The Clarion-Ledger published on the front page today a big story on foreclosures in Mississippi by Chris Joyner. It was a worthy attempt at serious journalism but fell short on several points. The article begins with the mandatory mentioning of a true hard-luck story that tugs at your emotions. http://www.clarionledger.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080229/NEWS/802290358&referrer=FRONTPAGECAROUSEL
Jackson resident Melody Weathersby was one day removed from a hospital stay for congestive heart failure when she got word her house was due to be sold at auction.
It was the latest and most severe in a series of problems with Weathersby's adjustable rate mortgage. "I tried to negotiate, but they wouldn't," she said. "They wouldn't help."..
However, some details about her mortgage emerge later in the story:
"Weathersby, 45, is medically disabled and her fixed income brings in about $1,200 a month. In 2004, she put down $1,000 on a modest, ranch-style house in south Jackson just south of McDowell Road. Her $55,000 mortgage came with an initial payment of $466 a month and was financed by Southstar Lending, a Florida-based firm that specialized in subprime loans.
Beginning in 2005, the interest rate on Weathersby's mortgage adjusted several times. By last spring, the monthly payment on her house had ballooned to $1,300, and she was thousands of dollars behind in payments.
"I didn't know it was going to keep going up when I got it," she said. "It seemed like an oversight because I really didn't know that's what I had. I thought I had a fixed interest rate."
Southstar, which filed for bankruptcy last year, sold the mortgage to Homecomings, a division of GMAC. Weathersby worked with the Neighborhood Assistance Corp. of America, a nonprofit advocate for homeowners, in an attempt to renegotiate her mortgage, to no avail...."
There are several questions in regards to this mortgage.
1. What is the interest rate on this mortgage? Why didn't Mr. Joyner report what her initial and current initial rates were? This is called basic fact-checking. Here is what the reporter SHOULD have obtained: the HUD-1 settlement statement, the Deed of Trust, and the ARM Disclosure which would have been in her closing package.
Even if he didn't have access to these documents, which he should have obtained if writing a story about her dilemma, he should have at least used an online mortgage calculator as I have done. At 7.00%, her payments would have been $359 a month based on a loan amount of $54,000 and a loan term of 30 years. Since she claimed her payment was $446 per month, the interest rate of 9.25% shows a payment of $443 per month. The story did not mention if taxes and insurance were included so it is not clear as to whether the payment included them. If it did, then the principal and interest payment was probably $150-200 less. However, since Mr. Joyner did not report such basic information in his story, I am forced to rely on guesswork in determining the terms of Ms. Weathersby's mortgage.
One CAN state with certainty Ms. Weathersby's payments are NOT $1300 per month based on a $54,000 principal as her interest rate would have to be 29% which is illegal and not done by any mortgage lender. Every ARM has a lifetime cap on how much the rate can increase and there are no ARM's that have 20 point lifetime caps. What is clear is that there are other reasons why Ms. Weathersby is facing a $1300 per month payment as Mr. Joyner neglected to mention any documents supporting this amount. Late payment and other fees may cause the payments to sharply increase but it is impossible payments for her original loan increased so much just because the interest rate alone changed. .
2. Did Ms. Weathersby read her ARM disclosures? Federal law (RESPA, TILA, Regulation Z, etc) requires the lender or mortgage company to have the borrower sign an ARM disclosure within three days after making loan application and another one at closing that states it is an ARM and what the terms are. This is not fine print in a contract buried on page 20 but a one page form with the terms clearly spelled out at the top of the page. The lender is also required to give the borrower an ARM booklet that discusses the pros and cons of using an ARM. As Mr. Joyner failed to report this basic feature of the mortgage industry (and any mortgage professional could have provided him with a copy) one must assume that she did sign an ARM disclosure as the loan could not have been closed without it.
Unfortunately, "Weathersby worked with the Neighborhood Assistance Corp. of America, a nonprofit advocate for homeowners, in an attempt to renegotiate her mortgage, to no avail.
"Her house was unaffordable when she went into the loan ... based on her fixed income," said NACA representative Latyrish Gee...".
So if the loan was unaffordable to begin with, why should Ms. Weathersby be given the house? In fact, the next question is how did she obtain the mortgage in the first place?
As for her income, it is important to note some lenders also "gross-up" retirement and disability income that is tax-free as 125% of its monthly payment as there are no taxes. Ms. Weathersby probably was given credit by the lender for having fixed income of $1500 per month, not the actual $1200 per month figure. This would have allowed her to buy a home on her fixed income when in reality, she probably could not afford it.
It is also important to remember that her mortgage, which is not specified by Mr. Joyner, was probably a subprime mortgage. Ms. Weathersby probably had a lower credit score when she bought the house. Once again, this must be assumed as Mr. Joyner failed to report any description of her credit history.
Mr. Joyer reports more information in another hard-luck story about a Mr. Osgood, whose home is being sold after he obtained a subprime ARM:
"This was Osgood's first attempt at home ownership. He got an adjustable rate mortgage 5 1/2 years ago from First Franklin Financial with a monthly note of $496.
Osgood said he knew the rate would adjust, but he never thought it would double.
"You know they aren't going to tell you that, because then you aren't going to buy," he said."
This is another case of a borrower not reading what he signs as the ARM disclosure spells out how much the rate can adjust during the life of the loan. I am willing to bet that there are two signed forms even though he didn't bother to read them.
It is not surprising that Mr. Joyner made so many errors and omissions in his story as he quoted from non profit groups, an economist, the president of the Mortgage Bankers Association, the Commissioner of the Department of Banking, but no one who could actually explain to him the regulations as he avoided getting the basic facts for this story. It is also no surprise that so many Jacksonians obtained subprime mortgages (and they would have gone to finance companies if subprime lending was not available) since the average credit score is 671, which is 20 points below the national average of 692. http://kingfish1935.blogspot.com/2008/02/average-credit-score-in-misssissippi.html
What was also left out of the story was a fact published in this blog several weeks ago. Mississippi ranks 46th in the nation in terms of foreclosures. Despite the problems in Hinds County, Mississippi is still doing well during the crisis in the mortgage and financial markets compared to the rest of the country. http://kingfish1935.blogspot.com/2008/02/good-news-mississippi-last-in.html
Make no mistake, I feel sorry for these borrowers and by all means we should help them as much as possible if they are willing to work through their problems but it is also important to get the facts straight and add some proper perspective to this story.
Friday, February 29, 2008
The Clarion-Ledger published on the front page today a big story on foreclosures in Mississippi by Chris Joyner. It was a worthy attempt at serious journalism but fell short on several points. The article begins with the mandatory mentioning of a true hard-luck story that tugs at your emotions. http://www.clarionledger.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080229/NEWS/802290358&referrer=FRONTPAGECAROUSEL
Last week JJ conducted an online poll (and you know how inaccurate that can be) that asked "What do you think of the following statement by Ms. Bar General Counsel Adam Kilgore:"I do not yet see it as time to make major reforms to the legal system." (See Feb.17 post, http://kingfish1935.blogspot.com/2008/02/adam-kilgore-wimpicus-maximus.html)
The following choices were given (the votes are listed as well) for the poll, which received 92 votes:
No Major reforms, he is right: 7 votes (7%)
He is incompetent: 9 vote (9%)
He is a wimp and has buried his head in the sand 8 votes (8%)
He is trying to help the Bar coverup the corruption in the legal system and protect the lawyers: 42 votes (45%)
Its all a Frank Melton conspiracy: 6 votes (6%)
Means well but is too deeply embedded in the system to see the problem: 20 votes (21%)
Not too good for our esteemed Counsel to the Mississippi Bar. Only 7% though he was right and no major reform were needed. 74% think there is a problem and reforms are needed and Mr. Kilgore is the wrong man for the job.
