OF JUDGMENT: 06/22/2018
COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, FIRST JUDICIAL DISTRICT, HON. WINSTON
L. KIDD JUDGE.
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: MILTON PILATE (PRO SE).
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: JAMES RANDALL BUSH ALBERT B. WHITE.
CARLTON, P.J., LAWRENCE AND C. WILSON, JJ.
In this unemployment-benefits case, Milton Pilate appeals the
Hinds County Circuit Court's dismissal of his appeal from
the Mississippi Department of Employment Security's Board
of Review (the Board). Two years after Pilate's appeal,
the circuit court dismissed the appeal with prejudice under
Mississippi Rules of Appellate Procedure 2(a)(2) and 31(d).
Pilate then appealed the circuit court's dismissal.
Finding that the circuit clerk must issue Pilate appropriate
notice before a dismissal, we reverse and remand without
reaching the merits of the Board's decision.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
In October 2014, Pilate began working as an over-the-road
truck driver for Powell Transportation Company (Powell) in
Flowood, Mississippi. On February 24, 2016, Dr. Latoya
Bullock of Central Mississippi Health Services diagnosed
Pilate with vertigo and treated him with medication. Dr.
Bullock recommended that Pilate not drive again until his
symptoms were resolved. After starting the medication,
Pilate's symptoms subsided, so he continued working.
On March 15, 2016, Pilate was driving a work truck from
Tennessee to Louisiana. He was without medication when his
symptoms reoccurred in Wiggins, Mississippi. Instead of
continuing his route to Louisiana, Pilate drove to
Powell's Flowood terminal. He arrived there around 3 a.m.
Pilate returned his truck, cleaned it out, and turned in his
keys and fuel card. He did not notify anyone at Powell of
what happened nor did he show up for work the next day.
Pilate's manager assumed he had quit. On March 17, 2016,
Pilate called his manager and said that he was back on his
medication, feeling better, and ready to work. The manager
informed Pilate that he would need to check with the owner.
According to Pilate, no one ever contacted him.
On March 23, 2016, Pilate filed his initial claim for
unemployment benefits with the Mississippi Department of
Employment Security (MDES). An MDES claims examiner
investigated the circumstances surrounding Pilate's
departure and determined that Pilate was disqualified from
receiving unemployment benefits under Mississippi Code
Annotated section 71-5-513(A)(1)(a) (Rev. 2011) because he
left his job without good cause. On April 14, 2016, Pilate
appealed to the administrative judge (AJ). After conducting a
telephonic hearing with Pilate and his manager on June 8,
2016, the AJ likewise denied Pilate's claim for
unemployment benefits. On June 16, 2016, Pilate appealed the
AJ's decision to the Board. On June 27, 2016, the Board
adopted the AJ's findings of fact and opinion and
affirmed his decision.
On July 5, 2016, Pilate appealed the Board's decision to
the Hinds County Circuit Court. MDES filed the record and its
answer one month later. Pilate did nothing. Pilate's
attorney filed an entry of appearance on May 25, 2017. On
June 5, 2017, Pilate's attorney filed a motion to
withdraw as counsel of record. The court entered an order
granting the motion and stated that Pilate had sixty days to
obtain substitute counsel or notify the court that he
intended to proceed pro se. On July 5, 2017, Pilate filed an
"answer" or response to the order, stating he
"ha[d] no choice but to proceed . . . pro se." From
that point, Pilate took no further action.
On December 14, 2017, MDES filed a motion to dismiss with
prejudice in accordance with Mississippi Rules of Appellate
Procedure 2(a)(2) and 31(d). On June 22, 2018, the circuit
court granted the motion, stating that Pilate had failed to
file his appellant's brief after receiving notification
of the deficiency. Aggrieved, Pilate appeals.