BUTLER SNOW LLP AND DONALD CLARK JR. APPELLANTS
ESTATE OF MARK STEVENS MAYFIELD, ROBIN MAYFIELD, WILLIAM MAYFIELD, AND OWEN MAYFIELD APPELLEES
OF JUDGMENT: 03/12/2018
COUNTY CHANCERY COURT, FIRST JUDICIAL DISTRICT HON. PATRICIA
D. WISE TRIAL JUDGE:
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANTS: ALAN W. PERRY STEPHEN L. THOMAS
SIMON TURNER BAILEY
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEES: DORSEY R. CARSON JR. JULIE SKIPPER
BARNES, C.J., TINDELL AND McCARTY, JJ.
This is a case about discovery-how it is initiated, how it is
conducted, and who is privy to it. In the chancery court, a
plaintiff sought information pursuant to a bill of discovery.
The case was then sealed. The information obtained in the
case was used to support a lawsuit against defendants in a
separate federal action. The defendants then sought to
intervene in the state court case, but the chancery court
denied their request.
Finding that the defendants should have been allowed to
intervene, we reverse and render. We likewise reverse and
render the decision to seal the case, because it was not done
in accord with recent Mississippi Supreme Court precedent to
conduct a balancing test, and there is nothing in this record
warranting a seal.
A federal district court has provided a detailed examination
of the facts giving rise to this appeal. See Mayfield v.
Butler Snow LLP, 341 F.Supp.3d 664, 666 (S.D.Miss.
2018). It began during the 2014 Senate race between
then-incumbent and the late United States Senator Thad
Cochran, and a challenger, State Senator Chris McDaniel.
Certain supporters of Senator McDaniel, not directly
affiliated with his campaign, were convinced that Senator
Cochran was straying from his marriage of many years to Mrs.
Rose Cochran. The supporters developed a plan to
"out" Senator Cochran for having an affair. This
plan would be supported by "exposing" that Mrs.
Cochran was incapacitated and bedridden in a private care
home located in Madison, Mississippi.
Individuals gained access to Mrs. Cochran's room in the
private care home. They took a video of her and later posted
it on YouTube. The video ignited a fire, although not in the
way that the devisers of the plan had hoped. The video, and
those who were believed to have recorded it or aided in its
recording, were reported to various law enforcement agencies
in Madison County. Counsel for Senator Cochran, the Butler
Snow law firm, "told the Mayor of the City of Madison,
Mary Hawkins-Butler, that the incident should be treated
criminally, as it was a possible case of exploitation of a
vulnerable adult." Id. at 667.
Law enforcement began to investigate, and ultimately arrested
four different suspects for a variety of crimes, including
burglary and conspiracy. One of the persons arrested was
attorney Mark Mayfield. The police executed search warrants
on his home and office, and afterward the lawyer lost at
least one major client. A little over a month later, he
His family retained lawyers to investigate whether they had
claims against Butler Snow, among others. The family's
counsel used a tool of investigation called a bill of
discovery to seek information about what had happened leading
up to the arrest of the men. The family filed two bills of
discovery-one in the Hinds County Chancery Court and one in
the Madison County Chancery Court.
During oral argument, counsel for Mayfield's family
described the receipt of massive amounts of information from
the bill of discovery. Several thousand pages of documents
were received in response to subpoenas duces tecum issued
under the bill ...