From the Middle East Media Research Institute:
"A message posted January 20, 2008 on the Islamist forum Al-Hesbah (hosted by NOC4Hosts Inc. in Florida, USA), by a member calling himself Al-Jawfi, suggests stirring up racial tension between African-Americans and whites in the U.S. by spreading inflammatory materials on the Internet. In the discussion thread, other members proposed posting racist materials against African-Americans (such as insulting jokes and pictures) on sites frequented by African-Americans, in order to arouse anger and bitterness in their community. Another suggestion was to post, on white supremacist sites, materials that present African-Americans as a threat to American society. .."
Thursday, February 28, 2008
SENATE PASSES INCIDENT REPORTING LEGISLATION
(Jackson, MS) Lieutenant Governor Phil Bryant was pleased with the passage of Senate Bill 2728 today with only one dissenting vote. The bill clarifies law enforcement exemptions under the State public records act.
Under this “open records” legislation, law enforcement entities would release an Incident Report of an alleged crime committed in a community after an arrest occurs. According to the bill, a narrative description of the alleged offense which would include at a minimum the name and identification of each person charged or arrested; the time, date, location of offense, property involved, vehicles involved, and the names of the investigating officers.
SB 2728 also makes clear the distinction between an incident report and an investigative report. This distinction was key so that law enforcement techniques and investigations would not be compromised. The Mississippi Press Association, Mississippi Association of Chiefs of Police, and Mississippi Sheriff’s Association have all agreed to the legislation that now heads to the House for consideration.
Lt. Governor Bryant a former Deputy Sheriff stated, “This legislation clarifies the difference between an investigative report and an incident report. At the same time it provides the public additional information on crimes committed in their community. I appreciate the work of all the groups involved to help pass this monumental piece of open records legislation”
The bill passed the Senate with unanimous consent. As its companion bill, House Bill #474, passed the House already this was a major step in making initial police reports available to the public. Kingfish will be keeping an eye on the progress of these two bills but so far, its a very good day for open records and crime victims in Mississippi.
Update: 2728 is now 33rd on the list and they are on 20 so a little push from us might make a difference.
Ok folks, time to get off your gluteus maximi and contact the offices of Phil Bryant and some state senators. House bill #474 passed the House and its companion Senate bill #2728 is on the Senate calendar today. The main problem is that this is the last day for the Senate to vote on this bill as it is the last day to vote on bills in the houe of origination from what I understand and it rank s 71st on the list.
These bills will open the initial police incident reports to the public. The bill got through the House after a compromise was reached between law enforcement and media representatives. It will allow you to have better access to information about crime in your area. It will allow people who are the victims of false rumors to clear their names. It will also help victims and their families who too often are given a cold shoulder by the police when they try to get information on how a crime is investigated.
This law has worked fine in Louisiana for years. It does not reveal the names of informants or undercover agents. The names of victims of sexual assault are protected. This is a good bill.
House bill #474: http://billstatus.ls.state.ms.us/2008/pdf/history/HB/HB0474.xml
Sentate bill #2728: http://billstatus.ls.state.ms.us/2008/pdf/history/SB/SB2728.xml
The roster of state senators and their contact information:
Contact information for Lieutenant Governor Phil Bryant:
Note: Where has a certain alternative weekly publication been on this fight?
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Here are the bills:
Senate Bill # 2793
House Bill #
Clarion-Ledger reporter Leah Rupp covered this issue in her blog today:
Email Governor Barbour: firstname.lastname@example.org
601 359 3100
601 359 3150
601 359 3175
Kingfish note: If this is for a plant, then why can't Barbour call a special session? Get the plans for the plant, raise the rates to fund it, place them in escrow so if plant does not go through, money is refunded back to ratepayers?
Rules of Senate Etiquette 101: Please do not walk out onto the floor of the Senate during a debate. Senators are very skittish creatures and tend to upset rather easily when exposed to unexpected and sudden changes in their environment.Click Here to Read More..
If you scroll down you will see I have added two feeds. Clarion-Ledger reporter Leah Rupp's blog feed is now on the right side of the page. Ms. Rupp covers the state capitol for the newspaper and as I've enjoyed reading her blog, I have made it available to readers of this site. Enjoy.
I have added Housingwire.com's feed on the right side as well, given how much attention is focused on the mortgage industry right now. This is one of the better sites I have read. This guy is an expert on all levels of the mortgage industry from the capital markets down to the retail levels. Alot of what he writes is contrary to some of the so-called experts you see on tv but time eventually proves him right. I decided to add this feed as I am fed up with the so-called business coverage in our local media. The MBJ is frankly not that good and the editor of the business section of the Clarion-Ledger doesn't even know the difference between a credit bureau and a credit rating agency. Its about time we added some damn business literacy to our local media and this is my feeble attempt to do so. Enjoy.
Jazz from Lincoln Center remembers the legacy of John Coltrane. Click on the link to listen to the show as there is alot of good music on this show.
So in the last couple of weeks JJ has slammed The Jackson Free Press, The Clarion-Ledger, Safecity, the lawyers in the House, Jim Hood, given Alan Lange grief over on Y'all Politics, Trent Lott (see poll), Adam Kilgore and the Mississippi Bar, the local developers, Frank Melton, the Chief Justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court, and a current Hinds County Special Circuit Court judge.
and I'm still living?
CNN and Careerbuilder.com released a study ranking the states according to their unemployment rates. Mississippi ranked second, right behind Michigan. Unfortunately, the leading employer in Mississippi was......drum roll...........government. Not so good. http://www.cnn.com/2008/LIVING/worklife/02/25/worst.job.states/index.html
Unemployment rate: 7.6 percent
Mean annual wage: $41,230
Top industry: Trade, transportation and utilities (18.4 percent)***
Unemployment rate: 6.8 percent
Mean annual wage: $30,460
Top industry: Government (21.2 percent)
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Dammit, I've had it. By now everyone has heard about the closing of Rapids on the Reservoir. What do we get instead? F'n condos. CONDOS!!! Oh don't worry, the developer assures us it will be state of the art, have lakes, a trail, and other cute little amenities. Just one more developer who isnt' satisfied until every tree is chopped down, blade of grass is paved over, and drop of water has a condo sitting on top of it.
This town is getting to where you can't have any damn fun. Want to take your kids to play golf? Want to ride go-carts? Batting cages? Ride some rides? Forget it. Want to go to a water park without driving an hour only to find out it is filled to capacity? You are out of luck. Want to go hear some music and have a drink while enjoying a nice day the water as we used to do at the Dock? Don't bother. Want to go to a bar like the Subway in the old days and hear some music all night long? Mac don't want you to have fun. Feel like having a smoke or enjoying a cigar at a place where the owner allows you to do so? The Smoke Nazis want you to go to hell. Want to enjoy some greenery downtown? Don't worry about it as Watkins and his bunch bulldozed the last section of grass downtown instead of all the old buildings screaming to be torn down. Like the way development is spread out on I-55 North as you drive by the Deaf School? HA!! Duckworth wants a nice concrete jungle in its place.
