Swiss Cheese Chronicles: Is Simpson Misleading the Supremes?

Reading the response of Special Fiduciary Steve Simpson opens more holes and questions:

  1. Why does Simpson not mention the orders he asked Judge Hilburn to sign?
  2. How does a judge hear an oral motion when there is no hearing?
  3. How did Simpson know to have Hilburn sign the motions at that meeting?
  4. Were there earlier, deliberative communications amongst the parties?
No Mention of Signed Orders

Though former Circuit Judge Stephen Simpson spends hundreds of words to explain his actions and impugn other attorneys, he makes one glaring omission:  he doesn’t bother to inform the Supreme Court that Judge Hilburn signed four (4) separate orders at Simpson’s request.  Simpson says that Denham and Barton’s “six cases were not the subject of that meeting.”

Response of Special Fiduciary Steve Simpson

Simpson states to the Court that this was a “settlement conference” that had nothing to do with Almond or any other Denham and Barton case. Despite his assertion, Simpson asked Judge Hilburn to issue an order authorizing him to enter into a settlement.  Judge Hilburn makes mention of this in his response:

Judge Hilburn’s first letter response

In fact, Judge Hilburn signed four orders at the request of Special Fiduciary Simpson, two of which authorized payment to the Special Fiduciary and his counsel, and two of which allowed the Special Fiduciary to file a lawsuit and to enter a settlement agreement with parties in attendance at the January 12th meeting. Again, all four orders were entered into Almond. Despite the fact Lay was severed from the other cases, Simpson captioned all eight chancery court cases in the order he prepared for Judge Hilburn to sign.

Judge Hilburn Hears a Motion

Three of the orders signed that day state “This cause came before the Court on a motion ore tenus of Stephen B. Simpson.”  (Ore tenus means spoken, or out loud.)  Where could Judge Hilburn hear such a spoken order, except at the January 12 meeting?  By Hilburn’s own admission he “[…] signed an order for the Special Master and two orders for the Special Fiduciary.”

Judge Hilburn and Special Fiduciary Simpson both introduced this item into the record of the court in the Almond case and there was heard an oral motion.  They both signed their names to the document on January 12. Simpson caused the document to be recorded with the Chancery Clerk’s office on January 12.  Simpson then tells the Supreme Court that there was no discussion of the Almond matter.

How can there be both “no discussion” of Almond and an ore tenus motion heard at the same meeting?

Did Simpson Have Advance Notice of the Meeting’s Outcome

According to the responses, no one should have known Judge Hilburn would cancel the hearings scheduled for January 13.   Why then would Simpson show up with prepared orders for the judge to sign?  Why would Simpson not simply make the motions in open court during the hearings, have the judge sign them, and hand them to the clerk to file?

This suggests that Special Fiduciary Simpson had knowledge of what would transpire at the meeting.  Scott Taylor’s blog post also points to the agenda having been set prior to Judge Hilburn’s arrival:

Scott Taylor blog post: “Clandestine? Seriously?” January 17, 2016


It should be noted that Scott Taylor did not include this information in his response to the Supreme Court.

Were There Earlier Communications?

If Simpson had no tip-off to Judge Hilburn cancelling the scheduled hearings, Kelly Sessoms needs to give Simpson an Eagle Scout patch.  Talk about being prepared.

The more likely scenario, as suggested by both Scott Taylor’s and Billy Guice’s recounting, is that Simpson received word that the hearings would likely be cancelled.

Bottom Line

Simpson’s omission to the Supreme Court cannot be overlooked.  If everything at the meeting was within the bounds of the law and propriety, he should have no misgivings about providing the Supreme Court a full account of the events that transpired.

11 thoughts on “Swiss Cheese Chronicles: Is Simpson Misleading the Supremes?”

