Pinckney v. Warren, No. 25271.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtTOAL, Chief Justice
Citation344 S.C. 382,544 S.E.2d 620
Docket NumberNo. 25271.
Decision Date26 March 2001
PartiesAlvin PINCKNEY and Silas Knight, Plaintiffs, v. Catherine C. WARREN; Andrana Jenkins; Gilda Graham; Benjamin Fripp; Lorraine Lewis; James Pinckney, Jr. a/k/a Scrappy Pinckney; D & S Development; Vivian Braswell; Ethel Dixon Redd; Harvey Dixon, Jr.; Betty Dixon Haynes; Madeline "Bunches" Miller; Harvey Pinckney; Mary Ervin Pinckney, a person non compos mentis; Charlotte Turner; Maude Adams; Charles Davis; Benjamin Mood, Jr.; Mildred M. Sloss; Oliver Mood; Bryant Lucas Mood; Dwayne F. Mood; Bonita Mood; Maria R. Young; Helen Jefferson; Isaac Jefferson; Rebecca J. Murdix; Linda M. Hanton; Juanita J. Green; Alvin Jefferson; Lylene Jefferson; Miriam J. Harris; Maxine J. Freeman; Benjamin Jefferson; Lucy J. Bellinger; Maude Jefferson; Matthew Green; Charles Green; George Pugh; Walter D. Pugh and Jamie Mae P. Wilson, if they or any of them be alive, and John Doe and Mary Roe, Adults, and Richard Roe and James Roe, infants, persons under disability or incompetent, if any, including those persons who might be in the Military Service, within the meaning of Title 50 United States Code, commonly referred to as the Soldiers and Sailors Relief Act of 1940, fictitious names designating the unknown heirs, devisees, distributees, issue, executors, administrators, successors, or assigns of the above named Defendants, if they or any of them be dead, also Lark Collins; Becky Rivers Collins a/k/a Binky Rivers Collins; Phillip Collins a/k/a Fullard Collins; Susie Collins Pinckney; Carrie Collins Knight a/k/a Carrie Collins Knight Pinckney; Lawrence Rivers; Lizzie Rivers Bryant a/k/a Elizabeth Rivers Bryant; Agnes Rivers Pugh; Agnes Collins a/k/a Agnes Jenkins; Jake Pinckney; James Leonard Pinckney; Bernice Fripp; Edward Knight; Paul Knight; Clarence Knight; Marie Knight Dixon a/k/a Miriam Knight Dixon; Harvey Dixon; Lillian Bryant Leasayers; Gertrude Bryant Moughn; Lethonia Bryant Mood; Benjamin Mood, Sr.; Lucas Mood; Maggie Rivers Jefferson a/k/a Maggie Rivers Jefferson Green; Walter Jefferson, Jr.; Lloyd Jefferson; James Franklin Pugh, deceased, and also all other persons unknown, claiming any right, title, estate in or lien upon the real estate described in the Complaint herein, Defendants, of whom Benjamin Fripp and Lorraine Lewis are, Respondents, and D & S Development is Appellant.

344 S.C. 382
544 S.E.2d 620

Alvin PINCKNEY and Silas Knight, Plaintiffs,
v.
Catherine C. WARREN; Andrana Jenkins; Gilda Graham; Benjamin Fripp; Lorraine Lewis; James Pinckney, Jr. a/k/a Scrappy Pinckney; D & S Development; Vivian Braswell; Ethel Dixon Redd; Harvey Dixon, Jr.; Betty Dixon Haynes; Madeline "Bunches" Miller; Harvey Pinckney; Mary Ervin Pinckney, a person non compos mentis; Charlotte Turner; Maude Adams; Charles Davis; Benjamin Mood, Jr.; Mildred M. Sloss; Oliver Mood; Bryant Lucas Mood; Dwayne F. Mood; Bonita Mood; Maria R. Young; Helen Jefferson; Isaac Jefferson; Rebecca J. Murdix; Linda M. Hanton; Juanita J. Green; Alvin Jefferson; Lylene Jefferson; Miriam J. Harris; Maxine J. Freeman; Benjamin Jefferson; Lucy J. Bellinger; Maude Jefferson; Matthew Green; Charles Green; George Pugh; Walter D. Pugh and Jamie Mae P. Wilson, if they or any of them be alive, and John Doe and Mary Roe, Adults, and Richard Roe and James Roe, infants, persons under disability or incompetent, if any, including those persons who might be in the Military Service, within the meaning of Title 50 United States Code, commonly referred to as the Soldiers and Sailors Relief Act of 1940, fictitious names designating the unknown heirs, devisees, distributees, issue, executors, administrators, successors, or assigns of the above named Defendants, if they or any of them be dead, also Lark Collins; Becky Rivers Collins a/k/a Binky