I'm sick of it. Condos and buildings are nice to a point but dammit, many of us want to do things that are fun or have places to go for amusement. If this is progress, F progress.
Nice little link to search foreclosures in the Jackson Metro area.
Geaux Folo. Folo posted an FBI memo on the Scruggs case from November 12, 2007. Read page 2, paragraph 3 as apparently Hood is preparing to indict State Farm but Scruggs decides that it would hurt his settlement with State Farm so he allegedly pays Patterson $500,000 to meet Hood and talk him out of indicting State Farm. The Scruggs Law Firm later received fees of $26 million in the State Farm settlement. Read the memo:
Monday, February 25, 2008
When it comes to real estate and mortgages, listen to the Kingfish. Last December, the post, "Fannie and Freddie's ticking time bomb", warned of potential problems in the "prime" side of the mortgage industry, while everyone focused on the subprime mortgage crisis in the markets and real estate industry. http://kingfish1935.blogspot.com/2007/12/fannie-and-freddies-ticking-time-bomb.html
Jim Cramer's The Street should pay me (JUST KIDDING) as one of its columnists discussed the woes about to hit Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, as the high LTV mortgage chickens have come home to roost for the two agencies:
"The private mortgage insurance industry is under severe pressure from rising delinquencies and mounting losses. Now questions are swirling about how a potential blow-up in that sector will affect Fannie Mae..." http://www.thestreet.com/s/fannie-faces-trouble-from-mortgage-insurers/newsanalysis/serious-tools-serious-investors/10399882.html?puc=aoljjc
There are quite a few high LTV loans on the agency books for borrowers with 570 credit scores covered by mortgage insurance. In my opinion, Fannie and Freddie are in for a wild ride.
UPDATE: "Disposition: Dead"
Hold on to your hat folks when you read Senate bill #2991, authored by State Senator Fillingane from Sumrall. This little exercise in legislative mischief will create a Green Zone for Jackson called "the Capital City Security and Economic Development Zone." (Section 13) Bill: http://billstatus.ls.state.ms.us/2008/pdf/history/SB/SB2991.xml
What exactly is this Mississippi Green Zone you say? It is an area where the creative class can frolic in Fondren, Borat can enjoy more wine tastings at the University Club, and the perfumed princes can live in their high-rise lofts overlooking the rest of the city which they relegated to third-tier status. It is an area covering most of Downtown Jackson, part of the Farish Street area, a large part of NE Jackson, and Jackson State University. The Green Zone will receive additional help from law enforcement, as the bill gives the Mississippi Highway Patrol general police powers within the zone in addition to creating a task force consisting of:
The district attorney's office, the Jackson Police Department, the Hinds County Sheriff's office, the Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol, the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, the University Medical Center Campus Police Chief, the Jackson State University Campus Police Chief, the Director of Security for the Mississippi Baptist Medical Center and Director of Security for the St. Dominic-Jackson Memorial Hospital. (Section 2)
Got that? Apparently one lesson learned in Iraq lost on our fearful leaders was the creation of the Green Zone in Iraq sowed much discontent among the Iraqis, as they correctly judged a privileged few were more worthy of protection than most Iraqis. This bill creates two classes of Jacksonians: those who live and work in the Green Zone and those who don''t. If you live on the wrong side of the line, you don't get the same level of safety as the perfumed princes do even though you are giving them your tax dollars.
The original bill gives away the true intent of those behind this legislative mischief:
SECTION 2. (1) The penalty for any felony or misdemeanor listed in subsection (2) of this section that is proved to have been committed in the Capital City Security and Economic Development Zone created in Section 1 of Senate Bill [this one], 2008 Regular Session, shall be subject to a fifty percent (50%) enhancement of the maximum penalties otherwise provided by law. Every person so convicted shall be sentenced to the maximum term of imprison prescribed in this section and such sentence shall not be reduced or suspended nor shall such person be eligible for parole or probation. http://billstatus.ls.state.ms.us/documents/2008/pdf/SB/2900-2999/SB2991IN.pdf
Subsection 2 lists crimes such as murder, rape, robbery, burglary, and other usual crimes that would have received the enhanced penalties.
Such garbage should outrage all fair-minded Jacksonians. The thug who beats and rapes your grandmother in Rollingwood or Presidential Hills would have received less time in jail than one who commits the same crime in the Green Zonehad had this travesty of justice written by the perfumed princes been allowed to stand. Safecity can repeatedly assure us how this is merely an attempt to improve cooperation between agencies. Unfortunately for Safecity and its allies, the original bill gives away the true intent of their efforts, which are to create a part of Jackson that lives and plays by a different set of rules than the rest of us. If this bill is passed, expect future attempts to revive the enhanced penalties provisions. The two versions of the bill ironically validate what liberals have complained about for years: that there are two standards of justice and police protection, two standards based primarily on race and class.
Another clue giving away true intentions of its supporters is the fact that several local lawmakers such as State Senator David Blount said they had no knowledge of the bill until it was introduced. When legislation such as this bill is introduced, usually the local delegation is involved so as to improve its chances of passage. It is very strange that the local delegation was ignored for the most part while a State Senator from Lamar County introduces a bill that is VERY specific and detailed in its language (read the boundaries in the bill).
There are several questions about both bills that need to be asked:
1. Who wrote this bill? There is no question that Fillingane did not draft this legislation.
2. Whose idea was it to insert the enhanced penalties provision in this bill?
3. Why was this bill not discussed in local forums before it was introduced, since it directly and substantially impacts Jackson?
4. Why were local officials and lawmakers not informed about the bill?
5. Who are the lobbyists who approached State Senator Walter Michel about the bill?
6. What are the bill's mandates in regards to JPD?
This bill is an insult to Jacksonians. There is no question Jackson desperately needs investment and reversal in its declining tax base. As an economic conservative, I support the current development in Jackson. However, discarding the rest of Jackson while preserving a Capitol Street Xanadu will merely encourage more Jacksonians to move to the suburbs where they are appreciated by their respective governments and not treated as a cash cow for two different standards of living and justice. True justice demands that our elected representatives kill this bill.
Related coverage in The Clarion-Ledger: http://www.clarionledger.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080225/NEWS010504/802250361/1001/news
Read comments in earlier post. There are some VERY good ones:
Saturday, February 23, 2008
House bill #384 (see note at the bottom) will result in less choices, more delays in closing and higher cost for services rendered and less satisfaction to all parties concerned if it becomes law.
Many a lawyer decided to try closing loans after tort reform was enacted. They soon discovered that the cost involved was prohibitive (Real Estate Law premiums are the highest in terms of errors & omissions policies for lawyers) due to the constant changes required by the lender. Other factors making it more expensive for the lawyer include the loss of income from other areas of practice due the time required for a problematic closing (which 5 out of 10 are).
An attorney may decide to reschedule a closing outside of the 24 hour window in which a loan commitment is good, thus requiring the lawyer or his staff to spend more time preparing a closing package as it has to be redrafted. The lawyer may have to pass up more lucrative work or cases because he has already committed to a closing time with the Realtors and borrowers. These are just some of the reasons that closing mortgage loans have a higher cost to the lawyer than other areas of practice.
Under this bill a paralegal can't close the loan as only the lawyer's hand may touch the paper work. This will cause a backlog in the processing and closing of other loans as other buyers and sellers have to wait for the loan to close. This will create much uncertainty in an industry already reeling from the subprime crisis. Agents and loan officers won't be able to speak with any degree of authority as to when a loan will close. Creating chaos where there is now none.