  1. It is getting really “interesting” now. The MSSC has ordered Hilburn to conduct a recusal hearing to determine whether he should recuse himself and Singletary. No matter what he does, that opens the door for any of parties to take it back to the MSSC. Given that Dogan and Wilkinson fought tooth and nail to recuse Harris, they would have quite a hill to climb to argue to keep Hilburn OR fight him recusing himself and Singletary. The Federal bunch, i.e., Reeves, Mestayer, etc., has argued that they really don’t have a particular dog in the Chancery Court fight, so that makes any argument they might make pretty weak as well as seem a bit hypocritical (not that appearing hypocritical has stopped ANY of the lawyers thus far).

    If Hilburn fails to recuse, it’ll look very bad to the general public and if he does recuse, and depending on who gets the honor of replacing him, things are back in a turmoil caused as a direct result of attorney (or judge/special master) conduct/misconduct.

    Where this could get interesting is the costs resulting from the delay as well as the costs of the fight: who pays for what, for the various attorneys, judge, special master, fiduciary, etc., not to mention the Federal court’s reaction to the whole thing.

    Recall the whole Scruggs-Luckey-Wilson catfight involving Hilburn as the judge: the Federal court got very upset and sent the whole mess packing back to where they came from, along with a pretty serious bench-slapping thrown in to really make the point. It would be curious if a Federal judge tried to “take over” what is basically a highly local fight, in a state that prohibits class action, when it is abundantly clear that the only way to have a cohesive class is to order one with a “no opt out” over the strenuous objections of many members of the putative class. Given the positions staked out thus far, such an order will apparently get challenged/appealed immediately. And the easy thing for the Federal courts is to simply allow opt-out, which in turn really makes a mess for the Federal class action, so the surest way to never see it again is to reverse the class cert and be done with it at the Federal level. Which is probably what should happen, anyway: it is local Plaintiffs, local Defendants, local money, local consequences, all insofar as the retirees and their pension payments. The only reason to make something like this a Federal class action is direct the attorney’s fees in particular directions. Besides, once one Chancery/state case is decided, the rest are pretty much decided, which is the whole reason the “secret meeting” was improper: it is all the same set of facts. What- or whoever f’ed up Bob’s pension is the same thing/people that f’ed up Sally’s, Fred’s and everyone else, so discussing the facts of one Plaintiff is discussing the facts of all Plaintiffs.

    Even if the local district judge (Giurola) is actually interested in teeing this up, the Court of Appeals/5th Circuit isn’t likely to respond positively to having this mess dumped upon them. Folks might want to look at, for example, Wal-Mart Stores v. Dukes, 131 S.Ct. 2541 (2011) and Phillips Petroleum Co. v. Shutts, 472 U.S. 797, 812, 105 S.Ct. 2965, 86 L.Ed.2d 628 (1985).

    And again, with Barton and Denham running their mouths about class actions over their dead bodies, etc., it would seem they have a duty to their clients and an ethical obligation (as well as financial and “saving face” incentives) to take a “no opt out” order to the COA/5th.

    Besides, the Feds can have their fun when the criminal matters, such as via ERISA, get there.

    Some random observations:
    1. Given the seriousness of the charges in the “Omnibus” relief pleading as well as those of the responses, complaints with the MS Bar and the Commission on Judicial Performance should have been filed. If not, that raises questions about how serious the attorneys actually take their own pleadings. If they were filed, the Bar and especially the Commission are viewed more as lapdogs than watchdogs. Since at least one of the responses to the “Omnibus” pointed out that both past and present Bar presidents are involved (and Mikhail is a former Bar counsel), that might create a situation. If the Bar does nothing, it looks bad. If the Commission does nothing, it looks worse. Unfortunately, mere mortal taxpayers aren’t allowed access to any of the information, so that is a wildcard.
    2. If either the Bar or the Commission decided it was time to demonstrate that it wasn’t a lapdog, but a watchdog, things could get interesting.
    3.There is overlap/conflict between attorneys who allegedly were involved in the pension plan being underfunded and the attorneys defending the pension. This is problematic on its face. If those attorneys were named as either Defendants or witnesses, things could get “interesting.”
    4. Nearly every attorney involved has had situations in the past involving questions as to their ethics. At the very least, where there is this much smoke, there must be at least a little bit of fire.
    5. A Federal judge makes about 200K a year. Many will take a mighty dim view of a bunch of ambulance-chasing rednecks trying to upgrade their yachts, redecorate their beach houses and buy even bigger, more tasteless ads, especially at the expense of a bunch of retirees and taxpayers.

