Category Archives: Opinion

Life is About who you KNOW…

The cliche’ is good lawyers know the law and great lawyers know the Judge.

Valerie Morton, Tim Johnson and Matthew Thompson at the Community Outreach and Pro Bono Committee of the CABA – Capital Area Bar Association – MS, Hinds County Pro Bono Legal Clinic. 10/18/19

This is not to suggest knowing the Judge results in an unfair advantage or that the fix was in, but rather you know what to focus on in a trial or hearing and how to prepare the case.

But Judges are just a piece of the Courthouse puzzle. There are behind the scenes heroes that all too often do not get recognized. Court clerks, administrators, court reporters, and bailiffs all contribute to creating a place where people can be helped and justice served.

In fact, in a lot of instances these person are on the front lines of justice. Pointing people in the direction they need to go for help or guiding them to the extent allowed, which isn’t much.

These people also see us (lawyers) at our worst. Litigants being out-lawyered, lawyers treating court staff as if they work for them personally and lawyers blaming others when something went wrong.

Through it all, they keep a smile on their face, a song in their heart and that jerk lawyer on their short list…

Matthew Thompson is a Family Law Attorney in Mississippi and is grateful for the court staff and their seeming never-ending patience!

Why Settling isn’t Settling for less…

Most cases settle. Most cases should settle and “settlement” is not a dirty word.

Court, despite preparations, always has a level of unpredictability. Witnesses who you thought would be great, are nervous and are not great. Evidence that you knew was significant was prevented from being used due to an objection. What you believed to be the facts morphed into something else because of other testimony.

The judge was cranky. The air conditioner broke. Your lawyer forgot to ask you a question.

Settlement eliminates the risk and unpredictability of Court. Also, you just may get the outcome you would have gotten without the stress, anxiety and burning bridges that sometimes comes with contested litigation.

Sometimes settling your case is the way to go.

Matthew Thompson is a litigation attorney in Mississippi and still advises that sometimes settlement is best.

Rule 11. Sanctions: Party or Attorney Misconduct

Sanction” is a penalty or punishment provided as a means of enforcing obedience to a law.

The Mississippi Rules of Civil Procedure, that all attorneys and parties have to abide by in litigation, include a specific rule that an attorney or a party may NOT file a motion that is frivolous or for the purpose of harassment or delay. M.R.C.P 11.

Frivolous” means a claim or defense made ‘without hope of success.’” See In re Spencer, 985 So. 2d 330, 338 (Miss. 2008). M.R.C.P 11

(b) Sanctions…For wilful violation of this rule an attorney may be subjected to appropriate disciplinary action. Similar action may be taken if scandalous or indecent matter is inserted. If any party files a motion or pleading which, in the opinion of the court, is frivolous or is filed for the purpose of harassment or delay, the court may order such a party, or his attorney, or both, to pay to the opposing party or parties the reasonable expenses incurred by such other parties and by their attorneys, including reasonable attorneys’ fees. [Amended effective March 13, 1991; amended effective January 16, 2003] M.R.C.P 11

Rule 11 provides two alternative grounds for the imposition of sanctions—the filing of a frivolous motion or pleading, and the filing of a motion or pleading for the purpose of harassment or delay. See Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co. v. Evans, 553 So. 2d 1117, 1120 (Miss. 1989). M.R.C.P 11

Although a finding of bad faith is necessary to sustain the imposition of sanctions based on purposeful harassment or delay, a finding of bad faith is not necessary to sustain the imposition of sanctions based upon frivolous pleadings or motions. M.R.C.P. 11.

A pleading is “frivolous” if its “insufficiency…is so manifest upon a bare inspection of the pleadings, that the court or judge is able to determine its character without argument or research.” In re Estate of Smith, 69 So. 3d 1, 6 (Miss. 2011). M.R.C.P 11

Sanctions against a party are improper in cases where the party relied strictly on advice of counsel and could not be expected to know whether the complaint was supported by law, where the party relied on advice of counsel in filing the pleading and played no significant role in prosecution of the action; or where the party was unaware and lacked responsibility for any bad faith harassment or delay. See Stevens v. Lake, 615 So. 2d 1177, 1184 (Miss. 1993). M.R.C.P 11

Let Rule 11 serve as a warning against filing things you know are untrue and/or that you cannot prove.

Matthew Thompson is a Chancery Court attorney in Mississippi and doesn’t often seek sanctions, but does when it’s warranted.