This bill is a grab by certain attorney members of the legislature through legislative fiat to dismantle the title closing industry and cobble the pieces together for their own aggrandizement at the expense of an industry and borrowers.
As far as I know, there have been no escrow or title closing companies has been cited as participants in the mortgage fraud that has cratered the real estate industry. (Kingfish note: It has actually been lawyers, not closing agents that have gone to jail recently in local mortgage fraud cases where the closing party was involved) The present set up has served all parties to the closing procedure well. This is another example of an insider using his elected position not to solve a problem but to import jobs to his profession and industry at the expense of the public's well-being.
This bill seems to be the hallmark of the legislation coming out of the legislature this session. The shameless examples abound. Legislators propose suspending eminent domain rules and due process in the Jackson State University area as they try to change the rules so the school won't be inconvenienced with timelines that might affect their plans and bottom line. The brazen attempt by some coin-operated legislators to extend the monopoly utilities companies have in this state to include the right to seize private property (cash out of pockets) of customers for future services that may never be rendered while the utility makes money off of the additional money through interest (that should belong to the taxpayer) while giving no ownership to taxpayers.
This is the same legislature that assured us after the beef plant debacle they had learned their lesson as they sat before us in sack cloth and ashes with all the contriteness a miscreant could muster. These three pieces of legislation represent the unbridled gall of the legislature. One should not be surprised at their audacity as they learned too well after last year's elections when the voters of this state did not send a clear message by throwing the authors of the beef plant fiasco out on their ears. These elected officials now feel bullet proof to now foist these type of bills upon us.
Kingfish note: House Bill #384: Will change the current law from allowing a current employee of an attorney to handle a mortgage loan closing to requiring that the closing be handled by the attorney himself.
Current Law: http://www.mscode.com/free/statutes/73/003/0055.htm
Friday, February 22, 2008
I've heard some of the rumors but the press is just now starting to dig into the Lott connection.
State Senator Fillingane authored this bill. Here is his bio:
Who put him up to this?
Read the comments. GREAT ones and in-depth. Guys are doing me proud.
In light of the recent alleged and proven financial problems of Jackson's mayor, DWF has come up with a solution: a Pork Plate Benefit. For $10 you will get a generous portion of pulled pork (to represent everyone pulling poor Frank in many directions), baked beans (to represent the gaseous explanations of said financial problems, aka something stinks), a scoop of coleslaw (to represent Kingfish scooping the entire metro area media on all things Frank) and a big 'ole piece of Texas toast (to toast Texas on their wonderful online public financial documents).
For dessert, you will enjoy a generous slice of Mississippi Mud pie (to represent all the mud thrown at poor Frank in the midst of his troubles). Since this whole scenario is rather hard to swallow, you will be served an extra large glass of sweet tea.
All proceeds of this benefit will be donated to the "Frank Melton Retirement Fund" so Frank can pack it up, drain the pool, ship all the house guests back to their parents, and load up the "Men in Black" vehicle and head on over to the Texas Home for Retired Public Officials, where he can teach water aerobics to all the residents.
Location and time of the benefit to be determined.......
Update by Kingfish: Othor Cain and his group, the White Power Structure, along with his flygirls, The Black Power Structuresses, will be performing in what will be a preview of their headline performance at Trollfest '08.
Update by Kingfish: Barf bags will be provided by two law firms that specialize in foreclosures: Shapiro & Massey and Adams & Eden. They will be allowed to adverstise on the barf bags after Mississippi Bar Counsel Adam Kilgore approves said lawyer advertising with his heavily-used rubber stamp.
For a background of events:
Thursday, February 21, 2008
My Mississippi Code's pocket parts are from the mid 90's. If any of you are throwing out your pocket parts as you replace them with a newer edition, feel free to email me email@example.com as I'll take them. Hey, I know its cheesy but I got my 2003 set (all volumes) of the Louisiana Code by a lawyer announcing on my LSU website he was replacing his set with a new one and was giving it away. ;-)Click Here to Read More..
This is what our esteemed Attorney General told WLBT:
"There's no statutory authority for any kind of special prosecutor," he says. "We don't need it, the Federal Government is doing a fine job, I'm satisfied with the job they're doing. The FBI has all the assets in the world, they have the tools like wiretapping ability that we are asking for here." http://www.wlbt.com/Global/story.asp?S=7901449
Is that so Mr. Hood? Let us see what Section 7-5-7 of the Mississippi Code of 1972 has to say about this matter:
The governor may engage counsel to assist the attorney general in cases to which the state is a party when, in his opinion, the interest of the state requires it, subject to the action of the legislature in providing compensation for such services.
The attorney general is hereby authorized and empowered to appoint and employ special counsel, on a fee or salary basis, to assist the attorney general in the preparation for, prosecution, or defense of any litigation in the state or federal courts or before any federal commission or agency in which the state is a party or has an interest. ..." http://www.mscode.com/free/statutes/07/005/0007.htm
The law gives Mr. Hood the authority to appoint a special counsel to investigate his so-called friends that are like family. For Mr. Hood to claim he can't prosecute or investigate them because the law gives him no authority to do so is a bald-faced lie. The Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed this authority in ruling "There is no limit on Attorney General's ability to appoint a special prosecutor." Jordan v. State (Miss. 2001) 786 So.2d 987,
Mr. Hood is free to establish the parameters of the investigation and issue guidelines governing contact between him and a special prosecutor in regards to an investigation. The Legislature and Supreme Court are quite clear on this issue as they gave his office the tools it needs to prosecute sensitive or controversial cases.
Mr. Hood is running out of excuses as he refuses to investigate his "family". Mr. Hood is not ignorant of the law as he has ironically used this same statute to employ Balducci and Langston in the MCI case. It is quite clear that Mr. Hood was lying when he told WLBT he had no "statutory authority" to appoint a special prosecutor.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
***Scoop: must credit Jackson Jambalaya***
Was the placing of Mayor Melton's home into foreclosure proceedings the tip of the iceberg? Yesterday Jackson Jambalaya reported that Mayor Melton had not paid $9,977.23 to Hinds County for his 2007 property taxes. Apparently the Mayor, who thundered he would seize the cars of people for not paying their traffic fines, is late paying his taxes on his home in Texas as well. (It should be noted that Omnibank's attorney said that Mr. Melton had brought his mortgage current and his home was no longer the subject of foreclosure proceedings.)
I'll write more about this later as I don't have time right now.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
The mortgage in question is a "Home Equity Line of Credit"(HELOC) for $301,967.00 held by Omnibank. The note was issued on April 5, 2007 and is due IN FULL on April5, 2009 (This is typically called a balloon mortgage). The mimimum payments are "interest-only" as the Deed of Trust states in bold letters "The minimum payment will not repay the principal that is outstanding on your account. WHEREAS, all sums due and payable under the Agreement shall mature and be due and payable in full on 04/05/2009 (the "Maturity Date"). (Book 6680, page 348).
The interest rate is variable and is a margin (not specified) added to the "U.S. Consensus Prime Rate" as published in The Wall Street Journal on the first of each billing cycle. In plain English that means the rate is determined every month based upon a combination of the prime rate and a pre-set margin. The Prime Rate today is 6.00% and has fluctuated in the last 52 weeks between 6.00% and 8.25% according the the WSJ.
