Johnson v. Brock, 2020-EC-00982-SCT

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
Writing for the CourtISHEE, JUSTICE
PartiesDR. OLIVER JOHNSON AND CHAUNCY WRIGHT v. WILLIAM BROCK AND JAMES WILSON, SR.
Decision Date12 May 2022
Docket Number2020-EC-00982-SCT

DR. OLIVER JOHNSON AND CHAUNCY WRIGHT
v.

WILLIAM BROCK AND JAMES WILSON, SR.

No. 2020-EC-00982-SCT

Supreme Court of Mississippi

May 12, 2022


DATE OF JUDGMENT: 06/15/2020

WASHINGTON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. JEFF WEILL, SR. TRIAL JUDGE

TRIAL COURT ATTORNEYS: WALTER HOWARD ZINN, JR. ANDREW N. ALEXANDER, III

ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANTS: WALTER HOWARD ZINN, JR.

ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEES: ANDREW N. ALEXANDER, III

BEFORE KITCHENS, P.J., CHAMBERLIN AND ISHEE, JJ.

ISHEE, JUSTICE

¶1. These consolidated election contests arose out of the December 9, 2019 city council elections in Wards 1 and 6 of Greenville, Mississippi. Contestant Oliver Johnson lost in Ward 1 to William Albert Brock, and Chauncy Wright lost in Ward 6 to James Wilson. Both Johnson and Wright subsequently filed petitions to contest the elections both claiming multiple voting irregularities. Brock and Wilson then filed motions for summary judgment. After taking into consideration all of the testimony, petitions, responses, and affidavits, the circuit court granted Brock's and Wilson's motions for summary judgment. We affirm.

FACTS

1

¶2. The election for Ward 1 was between contestants Johnson and Brock, the incumbent councilman. Brock received 180 votes in the election, while Johnson received 171. Brock was subsequently declared the winner for Ward 1. In Ward 6, Wright received 116 votes and Wilson, the incumbent, received 204 votes and was declared the winner. Both parties conducted an examination of the ballot boxes on December 17, 2019.

¶3. Johnson then filed his petition to contest the election in Ward 1 on December 27, 2019, and Wright filed his election contest on December 30, 2019. Johnson and Wright both "made similar claims of alleged voting irregularities, including but not being limited to, procedural violations of election officials of dealing with affidavit ballots, distance limitations, improper poll watcher actions." Johnson then filed an amended petition on January 8, 2020.

¶4. This Court assigned Special Circuit Judge Jeff Weill to hear the case, and on February 13, 2020, he filed the initial scheduling order. Brock and Wilson subsequently filed motions to dismiss and motions for summary judgment under Rules 12(b)(6) and 56 of the Mississippi Rules of Civil Procedure. None of the parties propounded discovery requests. On February 13, the circuit court issued an order consolidating the cases. A hearing was held on the motions in May 2020 at which the court allowed the parties to offer testimony.

¶5. After consideration of testimony, petitions, responses and affidavits, the circuit court concluded that Johnson and Wright had failed to provide proof to establish that any of the conduct complained of caused their election losses and that to conclude otherwise would be sheer speculation. Because the contestants failed to establish that any alleged improper

2

conduct caused or contributed to their losses, which was a critical element of their case, the circuit court granted Brock's and Wilson's motions for summary judgment. Johnson and Wright then filed motions for reconsideration, on June 9, 2020, with briefs in support. Brock and Wilson answered the motions for reconsideration. The circuit court issued an order denying the motions for reconsideration on June 15, 2020.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

¶6. Summary judgment is "an appropriate procedural device capable of being utilized in election disputes." Lewis v. Griffith, 664 So.2d 177, 187 (Miss. 1995) (citing Wilbourn v. Hobson, 608 So.2d 1187 (Miss. 1992)). This Court applies a "de novo standard of review on appeal from a grant of summary judgment by the trial court." Jenkins v. Ohio Cas. Ins. Co., 794 So.2d 228, 232 (Miss. 2001) (citing Russell v. Orr, 700 So.2d 619, 622 (Miss. 1997)) .

¶7. A motion for summary judgment is appropriately granted when there is no genuine issue of material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. M.R.C.P. 56(c). Summary judgment should be granted "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Id. To determine whether "a material fact is in dispute, the court reviews 'all admissions, answers to interrogatories, depositions, affidavits, and any other evidence, viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to the non-movant.'" Elliott v. AmeriGas Propane L.P., 249 So.3d 389, 395 (Miss. 2018) (quoting Owen v. Pringle, 621 So.2d 668, 670 (Miss. 1993)).

3

The moving party has the burden of demonstrating that there is no genuine issue of material fact in, while the non-moving party should be given the benefit of every reasonable doubt. Tucker v. Hinds Cnty., 558 So.2d 869, 872 (Miss. 1990) (citing Short v. Columbus Rubber and Gasket Co., 535 So.2d 61, 63...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT