Powell v. Powell, No. 92-CA-00497

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
Writing for the CourtJAMES L. ROBERTS, Jr.; HAWKINS; SMITH; SMITH
PartiesMarvin POWELL v. Christine A. POWELL.
Docket NumberNo. 92-CA-00497
Decision Date20 October 1994

Page 269

644 So.2d 269
Marvin POWELL
v.
Christine A. POWELL.
No. 92-CA-00497.
Supreme Court of Mississippi.
Oct. 20, 1994.

Page 270

Halbert E. Dockins, Jr., Jackson, for appellant.

Roy J. Perilloux, Perilloux & Milner, Sean A. Milner, Jackson, for appellee.

En Banc.

ON PETITION FOR REHEARING

JAMES L. ROBERTS, Jr., Justice, for the Court:

The original opinions are withdrawn and these opinions are substituted therefor.

This appeal arises from an order of the Hinds County Chancery Court, First Judicial District, transferring custody of sixteen-year-old Tracee Reschell Powell from her father Marvin to her mother Christine, awarding Christine child support and attorney's fees, and providing for the garnishment of Marvin's wages. The order had been entered after a hearing unattended by Marvin or counsel on his behalf. We find insufficient evidence that Marvin received notice of the hearing, and hold that he was denied due process by the adjudication of custody and support matters in his absence. We reverse and remand for a new hearing.

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A.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Marvin and Christine Powell were married in 1972 and had two daughters. Sherrie Mischelle was born in 1973, and Tracee Reschell in 1976.

On October 4, 1985, the Chancery Court of the First Judicial District in Hinds County entered a judgment of divorce. Christine was awarded custody of the girls, then ages 12 and 9, and Marvin was ordered to pay child support in the amount of $300.00 per month until June 1, 1986, at which point the amount would increase to $400.00 per month.

On September 5, 1989, Marvin and Christine agreed to a modification of the divorce judgment, and the Hinds Chancery Court entered an order transferring custody of both daughters to Marvin. Support payments were terminated.

On November 21, 1991, Christine filed a motion for modification of the judgment, seeking custody of Tracee. She alleged that Tracee had expressed a desire to be with her, and that while Marvin was not averse to this, he refused to pay child support absent a court order. Christine requested child support and attorney's fees.

On December 19, 1991, an alias summons was filed in the Hinds Chancery Court, stating that it had been served on Marvin Powell the previous day, apparently at his place of employment. 1 The summons stated that a complaint was attached (Christine's motion for modification), and that Marvin was "required to mail or hand-deliver a copy of a written response" to Christine's lawyer within 30 days. The summons did not set a date or time for a hearing or other procedure.

On March 2, 1992, Christine filed a Notice of Hearing in the Hinds Chancery Court, stating that she would bring her motion before the Court on March 9, 1992 at 9:00 a.m. A certificate of service stated that Christine's lawyer had sent a copy of the notice to Marvin at his home address of 147 Powell Road, Jackson. Marvin contends that he never received this notice.

The hearing was held before the Hinds Chancery Court on March 9, 1992. Present were Christine and her lawyer, Roy Perilloux. At the hearing, Perilloux stated that after filing the motion for modification, he had received a telephone call from Marvin's last attorney of record, Hal Dockins. 2 Perilloux also stated that he had spoken with Dockins "last week to advise him of the hearing," and that Dockins had told him that while he was not representing Marvin, he did not think Marvin was opposed to the motion, except for the child support provision. The Chancellor requested that Perilloux take a quick look around the courthouse for Marvin. Marvin was not found, and the hearing was held.

In an order dated March 12, 1992, the chancellor transferred custody of Tracee from Marvin to Christine. He awarded $250.00 per month child support, as well as Christine's $550.00 attorney's fees. The judgment provided that an order be served on Marvin's employer, commanding Texas Eastern Transmission Corporation to withhold $250.00 per month for Tracee's support. The withholding order was to take effect immediately. Additionally, a writ of garnishment was served on Texas Eastern Transmission in the amount of $550.00.

Marvin filed a motion for relief from the March 12th judgment and to stay the garnishment proceedings. He claimed that although he had been served the alias summons in December 1991, he had never received notice of the hearing held March 9, 1992, and that the alias summons failed to comply with the notice requirements of M.R.C.P. 81. He asked the Court to set aside its judgment as void, to stay or vacate all garnishments, and to assess attorney's fees and court costs.