    Again, I feel deeply sorry for the retirees, employees and Jackson County taxpayers – you poor folks are getting it going and coming and it doesn’t seem likely it will end well or soon.

      1. What does that mean? I’m not challenging you running your site as you see fit, I’m just curious. Why not just post them openly and completely when the content is ready to be posted rather than post headers only with password requests?

          1. I’ll just ask bluntly, with no offense meant: is this site meant to provide a source of information and discourse or is it TMZ? In my opinion, teasers and coming attractions have no place in such a forum because it gives the appearance that it is a source of hype rather than a source of accurate information, honest exchanges of opinions and reasonable discussion. But again, it is your site to do with as you will.

          2. As for what is and isn’t appropriate for a forum – we must recognize that we live in an age where attention spans are very short. Our headlines compete against Facebook videos, games, Tom Brady memes, etc. We could turn this into the National Review and bore an audience out of existence. We endeavor to adopt a wider audience, and if it takes a little honey to make that medicine go down, we’re ok with that. It is a a balancing act.

            The other consideration is time. There is only so much time that can be devoted to a volunteer activity. The items in the teasers are items that need to be in public discussion NOW. We just may not have time to cover them properly before the events to which they are relevant occur. Every item in those teasers is true and a matter of public record and/or previous media coverage. Anyone who wants to volunteer an article is welcome – and will get proper credit if they so desire. Your comments are usually article worthy.

            We have attracted an audience of attorneys, judges, politicians, and citizens, none of whom have written to say what we are doing is having a deleterious effect. Indeed, we believe we are driving public debate and educating the public on issues that usually remain shrouded in darkness.

            Reasonable discussion has always been welcome. No one has ever been censored.

            To be blunt, and with no offense, the TMZ comment is odd considering the source. You (or someone commenting under your name) have certainly aired TMZ style gossip, regarding extra-marital affairs and the misbehavior of an attorney’s son. We don’t trade in that talk. It does nothing to further the debate.

            What we have always dealt in is primary source documentation. Digging out the paperwork and analyzing it. It is straightforward reporting that few in the media are willing or empowered to do. We have some sources who come forward with information to share, and when it can be verified, it is reported. We have stacks of salacious material that has gone unpublished. We hope that no matter the wrapper, people will recognize good content when they see it.

            Sorry to say that people only get interested in public policy when it’s sexy.

            Again, if you take issue with any of our reporting, please feel free to air it. Your insights and analysis have been valuable to us and to others. We have reformatted our approach to upcoming articles. Please keep coming back.

  2. I also wondered about the password protected articles being posted on this site.I am glad that has been explained.I must say Nunn is one of my favorites on this blog. While I agree with you about your approach I also see no reason the sleazy past of any so called upstanding public person who is involved on the wrong side of the SRHS scandal should not be discussed.The black robbed court house whore mongers who end up at Dogan and Wilkinson help paint a picture of the sleaze that comes and goes at this firm full of thugs. No different is SRHS Trustee Michael Tolleson who was spending his time on Ashley Madison while CPAing around town.Or the local business man and pension investment guru Morris Stickland who serves on too many boards to name.He is the landlord who had knowledge all along that his next door neighbor and tenant was in the sex slave business.Hell, he even admits to being a regular “massage” customer. Or Ex-JCBOS member John McKay who has been involved in so many crooked deals they will have to screw him in the ground when he dies.I think who they are and what they have done should be shouted from the roof tops and discussed on SRHS Watch. The people I mentioned are all part of the problems at the SRHS. We should all be talking about them until they can’t take it anymore and move far far away. I, for one, can’t wait for your future posts on those mentioned and I am glad to find out that I will not need a password.

