Reading the response of Special Fiduciary Steve Simpson opens more holes and questions:
- Why does Simpson not mention the orders he asked Judge Hilburn to sign?
- How does a judge hear an oral motion when there is no hearing?
- How did Simpson know to have Hilburn sign the motions at that meeting?
- 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.”
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:
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:
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.
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.