Page 383

Rivers Collins; Phillip Collins a/k/a Fullard Collins; Susie Collins Pinckney; Carrie Collins Knight a/k/a Carrie Collins Knight Pinckney; Lawrence Rivers; Lizzie Rivers Bryant a/k/a Elizabeth Rivers Bryant; Agnes Rivers Pugh; Agnes Collins a/k/a Agnes Jenkins; Jake Pinckney; James Leonard Pinckney; Bernice Fripp; Edward Knight; Paul Knight; Clarence Knight; Marie Knight Dixon a/k/a Miriam Knight Dixon; Harvey Dixon; Lillian Bryant Leasayers; Gertrude Bryant Moughn; Lethonia Bryant Mood; Benjamin Mood, Sr.; Lucas Mood; Maggie Rivers Jefferson a/k/a Maggie Rivers Jefferson Green; Walter Jefferson, Jr.; Lloyd Jefferson; James Franklin Pugh, deceased, and also all other persons unknown, claiming any right, title, estate in or lien upon the real estate described in the Complaint herein, Defendants, of whom Benjamin Fripp and Lorraine Lewis are, Respondents, and
D & S Development is Appellant

No. 25271.

Supreme Court of South Carolina.

Heard January 23, 2001.

Decided March 26, 2001.


344 S.C. 385
Philip G. Clarke, III, of Bleecker & Clarke, LLC, of Charleston, for appellant

Robert D. Fogel, of Legare, Hare & Smith, of Charleston, for respondents.

TOAL, Chief Justice:

D & S Development ("D & S") appeals the Master-in-Equity's decision that it does not have an interest in the property sold to it by James L. Pinckney, Jr. (a/k/a "Scrappy Pinckney"). The Master found Scrappy Pinckney did not have a valid interest in the property he sold to D & S because he was illegitimate and, therefore, not his father's heir at law. We affirm the decision of the Master.

344 S.C. 386
FACTUAL/PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Scrappy Pinckney was born on April 19, 1927. He is the son of James Leonard Pinckney and Maggie Richardson. In 1954, James Leonard Pinckney died intestate, leaving an estate that included approximately ten acres of land located in both Charleston and Berkeley County. Scrappy Pinckney's interest in this property is premised on his alleged status as an heir at law of his father. If he is James Leonard Pinckney's heir at law, he is one of the many heirs of Lark Collins, the original owner of the property.

The Collins family, the Respondents in this matter, acknowledge that Scrappy Pinckney is a lineal descendant of Lark Collins and the son of James Leonard Pinckney. However, the Collins family asserts that Scrappy Pinckney is not an heir at law who could inherit a property interest from his father because he was illegitimate.

In 1975, Donald Barkowitz and Sam Craven formed D & S, a general partnership, to purchase Scrappy Pinckney's property interest. D & S paid $775.00 for Scrappy Pinckney's partial interest in the property. A quit-claim deed was signed on April 14, 1975, and recorded on April 15, 1975. D & S has paid the ad valorem taxes on the property since the conveyance in 1975.

All parties to this action recognize that Scrappy Pinckney validly executed a conveyance of his interest, if any, to D & S. However, according to the Collins family, Scrappy Pinckney did not have a valid property interest to transfer to D & S because he is not James Leonard Pinckney's heir at law.

On October 25, 1989, the Collins family filed a declaratory judgment action in Charleston County to quiet title to real property, obtain a decree establishing the family history of Lark Collins, identify the owners of the property, and determine each owner's interest in the property. On October 26, 1989, the Collins family filed an identical action in Berkeley County. Both Complaints allege the conveyance to D & S was ineffective because Scrappy Pinckney was illegitimate, and, therefore, not an heir at law of James Leonard Pinckney.

The two actions were consolidated `and referred to the Honorable Louis E. Condon, the Master-in-Equity for

344 S.C. 387
Charleston County, for entry of a final order with direct appeal to this Court. D & S and Scrappy Pinckney filed a joint Answer to the consolidated actions on May 7, 1991. The Answer admitted the facts contained in the Complaint and alleged an effective conveyance to D & S

On November 25, 1991, the Master established the family history of Lark Collins. The Master confirmed Scrappy Pinckney was a lineal descendant of Lark Collins, but reserved the question of Scrappy Pinckney and D & S's rights in the property.

On February 22, 1999, this matter was tried before the Honorable Roger M. Young, Master-in-Equity for Charleston County, to determine the extent of D & S's interest in the property. On March 11, 1999, the Master denied D & S's claim and found Scrappy Pinckney's claimed property interest, which he sold to D & S, should be awarded to Lorraine Lewis and the heirs of Bernice Pinckney Fripp, members of the Collins family. On June 8, 1999, D & S filed a Rule 59(e), SCRCP Motion, which was denied. D & S appealed the Master's decision.