It is important to remember that the Omnibank mortgage is a HELOC, not a standard fixed-rate mortgage. The terms of a HELOC issued to a borrower specify the maximum amount the borrower can use. Mayor Melton can use as much or little of his HELOC as long as it does not exceed $301,967 at any time during the life of the loan.
The Deed of Trust does not state what the other terms of the note are, including the schedule of payments. Omnibank filed a notice in the Chancery Court of Hinds County giving attorney William Little, Jr. full power to pursue all collection efforts against the Mayor and his wife in order to recover any moneys owed to Omnibank.
Mr. Melton is also responsible for any attorney's fees related to collection efforts per the terms of the Deed of Trust. Unless Omnibank pays Mr. Little's fees, Mr. Melton must pay for his services in addition to the amount required by Omnibank to cease foreclosure proceedings.
The questions regarding the Mayor do not end with the second mortgage on his home as the taxes on the home and adjacent lots for 2007 are listed as not paid. Mr. Melton's unpaid property taxes are $228.28, $182.56, $182.56, $182.56, and $9201.27. http://www.co.hinds.ms.us/pgs/apps/real_property_billing_roll_detail.asp?ID=05720190000&IDYear=2007
The first mortgage on Mr. Melton's home was issued by Bancorp South on November 24, 2003. The original loan amount was $250,000 and amortized as a standard 30-year fixed rate mortgage with monthly payments of $2,045.03. Although the payments themselves are amortized as a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, the mortgage itself is due in full on December 5, 2008 as it is also a balloon note.
Given the foreclosure proceedings that have been initiated against the Mayor, it is not unreasonable to ask how the Mayor is going to pay TWO balloon notes worth potentially (The actual amounts owed on these notes are completely unknown) over $500,000. Apparently balloon notes are the Mayor's preferred mortgage as he has obtained two such mortgages on his house since 2000: a six-month balloon note on April 6, 2000 for $20,025 and a three-year balloon note for $133,640. 29 on Febuary 13, 2002.
One further question must be asked: What exactly is the value of the Mayor's home? The newspaper reported its value as $355,000, using the tax assessment for its source. Apparently the reporters at the Clarion-Ledger have never bought a home and are ignorant when it comes to simple real estate matters since almost everyone knows the tax-assessed value is rarely if ever, the fair market value of a home. Simple math makes it clear that the Mayor enjoys an extremely low assessment on his home as the combined mortgages are worth more than the so-called value of his home as reported by the newspaper. Does anyone think banks are going to lend more than the value of a home? If anything, they will normally lend no more than 85-95% of the value of the home in case they have to foreclose and sell the home.
Interesting questions for some interesting dealings.
*** Must credit http://www.jacksonjambalaya.com/ unless otherwise authorized***
Credit Bureau (Attention Clarion-Ledger: NOT CREDIT RATING AGENCY) Industry leader Experian reported in its "National Score Index" that the average credit score of Mississippians is 671, falling below the national average of 692. http://www.nationalscoreindex.com/USScore.aspx.
The website also provides the average credit score for a city or region:
http://www.nationalscoreindex.com/USScore.aspx. The average credit score for the Jackson Metro area (including surrounding cities) was 668.
A sampling of scores of Mississippi cities:
Monday, February 18, 2008
wouldn't be surprised if he's in some sort of state of depression where he's letting things go. He's been really sick, and struggles with his alcoholism. And he's under investigation by the FBI.That's no excuse, though. He has a wife, and children, and a family—not to mention all sorts of vultures who want his money. Surely, one of them could have been assigned the task of opening his mail for him.What a mess. Posted by: ladd on Feb 18, 08 1:43 pm
Is there something she knows that we don't? Does she have access to his medical records? Has heard him say he is an alcoholic? Although Melton is a disgrace as a mayor, one must ask if Ladd's little statement is an example of her so-called best practices of journalism. I seem to remember Ms. Ladd writing last week "The truth is, we need an atmosphere in which self-regulation of unsubstantiated attacks is encouraged for everyone..." http://www.jacksonfreepress.com/comments.php?id=16262_0_67_0_C. If this is her idea of self-regulation.......
Sunday, February 17, 2008
"It is a natural reaction to what has happened to examine all aspects of the situation and call for reform. I caution against jumping to conclusions and making changes to a system that has served Mississippi well for years. Sometimes it is not the system that is flawed, but some of the individuals that participate in the system. This must be a time for self-examination, but I do not yet see it as time to make major reforms to the legal system...."
The sand in which Mr. Kilgore buries his head must be opiate, not silica in nature as one would expect Mr. Kilgore to favor some reform, as the evidence of widespread corruption in our judicial system becomes more obvious: The attempted bribery of Judge Lackey...the alleged bribery of Ed Peters and Judge DeLaughter..... the criminal and disgraceful behavior of Judge Houston Patton regarding James Jennings and Keith Shelton.... the rumors of judges receiving target letters from the FBI..... the revelations in the Keith Shelton case ...the Commission on Judicial Performance took a dive in its investigation of Judge Patton.... the Attorney General giving legal contracts to friends who gave him $400,000, then stating he won't investigate them as they are picked off by the FBI one by one...where does one stop as the list continues to grow?
What exactly does Mr. Kilgore think "some of the individuals" means? In case he hasn't noticed, there are more than a few lawyers involved in this scandal as the judicial systems in the state's largest county has been compromised and some of the state's leading lawyers have either pled guilty or face prosecution for their alleged misdeeds and corruption. These guys were so brazen they tried to bribe a member of the Judicial Commission, making one think they were crazy for such an attempt, unless they had bribed others in authority over the legal system. In the Keith Shelton case, no less than four judges were involved in this travesty of justice. The fact is Mr. Kilgore, many individuals have been involved in these scandals as they turned the legal system in our state into a coat-and-tie brothel where justice is truly for sale to the highest bidder or those with the right friends at Char, while you stick your head in the sand saying no reform is needed.
Further evidence of Mr. Kilgore's yellow streak is his failure to request more powers for the Bar to police itself. The Bar currently can only investigate members if there has been a complaint and or if there has been a conviction of an attorney, as it has no authority to initiate its own investigations against suspected wayward lawyers. If Mr. Kilgore was truly serious about improving his profession, he and the rest of the Bar would be demanding they be given the same powers granted to boards and commissions for ALL OTHER INDUSTRIES in Mississippi. The fact Mr. Kilgore has not sought to do so shows exactly that the Bar is not interested in truly cleaning up the legal system in Mississippi, as those in authority always welcome any excuse to grab more power. Mr. Kilgore thinks so little of Mississippians he does not make bar complaint forms available on the Bar's website, something common to other state boards and commissions. It is also telling that while the ethics of the awarding of state legal contracts to campaign donors has been furiously debated at the state capitol, the Bar has been strangely silent.
