating the form on "April 25, 2014," he
returned the closing notice to MDOR. In early June 2014,
Rucker was sent a letter stating that the audit was closing
and he would be receiving a formal audit assessment in the
mail. Days later, MDOC mailed Rucker's audit assessment
dated June 5, 2014; however, Rucker disputes that he ever
received that assessment.
A year later, in June 2015, Rucker made a written appeal to
the Board of Review. On June 15, 2015, the chairperson of the
Board, Stephanie Rogers, denied his appeal for being
untimely. The denial letter stated that Rucker was required
to request a hearing by August 4, 2014, and his request was
not received until June 12, 2015. Aggrieved, Rucker filed a
petition for review in the Lee County Chancery Court. In
response, MDOR filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that Rucker
did not properly exhaust the administrative appeal process
and that therefore the chancery court did not have the
jurisdiction to properly hear his claim.
After a hearing on the motion to dismiss, the chancery court
agreed with MDOR and dismissed Rucker's petition under
Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Still
aggrieved, Rucker appealed the chancery court's order to
On appeal, Rucker argues that the chancery court erred by (1)
not converting the motion to dismiss to a motion for summary
judgment and (2) granting the motion to dismiss because MDOR
failed to prove Rucker received notice of his appellate
rights. In response, MDOR argues that (1) the central issue
is whether the chancery court had appellate jurisdiction to
hear Rucker's claims and (2) whether Rucker's failure
to exhaust his administrative remedies barred his appeal in
chancery court. This opinion is limited to the jurisdictional
issue as we find it is dispositive of Rucker's claims.
"In reviewing appeals taken from chancery court rulings,
we apply a limited standard of review in that the factual
findings of the chancery court, if supported by substantial
evidence, will not be disturbed unless the chancery court
abused its discretion, applied an erroneous legal standard,
or its findings are manifestly wrong or clearly
erroneous." In re Estate of Smith v. Boolos,