Tort Law

Pols Caught Up in Alienation of Affection Suits in Mississippi

Two men with ties to state politics are involved in separate alienation of affection lawsuits in Mississippi, one of seven states that still allow the tort.

In one of the suits, a county schools superintendent is making a pre-emptive strike with a declaratory judgment suit against Democratic Party chairman Jamie Franks. The suit by Lee County Schools Superintendent Mike Scott seeks a court ruling that he is not liable for alienation of affection for having an affair with Franks’ now ex-wife, a school district employee, reports.

Scott claims Franks tried to commit extortion by pressuring him to resign over the affair, and if there is any liability, damages should be offset by Franks’ liability for the torts of extortion, malicious interference with employment, defamation and negligence, according to a copy of the complaint posted by Jackson Jambalaya.

In a second suit, a former Mississippi Supreme Court justice who once advocated abolishing alienation of affection lawsuits is a reluctant advocate in a suit involving a former Mississippi congressman.

Former Justice Chuck McRae is seeking to withdraw as the lawyer for the estranged wife of former U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering, who has filed suit against a woman accused of having an affair with her husband, the Clarion Ledger reports. The basis for the motion is not known because it was filed under seal, the story says.

Jackson, Miss., lawyer and blogger Philip Thomas says he’s sick and tired of such suits. Writing at MS Litigation Review, he questions why fault should be placed with a third-party involved in the affair rather than the cheating spouse. There’s also a “quasi-extortion element” to the tort, he argues, since many claims settle before suit is filed to avoid negative publicity.

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