However, keep in mind what Mr. Kilgore represents: a self-serving mafia resisting any attempt at reform as it considers itself above everyone else. The Mississippi Bar is the ONLY profession having its commissioners and officers elected by the membership instead of appointed by the Governor and Senate. It is the only profession combining its regulatory bodies and trade association under one roof. If this was done in other industries it would be called a serious conflict of interest. The members write their own by-laws and procedures. They regulate themselves and decide what their punishments should be and if they are somehow too strict, the Mississippi Supreme Court is always available to bail them out. (See earlier post: Incest in Dixie, http://kingfish1935.blogspot.com/2008/01/incest-in-dixie-mississippi-legal.html)
As I wrote a few weeks ago in Incest in Dixie: The Mississippi Legal Profession, the fix is in as the media and the Bar have chosen to ignore the iceburg it struck and instead focus on how the deck chairs are arranged even while the bodies Balducci said were buried begin to float on the surface. Do not expect any help from Kilgore and the Mississippi Bar in protecting you from a corrupt legal system. It is clear Mr. Kilgore is either trying to cover up for the Mississippi Bar or is so embedded in the system he cannot truly see why there is a need for serious reform. Once again it is clear the Bar itself needs to be reformed as shown by Mr. Kilgore's surreal statements void of any sense of reality. I will end this post by paraphrasing a quote from Cicero, a man who truly cared about public morals and ethics: "WHEN, Mr. Kilgore, do you mean to cease abusing our patience as you continue to abdicate your duty?" Click Here to Read More..
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Powerful scene from The Seventh Seal,set in the time of the Black Death. If you have not seen the movie, the priest receiving confession is actually Death. "One of the oldest questions asked: Is there a God and how do I make sense of the world".
I wish New Stage Theatre would take movies such as The Seventh Seal and A Soldier's Story and put them on the stage. Might be surprised at the turnout and support for such thespian endeavors.
Friday, February 15, 2008
"Mayor Frank Melton is in danger of having his house on Carter's Grove in Jackson foreclosed on if he doesn't make payments owed to OmniBank by March 11.
OmniBank, the present holder of the deed for the Jackson property, appointed a substitute trustee - Jackson attorney William J. Little Jr. - to handle the situation between the bank and Melton, according to a document filed with the Hinds County Chancery Clerk on Feb. 13.Little, who would not state how much money Melton owes on his house, said a public notice will appear in the newspaper on Monday and run for four weeks announcing the date for a foreclosure sale on the house."
OK. Very strange. First he gives up JPD to Mac. Then the house is going into foreclosure. Strange behavior. Or maybe not so strange if for some reason you think these things are no longer important. Maybe some of the rumors floating around since Langston pleaded guilty are true after all.
Update: CL published a story today with more details.
"Melton said he had not heard about the situation until a reporter from The Clarion-Ledger contacted him Friday.
"I'll be up in (Little's) office Monday to resolve this," he said.
Little, who would not state how far behind Melton is with his mortgage, said a public notice will appear in the newspaper on Monday and run for almost four weeks, announcing the March 11 foreclosure sale.
If Melton does not resolve the issue within the next few weeks, bidding will start on the home at whatever Melton owes the bank.
Melton said he pays a quarterly note on the house, which has an assessed value of almost $353,000. He said he made a payment in October, at the beginning of the last quarter.
Melton said he has not received any notices from OmniBank but admitted he is running about two or three months behind in receiving his mail."
There are several serious questions raised by this story and Melton's comments:
1. The issue of the quarterly note. It is very rare in the mortgage business for a borrower to obtain a note that is paid quarterly as they are almost always required to make monthly payments. Such a practice is so rare that this is the first time I, along with other seasoned mortgage professionals have ever seen such a loan, even for a bank that can in-house (Bank services the loan itself instead of selling it to Fannie Mae or a servicer such as Citi or Chase, thus allowing the bank to make its own terms) a loan. However, the saying that he who pays gets to play applies here and if Omnibank makes a loan that stays on its books, it can set the terms for the Mayor, including making the payments quarterly. However, one would assume that in today's market, a second mortgage that is repaid in quarterly installments is considered to be riskier than most mortgages (The second mortgage market has largely dried up in the last year as lenders have been torched (not burned) by second mortgages.)
2. The issue of the second mortgage. Why is the mayor getting a second mortgage on his home when he is supposedly a millionaire?
3. A sale has been announced for March 11. This means the note is more than three months late. The lender will also make several attempts to contact the borrower in order to resolve the problem, especially on a second mortgage as they are in an inferior position (The first lien is paid usually, then the second). Foreclosuring on a home is not cheap for banks (when is a lawyer cheap?) and there is a reason why there are lawyers whose practices handle only foreclosure cases. For that reason, a note that is three months late is usually not placed into foreclosure although some procedures are initiated. However, if this is truly a note that is paid quarterly, one would have to look at the terms of the note to see what the schedule is for foreclosure proceedings to start as the normal rules would not apply is such was the case.
4. Melton says he has not received any notices from Omnibank. That is a lie as lenders will always send out notices in an attempt to the borrower stating he is behind in his payments. Most lenders will even call the borrower in an effort to resolve the situation. I will bet that the records from Omnibank show several notices were sent out and that repeated efforts were made to contact Mr. Melton regarding his delinquency. His excuse about not getting his mail doesn't hold water either as he has not been at WLBT for two years. Does anyone really buy the excuse that a supposed millionaire such as the Mayor runs 2-3 months behind on getting his mail? One would expect the Mayor to remember even without the assistance of the U.S. Postal Service that he has a house payment to make. Some things you just don't forget: phone bill, light bill, and the house note. Did something in the Mayor's brain not tell him "hey buddy, we haven't paid the house note in 5 months. We should go pay it."?
There is more to this story and we haven't heard the last of Mayor Melton's foreclosure, unless he pays his house notes in full.......soon.Click Here to Read More..
Better read the fine print:
The funds are rebate on the taxes you will pay next year, they are a rebate on your 2008 tax return. Rather than give it to you next year, they are giving it to you now. Next year, after you file your taxes, the IRS will calculate what you should’ve gotten and adjust your return. So if you received too much “rebate,” they let you keep it. If you received too little, they decrease what you owe next year.....it is based on your 2007 return..
The National Association of Realtors released its report for the 4th quarter of 2007 for housing sales and prices, http://www.realtor.org/Research.nsf/Pages/MetroPrice.
The average sales prices of a home in the Jackson metro area fell from $147,000 to $139,000, a change of 16.8%. However, the results may be skewed as the average home price was between$142-45,000 for the first three quarters of 2007 and was $120,000 in the fourth quarter of 2007. http://www.realtor.org/Research.nsf/files/MSAPRICESF.pdf/$FILE/MSAPRICESF.pdf
1. Great news. Hizbullah operational chief Imad Mughniyeh, long-sought terrorist and enemy of Americans everywhere, was killed, yes killed, by a car bomb (Don't you love irony) in Damascus this week in what was seen as a huge victory in fighting terrorism as he has been one of the world's leading terrorists for over twenty years. http://www.worldtribune.com/worldtribune/WTARC/2008/me_terror_02_14.asp
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Cherish those you love, show those who mean the most to you today how much you appreciate them, always remembering tomorrow may not be here and yesterday is gone but today is your chance. No poet am I so I will leave one of my favorite poems with you for Valentine's Day:
There be none of Beauty's daughters
With a magic like thee;
And like music on the waters
Is thy sweet voice to me:
When, as if its sound were causing
The charmèd ocean's pausing,
The waves lie still and gleaming,
And the lull'd winds seem dreaming.
And the midnight moon is weaving
Her bright chain o'er the deep,
Whose breast is gently heaving
As an infant's asleep:
So the sprit bows before thee;
With a full but soft emotion,
Like the swell of Summer's ocean.
I woke up in the middle of night to the sound of tinkling bells. Still somewhat groggy, I thought perhaps my usual night of dreams was more real than usual, until I saw him.