    1. And add Chris Anderson, Kevin holland, Mike crews, Stephanie Barnes Taylor, Randy Roth, Larry shoemaker, Greg shoemaker, Lynn Truelove, Davis Walton, Heath Thompson, Nebo carter, Craig summerlin, Laurin St. Pe, Lee bond, Celeste Oglesby…others?

    2. People should talk about how Steve Simpson can’t pay his bills on a salary of $138,000 per year, yet somehow came to oversee $150 million of OPM. That he is so unskilled as an attorney, he can’t understand basic escrow requirements of a mortgage, yet this guy sat on the bench.

      They should talk about how Morris Strickland and cronies got a barge load of federal money to build the Pascagoula Hilton Garden Inn. The people in Gulfport need to take a look at the group developing the Markham and casino. Same attorney that recruited 13 people in part of State Dept green card sell-off to invest in the that same Hilton Garden Inn. Throw in some TIF and New Markets Tax Credits and did any of the principals have to pony up any of their own cash?

  3. NOTE – tried to post this earlier, but something went wrong. If the first one appears, please delete in favor of this version.

    I can’t comment directly under your reply, but as to “gossip,” I think there is a difference between actual “gossip” that has no bearing on the issue(s) under discussion and information that does directly bear on those issues. I’ll use the two things you mention as examples:

    Pointing out Bordis’ adultery. I think it is it is directly related to the Jackson County Chancery Court as well as the SRHS mess. Fondren ran against Bordis because Bordis was sleeping with Fondren’s wife, who happened to be a member of Bordis’ court staff. And then, before Bordis decided not to stand for reelection, he talked Roberts into running to help split the “non-incumbent” vote. In my opinion, all directly reflects on his character or lack thereof, especially combined with his joining Dogan and Wilkinson _AND_ getting on “Team SRHS” _AND_ taking the lead in the Harris recusal fight, all immediately after leaving the bench (his being at Dogan and Wilkinson would have permitted a similar argument against Fondren had he not recused himself). And all of this all the more so since Bradley has been long known to be “friendly” with Dogan and Wilkinson members and Dogan and Wilkinson initiated and led the fight to replace Harris (an apparently honest and reasonably well qualified Chancellor and attorney) with Yancey (another Dogan and Wilkinson wholly unqualified, incompetent stooge).

    As to Mark Lumpkin’s son’s drunken car theft and harbor swim, it is just more of the same from the same dangerously drunken and corrupt bunch. Paul Minor had more drunken driving stops and other dangerous incidents than can be counted, and until his bond finally got revoked over that stuff, his “status” (his money, put in the right hands) got him a complete pass. Mark Lumpkin and the rest of the minor-league Minors and wannabe Dickies have been doing similar sh!t for who knows how many years, and now, the latest generation is doing it too, red solo cup of Crown or Chivas in hand, and getting away with it with daddy’s help. As to the “kid” himself, it isn’t like he is a 16 year old with his first six-pack puking under the high school bleachers. That “kid” is in or near his mid 30s and if not mistaken, a running/drinking buddy of Scott “found drunk behind the wheel in a ditch” “got drunk, assaulted his girlfriend and got arrested” Walker. It is just more of the sons and daughters of these new money rednecks taking over the corruption from daddy, like Brett and Gentry Williams, Lauren St. Pe and wife Amy Lassitter St. Pe, etc.

    As to the rest, as I said, obviously, it is your site to run as you see fit. In my opinion, and it is just my opinion, posting a “stories we are working on” is a lot better than the password-protected thing, but i may not be clear as to the goal of the site. I thought the goal was to help folks understand the SRHS mess, give them a source of expressing their thoughts and seeing the thoughts of others, and as much as practical or possible, help prevent any more of this kind of white trash redneck looting of the taxpayer’s money. If the goal is to be thought of as “the media” or “a news website,” that isn’t going to happen with this type of site. But that doesn’t mean that sites like this aren’t at least as important as the Clarion Ledger or Sun Herald sites in its own small corner of the world and for the limited number of folks who care about the SRHS situation or, I suppose, the virulent corruption in Mississippi.

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