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Khosla v. State ex rel. Hood

Supreme Court of Mississippi, En Banc

August 22, 2019

VINOD KHOSLA, KFT TRUST, VINOD KHOSLA, TRUSTEE, SAMIR KAUL, DENNIS CUNEO, VK SERVICES, LLC, KHOSLA VENTURES, LLC, KHOSLA VENTURES ASSOCIATES II, LLC, KHOSLA VENTURES II, L.P., KHOSLA VENTURES III, L.P., KHOSLA VENTURES ASSOCIATES III, LLC, FRED CANNON, CHRISTOPHER A. ARTZER, ANDRE DITSCH, JOHN HACSKAYLO, RALPH ALEXANDER, DR. WILLIAM ROACH AND GARY L. WHITLOCK
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI EX REL. JIM HOOD

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 11/06/2017

          CIRCUIT COURT OF THE FIRST JUDICIAL DISTRICT OF HINDS COUNTY TRIAL JUDGE: HON. WILLIAM A. GOWAN, JR.

          TRIAL COURT ATTORNEYS: WILLIAM M. QUINN, II W. THOMAS McCRANEY, III LINDSEY B. SILVER WILLIAM C. BRABEC MICHAEL G. BONGIORNO HIRAM RICHARD DAVIS, JR. PETER J. KOLOVOS LEAH N. LEDFORD KIP MENDRYGAL JAMES POTTER STREETMAN, III PAUL E. COGGINS J. DOUGLAS MINOR, JR. ALICIA N. NETTERVILLE DEAN KIEHL ROY D. CAMPBELL, III JAN NIELSEN LITTLE JUSTINA K. SESSIONS STEVEN P. RAGLAND MATTHEW WADE ALLEN LEONARD D. VAN SLYKE, JR.

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANTS: J. DOUGLAS MINOR, JR. ROY D. CAMPBELL, III ALICIA N. NETTERVILLE JAN NIELSEN LITTLE STEVEN P. RAGLAND JUSTINA K. SESSIONS DEAN A. ZIEHL WILLIAM C. BRABEC H. RICHARD DAVIS MICHAEL G. BONGIORNO PETER J. KOLOVOS LINDSEY B. SILVER LEAH N. LEDFORD JAMES P. STREETMAN, III PAUL E. COGGINS KIP MENDRYGAL

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: WILLIAM M. QUINN II W. THOMAS McCRANEY III

          KITCHENS, PRESIDING JUSTICE

         ¶1. This Court consolidated three cases from the Circuit Court of the First Judicial District of Hinds County for purposes of interlocutory appeal.[1] Circuit Court District Seven, comprised of Hinds County only, is a multi-judge district. The three cases were assigned randomly to circuit court judges under Uniform Civil Rule of Circuit and County Court Practice 1.05A. The original assignments were as follows:

(1) Safeco - Circuit Court Judge William Gowan
(2) Liberty Mutual - Senior Circuit Court Judge Tomie Green
(3) Cannon - Circuit Court Judge William Gowan

         With the approval of Judge Green and Judge Gowan, Safeco and Cannon were reassigned or transferred to Judge Green's docket. Safeco and Cannon objected to the reassignments, arguing that neither Judge Green nor Judge Gowan had the authority to make the reassignments. To the extent that a court is authorized to transfer or reassign cases for those reasons the majority has established in Safeco, we hold in this case that the trial court acted within its discretion in transferring the case to another judge in the same court district. This Court now has rescinded the order of consolidation and has deconsolidated the cases. Regarding this case, because the trial court was within its discretion to reassign the case, we affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. Defendants in this case are, inter alia, former officers, directors, employees, and investors of KiOR Inc., a startup biofuels company. The State lent KiOR $75 million to construct its first commercial-scale production facility in Columbus, Mississippi. The facility was completed in 2012. Operations were suspended in early 2014, however, and KiOR filed for bankruptcy later that year.

         ¶3. In January 2015, the State sued Defendants, alleging fraudulent and negligent misrepresentation, fraudulent and negligent omission, civil conspiracy, aiding and abetting, and respondeat superior. The case was assigned randomly to Judge Gowan. He ordered the complaint to be sealed, so the record is sealed for this ...


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