He was dressed as a devil holding a red pitchfork. I swear he looked like Frank Melton, which is scary enough on its own. Anyway, this devilish guy did not speak, but reached over and took my hand and “poof” I was back in high school, which was never my favorite place. I found myself looking at ME in the hallway, and this guy Danny whom I had a crush on at that time, walked right by me without speaking. You know, that guy never spoke a word to me the whole time I had the hots for him. Devil Man pointed to the right and I saw an image of Danny working in a grocery store. He was older, with gray hair and dang he looked bad.
In a flash, Devil Guy and I were in The Grove at Ole Miss back in the late 70’s. We were standing in the middle of a big party before a football game. My old friends and I are drinking beer out of cups by a table of fried chicken, potato salad, baked beans, and cupcakes. This really cute guy Tom is there with us. Tom was 6 years younger than me and we’d been seeing each other. Oh my goodness how adorable he was then. He reached over to kiss me and “poof” I see a floating image of a much older Tom, short, fat and bald driving a minivan full of teenagers. Oh Tom, what happened to you?
Fast forward to Jackson, mid-80’s and I see my roommate and I at Bennigan’s with two guys who bought us drinks. We leave and go with them to some club to dance and drink some more. “Purple Haze” by Prince is playing and I’m slow dancing with “Mike”, whom I later marry and later divorce. He is tall and thin and was rather attractive. This strikes me really weird, as last time I saw him, he was almost totally gray, going bald, and was still trying to pretend he played college football and was a star. GEESH.
Then Devil Dude touches my arm and we are in a strange place where visions of many faces are flying by, faces of guys I dated, had one-nighters with or thought I loved at the time. I feel rather dizzy watching all this mainly because I cannot believe the losers I wasted my time with. Devil Ghost points to the left and I see someone walking towards me, someone I do not recognize. As they get closer, I see a man bringing me a package of some sorts. He hands it to me and turns and walks off. I look at the package, then look at the Ghost. The Ghost nods his head and points to the box, indicating that I open it. I do just that, and inside is a music box. I open the top and the sound of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” is playing. I see a ladder in the distance and walk towards it. Devil Man points to me, then points to the ladder and takes the music box out of my hand. I begin climbing the ladder which seems endless, and encounter clouds and light wind. I reach the top and see a beautiful mansion surrounded by flowers and trees. I feel someone touch my back and I jump around. What I see is the most unbelievable face in the world. It is Dale, my boyfriend from 11th grade killed in a car accident back in high school. He still looks the same as he did then, with brown hair down to his collar, a baby face and his adorable grin from ear to ear. He reaches over to kiss me and I feel faint.
The next thing I remember is waking up in my bed with the alarm going off. It must have all been a dream. I go about my routine, getting dressed and heading to the office. It’s Valentine’s Day, but it’s just another day to me. No plans, no date, just an ordinary day.
Around lunchtime, UPS delivers a package to me at the office. I’m thinking it’s my new business cards or something, so I just rip it open. Inside is the music box from my dream! I open it and it begins playing “Stairway to Heaven”.
Dale, you sure know how to get a girl all teary-eyed on Valentine’s Day.
Click Here to Read More..
Rob Jay is the winner of the Metro Media's Hottest Hunk contest! He received 93 of the 258 votes. Rob is Sports Director at WLBT . He also works in radio at 107.5 WKXI-FM and is involved in many other activities. You can see Rob on the WLBT 6 and 10 pm reports.
Honorable mention awards go to Wilson Stribling of WLBT, Alan Lange of Y'all Politics (http://www.yallpolitics.com/) and Marshall Ramsey of the Clarion Ledger, just because I say so! They are all happily married men and deserve a special Valentine's happy!
(See previous post on the poll)
So Happy Valentine's Day everyone ...... ENJOY.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
For once, Mississippi ranks dead last in the right category. In this instance, it is home foreclosures. For all of the talk about the housing market crisis, Mississippi ranks 45th out of 50 states in terms of home foreclosures. In 2007, the foreclosure rate in Mississippi was only .114%, compared to the national average of 1.033%. Foreclosures in the fourth quarter of 2007 only increased 14.17% from the third quarter of 2007 while the national average was 1.1% (placing the state 27th in that category). Compared to the fourth quarter of 2006, Mississippi's foreclosure rate increased 39.26% in the fourth quater of 2007 (23 states had smaller increases) while the national average was 85.83%.
The report was compiled by Realtytrac and can be found at http://www.realtytrac.com/ContentManagement/pressrelease.aspx?ChannelID=9&ItemID=3988&accnt=64847
Nancy Wilson, host of NPR's award-winning program Jazz Profiles, said Billie Holiday was "A musician's musician with a radiant voice, an impeccable sense of time and subtle, often ironic delivery, Billie Holiday was the premier song stylist of the 20th century. Although the tragic myth of her life often precedes her, Lady Day endures, first and foremost, in the songs that are her ultimate legacy........"
Learn more about this jazz legend by listening to the show at http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=14894620
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
"Everyone here knows I'm sure no Clinton fan, but am I the only one who finds Marshall Ramsey's cartoon today over the top as a depiction of a serious female presidential candidate? Thoughts? Posted by: ladd on Feb 12, 08 12:41 pm
Isn't it a "Bloody Mary" witch-in-the-mirror reference? Posted by: ladd on Feb 12, 08 1:43 pm" (Ever heard of Snow White or were you reading about Bloody Mary at age 5? -KF)
A parting note just for Donna Ladd:
Update: I think I know what was driving this little critique of Mr. Ramsey. Poynteronline is a website that focuses on the media industry, http://poynter.org/medianews. It posted a story this week from the Louisville Courier-Journal, "Do cartoonists have special rules for drawing Clinton, Obama?" and the following passage from the story:"Pam Platt wonders how editorial cartoonists use exaggeration and caricature with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama without falling into sexist or racist traps." http://www.courier-journal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080210/COLUMNISTS10/802100428/1022 I have a sneaking suspicion someone is wanting to be picked up by the google search engine gods when "cartoons" and "sexism" are used as search terms or wants to be noticed by a trade website. Click Here to Read More..
Monday, February 11, 2008
There is nothing quite like hometown justice as Aetna and some other defendants discovered when the Rankin County Chancery Court gave them a nasty dose of it in Aetna, et al v. Berry et al (669 So. 2d 56) (case available at http://groups.google.com/group/jackson-jambalaya). This bit of Rankin refuse saw Aetna slapped with a verdict of nearly $5 million by the Chancellor in a case in which the plaintiff's attorney was the Chancellor's divorce attorney and campaign manager while the defendant's lawyer swore under oath the Chancellor called him during the trial and asked him if he cared how the case was decided. It should be noted there was no jury in this trial and all decisions were made by the Chancellor in question, Billy Bridges.
In 1981, Jack and Cherry Berry were driving home when their car was hit by a drunk driver, killing Mr. Berry. The other driver was uninsured. Mrs. Berry sued Aetna, her husband's insurance company and other parties she claimed were responsible in federal court sixteen days after the accident, seeking $10.1 million in damages. The Court awarded Ms. Berry $10,000. Ms. Berry then appealed the judgement to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court, losing at each level.
Six years after the accident, she filed a lawsuit in Rankin County Chancery Court, alleging she suffered “[a]s a proximate consequence of conspiracies, conversions, frauds, negligence, breach of implied warranty of merchantability, breach of implied warranty of fitness, breach of express warranties, and under the doctrine of strict liability...". Ms. Berry requested $10 million in actual damages and $18 million in punitive damages as well as attorneys fees and other costs associated with the case (For the rest of her complaint, see pps. 5-6).