The following issues are before this Court on appeal:

I. Did the Master err by requiring that Scrappy Pinckney's paternity, though admitted by the parties, be established by court order or by instrument signed by James Leonard Pinckney, Scrappy Pinckney's father?
II. Did the Master err in disregarding the plain language of Scrappy Pinckney's birth certificate by finding his parents were not married at the time of his birth?

LAW/ANALYSIS

In an appeal from an action in equity, this Court has jurisdiction to find facts in accordance with its own view of the preponderance of the evidence. Doe v. Clark, 318 S.C. 274, 457 S.E.2d 336 (1995). However, this broad scope of review does not require an appellate court to disregard the findings below or ignore the fact that the trial judge is in the better position to assess the credibility of the witnesses. Dorchester County Dep't of Soc. Servs. v. Miller, 324 S.C. 445, 477 S.E.2d 476 (Ct.App.1996). Moreover, the appellant is not relieved of

344 S.C. 388
his burden of convincing the appellate court the trial judge committed error in his findings. Id.

I. Scrappy Pinckney's Legitimacy

D & S argues the Master erred by finding Scrappy Pinckney did not have a property interest because he was not James Leonard Pinckney's heir at law. D & S argues that where all parties to an action...

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112 practice notes
  • Sloan v. Greenville County, No. 3704.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • December 8, 2003
    ...of the trial judge who saw and heard the witnesses and was in a better position to judge their credibility. See Pinckney v. Warren, 344 S.C. 382, 544 S.E.2d 620 (2001); Ingram v. Kasey's Assocs., 340 S.C. 98, 105, 531 S.E.2d 287, 291 (2000); Greer v. Spartanburg Technical Coll., 338 S.C. 76......
  • Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of S.C. v. Episcopal Church, Appellate Case No. 2015-000622
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • August 2, 2017
    ...below or ignore the fact that the trial judge is in the better position to assess the credibility of the witnesses." Pinckney v. Warren, 344 S.C. 382, 387, 544 S.E.2d 620, 623 (2001). Moreover, appellants are not relieved of their burden of convincing an appellate court that the trial court......
  • Lewis v. Lewis, No. 26973.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • May 9, 2011
    ...principle in a host of equitable matters where we have the authority to take our own view of the evidence. See, e.g., Pinckney v. Warren, 344 S.C. 382, 387–88, 544 S.E.2d 620, 623 (2001) (regarding a quiet title action: “In an appeal from an action in equity, this Court has jurisdiction to ......
  • Spur at Williams Brice Owners Ass'n, Inc. v. Lalla, Appellate Case No. 2013–001479.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • November 18, 2015
    ...is not relieved of his burden of convincing the appellate court the trial judge committed error in his findings." Pinckney v. Warren, 344 S.C. 382, 387–88, 544 S.E.2d 620, 623 (2001). In an action for declaratory relief, the burden of proof rests with the party seeking the declaration, and ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
112 cases
  • Sloan v. Greenville County, No. 3704.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • December 8, 2003
    ...of the trial judge who saw and heard the witnesses and was in a better position to judge their credibility. See Pinckney v. Warren, 344 S.C. 382, 544 S.E.2d 620 (2001); Ingram v. Kasey's Assocs., 340 S.C. 98, 105, 531 S.E.2d 287, 291 (2000); Greer v. Spartanburg Technical Coll., 338 S.C. 76......
  • Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of S.C. v. Episcopal Church, Appellate Case No. 2015-000622
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • August 2, 2017
    ...below or ignore the fact that the trial judge is in the better position to assess the credibility of the witnesses." Pinckney v. Warren, 344 S.C. 382, 387, 544 S.E.2d 620, 623 (2001). Moreover, appellants are not relieved of their burden of convincing an appellate court that the trial court......
  • Lewis v. Lewis, No. 26973.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • May 9, 2011
    ...principle in a host of equitable matters where we have the authority to take our own view of the evidence. See, e.g., Pinckney v. Warren, 344 S.C. 382, 387–88, 544 S.E.2d 620, 623 (2001) (regarding a quiet title action: “In an appeal from an action in equity, this Court has jurisdiction to ......
  • Spur at Williams Brice Owners Ass'n, Inc. v. Lalla, Appellate Case No. 2013–001479.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • November 18, 2015
    ...is not relieved of his burden of convincing the appellate court the trial judge committed error in his findings." Pinckney v. Warren, 344 S.C. 382, 387–88, 544 S.E.2d 620, 623 (2001). In an action for declaratory relief, the burden of proof rests with the party seeking the declaration, and ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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