Appellate Practice

Judge Orders Circuit Clerk to Personally Pay $9.5K for Missed Deadline and Suspends Her Staffer

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A Mississippi judge has ordered the suspension of a circuit clerk employee and told the worker’s boss to pay more than $9,000 for failing to meet a deadline for filing papers in an appeal.

Hinds County Circuit Clerk Barbara Dunn will have to pay $9,535 to reimburse a law firm for costs incurred to compel the clerk’s office to file the appropriate documents, the Clarion Ledger reports. Deputy Clerk Loretta Wells will be suspended for 30 days, and will have different duties when she returns to work, the story says.

Judge Tomie Green determined the sanctions on remand after the Mississippi Supreme Court said Dunn will have to pay the fine out of her own funds. “This case is yet another example of the recurring failures by Circuit Clerk Barbara Dunn to comply with the rules of the courts of Mississippi,” the Mississippi Supreme Court said in an opinion (PDF) issued in January. “The taxpayers of Hinds County, Miss., should not bear the costs of Dunn’s repeated errors. Therefore, the sanction shall be paid by Barbara Dunn personally and shall not be paid, in whole or in part, with public funds.”

The state high court heard the case on a motion to compel by the law firm T. Jackson Lyons & Associates. According to supreme court opinion, the circuit clerk’s office refused to transmit the complete appellate record when a lawyer for Lyons noticed missing documents. Instead the clerk’s office informed the lawyer it would send documents as part of a “supplementation” and the law firm would have to foot the bill.

The state supreme court has sanctioned Dunn’s office at least three times in the last four years, the Clarion Ledger says. The clerk’s office was fined in 2008 and 2010 for failing to transmit copies of orders and notice of orders to all parties.

Dunn says she will have to borrow money to pay the sanction, the story says. She also indicated she will have difficulty finding someone to train her staff as required by the supreme court. She said most of her staffers know their duties, though they don’t always do them. “I have some good employees, but they’re not perfect,” Dunn told the Clarion Ledger.

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