The cesspool began to simmer at this point, as it became obvious the fix was in for these poor dopes. Cases such as these belong in Circuit Court, not Chancery Court, as the Mississippi Supreme Court later confirmed on appeal. Contrary to this fundamental principle of Mississippi law, the Chancellor denied all motions to transfer the case to the Circuit Court. The defendants filed motions asserting the legal doctrines of res judicata (a case or claim that has already been decided can't be relitigated) and collateral estoppel (an issue that has been adjudicated can not be relitigated either) claiming the case had already been litigated in federal court. These efforts were a futile stab for justice as the Chancellor denied these motions.
Mrs. Berry was represented by Fred Harrell, who was more than just an attorney representing a client in Judge Bridge's courtroom. Mr. Harrell had represented Judge Bridges in his divorce in 1985 and was both the campaign manager and public spokesman in the judge's re-election campaign. In a stunnning moment of candor, John McLaurin, one of the attorneys for the defendants, signed an affidavit stating during the trial Judge Bridges had called him at home one night asking "John, you don't care how this trail turns out, do you?" (p.19)
It should come as no surprise what happened next to the defendants who must have thought this was Hang 'Em High meets The Twilight Zone as Judge Bridges, who decided the case without a jury, awarded $4,856,252 in various damages to Mrs. Berry.
The defendants appealed to the Mississippi Supreme Court, which finally issued a ruling in 1996 that reversed in part and remanded the rest of the case not consistent with its opinion back to Rankin County Circuit Court. The case was settled before it went to trial.
One of the issues raised by Aetna and its fellow parties was "Whether the Chancellor should have recused himself in this case". (p.19) The Court discussed at length Mr. Harrell's heavy involvement in Judge Bridge's campaign, his representation of the Chancellor in his divorce, and the testimony by opposing counsel that the Chancellor contacted him ex parte to ask what he thought about the Chancellor ruling for the plaintiffs. The Court ruled "We conclude that an objective observer would harbor doubts in this situation about Judge Bridges' impartiality.....
Judge Bridges should have recused himself under the circumstances in this case." (p.20)
This questionable and inappropriate conduct by Chancellor Bridges apparently troubled the Court so much that Justice Banks wrote a concurring opinion on this issue even though he dissented from the majority on the rest of the case. Banks points out "Here, Harrell's alleged involvement as a spokesman for the campaign occurred during the decisional period of the matter under consideration...
Not only was there the past representation but a current ongoing relationship with a campaign...
Where, as here, a campaign spokesman is involved in litigation promising a substantial contingent fee, where the same lawyer has represented the judge in the not too distant past, and where the judge is the sole finder of fact as well as the initial arbiter of the law vested with considerable discretion in evidentiary matters, we are compelled to draw the line on recusal..." (p.23)
In other words, the Chancellor who would be king (and ironically was later elected to the Mississippi Court of Appeals) was publicly slapped down by the Mississippi Supreme Court for rigging a case in favor of campaign manager in a textbook case of jackpot justice. Unfortunately and predictably, no action was taken against Judge Bridges by the Commission on Judicial Performance.
There is one part of the Supreme Court ruling which is very intriguing. The majority opinion was supported by Justices Prather, Mills, and Roberts. Justice Banks concurred in part and dissented in part. Justices Lee and McRae did not participate in the case. However, there is one justice who completely dissented in the case: Current Chief Justice, then-Justice and Rankin County Resident Jim Smith.
Justice Smith wrote a dissenting opinion which held the nearly $5 million verdict was proper as he stated Aetna was trying to avoid its reponsibility to the Berrys. He even went so far as to write "This case reeks of injustice by Aetna towards Ms. Berry." (p.26) As the Chief Justice is considered to be one of the most pro-business members of the Court and most likely to strike down a huge award against an insurance company, it is rather surprising to read this opinion. His opinion is even more striking in light of the fact that he was the ONLY justice who dissented from the majority opinion and completely ignored the issue of whether Judge Bridges should have recused himself! Apparently the hometown justice extended to the Mississippi Supreme Court, as Justice Smith vigorously defended a verdict decided by his fellow member of the Rankin County Bar while completely ignoring a very serious question raised as to the Chancellor's conduct on the bench. It should also be noted the Chief Justice recently appointed Judge Bridges (retired from the Court of Appeals) to be a temporary Special Circuit Judge for Hinds County.
It should also be noted that when the issue of whether the Mississippi legal system was corrupt after the guilty pleas by Joey Langston and Steve Patterson arose, it was the Chief Justice who told The Clarion-Ledger, "I don't believe (the corruption) is widespread." Irony.
Be that as it may, what is undeniable is a Chancellor and his buddies sought to fleece Aetna out of several million dollars in their swamp, hoping no one else would bother to notice what took place in the Rankin County Chancery cesspool. Thankfully, justice was eventually served as more virtous heads prevailed at the Mississippi Supreme Court even though the Rankin County mouthpiece did his best to keep the stench of the Gold Coast from drifting over to High Street.
There are several bills in the legislature to mandate law enforcement agencies to make initial police and incident reports available to the public:
House Bill 474, sponsored by State Representative John Mayo (D), referred to House Judiciary Committee A, http://billstatus.ls.state.ms.us/documents/2008/pdf/HB/0400-0499/HB0474IN.pdf
House Bill 673, sponsored by State Representative Ed Blackmon (D), referred to House Judiciary Committee A , http://billstatus.ls.state.ms.us/documents/2008/pdf/HB/0600-0699/HB0673IN.pdf
House Bill 1152, sponsored by Representative McBride, referred to House Judiciary Committee A, http://billstatus.ls.state.ms.us/documents/2008/pdf/HB/1100-1199/HB1152IN.pdf
These bills are fairly similar in that they direct law enforcement agencies to release such reports and state what should be included in the report:
(e) "Incident report" means a narrative description of 62 an alleged offense, and at a minimum shall include the name and 63 identification of each person charged with or arrested for the 64 alleged offense, the time, date and location of the alleged offense, the property involved, the vehicles involved, and the 66 names of the investigating officers. .... (House bill 673)
Reasonable restrictions such as witholding the name of undercover officers and informants, details about the investigation, names of victims of sexual offenses, and other exemptions are included. One item causing some concern is a clause allowing for the agency to exempt "Records that would prematurely release information that would impede the public body's enforcement, investigative or detection efforts;" as this could be broadly interpreted to include all initial police reports.
If you wish to support these efforts to make such reports available to the public, Contact your legislator and the following members of these committees:
House Judiciary A Committee:
Edward Blackmon, Jr., Chairman; Angela Cockerham, Vice-Chairman
Members: Mark Baker; Earle S. Banks; Charles Jim Beckett; Gary Chism; Bryant W. Clark; Linda Coleman; J. P. Compretta; Bill Denny; Tyrone Ellis; Andy Gipson; Phillip Gunn; D. Stephen Holland; Robert L. Johnson III; Bobby Moak; Harvey Moss; David Norquist; Jimmy Puckett; Thomas U. Reynolds; Walter L. Robinson, Jr.; Margaret Rogers; Greg Snowden; Jessica Upshaw; Percy W. Watson
If you wish to urge support, here is a listing of how you contact them:
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Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).
Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.
Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".
In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.
In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.
Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.
Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!
This is definitely a Beaver production.
Note: Security provided by INS.
There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.
If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!
This is definitely a Beaver production.
Note: Security provided by INS.