A hearing on this motion was held on April 23, 1992. It was attended by Christine, Marvin,

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and their lawyers. Marvin's lawyer Hal Dockins made the following statement concerning his client's alleged lack of notice of the March 9th hearing:

My client never received any notice of the hearing. When he received the alias summons, Your Honor, he came to my office. I called Mr. Perilloux on the phone. I asked Mr. Perilloux, I said, "I notice that your summons does not yet have a hearing date." He said, "I haven't set it yet." I never heard from Mr. Powell or Mr. Perilloux again. I saw Mr. Perilloux in the hallway one day when I was here on another matter, and he asked me a question about Mr. Powell's case. And I advised him that I had advised Mr. Powell that he should take some sort of action on the case. I was on another matter. I never received any notice of the hearing date. Mr. Powell never received notice of a hearing date. The next thing we knew about the case Mr. Powell was being garnished.

Perilloux had a somewhat different recollection of the conversation in the hallway:

(M)r. Dockins and (Carol English) 3 were having a conversation at the counter on Friday, March the 6th, prior to this hearing, when I happened by. And Carol asked me was the hearing before you that Monday still on. And I said, "You couldn't have asked me at a more appropriate time," because Mr. Dockins had made a telephone call on this case. And I turned to Hal and asked him, "Are you representing Mr. Powell?" And his response was, "Definitely not." And I said somewhat in a joking manner, Judge, "Speak now or forever hold your peace," to which Hal said, "I am definitely not representing him. He's fair game." Judge, I think there's a waiver problem here.

Dockins denied that he had ever told Perilloux that he was no longer representing Marvin Powell.

The chancellor was unsympathetic to Marvin's claim that he had not received notice of the March 9th hearing. He stated that he had an affidavit from Perilloux, swearing that he had sent notice of the hearing by first class U.S. mail to Marvin at his Powell Road address in Jackson. However, no such affidavit appears in the record. The chancellor held that notice of the hearing had been given, and denied Marvin's motion to set aside the judgment.

The chancellor then permitted Dockins to call Marvin to make an offer of proof. Marvin testified that he had been employed at Texas Eastern for sixteen years, and that it was there he had been served the alias summons. He stated that the summons had given no indication of when or where he was to appear to defend his rights, and that had he received notice of the hearing, he would have appeared. Upon questioning by the judge, Marvin stated that he had no objection to Tracee going to live with Christine, and that he had no objection to paying child support.

The chancellor denied Marvin's motion in an order dated April 28, 1992. On May 18, 1992, Marvin appealed the judgment to this Court.

B.

NOTICE

I. WHETHER A RULE 4 ALIAS SUMMONS, WHICH FAILED TO GIVE NOTICE OF THE DATE, TIME AND PLACE OF A MODIFICATION OF CHILD CUSTODY HEARING, COMPLIES WITH THE NOTICE REQUIREMENTS OF M.C.R.P. 81(d)(5).

II. WHETHER A LETTER CONTAINING THE DATE AND TIME OF A HEARING ALLEGEDLY MAILED TO THE RESPONDENT TWO MONTHS AFTER SERVICE OF THE RULE 4 ALIAS SUMMONS IS SUFFICIENT NOTICE OF HEARING OF RULE 81(d) MATTERS WHERE THE RULE 4 ALIAS SUMMONS DID NOT CONTAIN THE REQUIRED NOTICE OF THE DATE, TIME AND PLACE OF THE HEARING.

III. WHETHER RESPONDENT'S RIGHT OF DUE PROCESS OF

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LAW AS GUARANTEED BY THE FOURTEENTH AMENDMENT TO THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AND THE CORRELATING SECTION OF THE MISSISSIPPI CONSTITUTION WAS VIOLATED WHERE THE NOTICE OF THE TIME, PLACE AND DATE DID NOT COMPLY WITH M.R.C.P. 81(d)(5).

Marvin argues that the summons with which he was served on December 18, 1991, was of the wrong variety, and did not comply with the notice requirements of M.R.C.P. 81(d)(5). He notes that he was served with a Rule 4 or "alias" summons, which requires a written response to be delivered to the plaintiff's attorney within thirty days. Marvin contends that he should have been served with a Rule 81 summons, which does not require a response, but sets a time and place for a hearing in court concerning the matters set out in the complaint. Marvin also contends that he was not notified of the March 9, 1992, hearing on Christine's motion; in particular, he denies having received the notice Roy Perilloux certifies he mailed to Marvin on February 19, 1992.

Christine argues that Marvin was properly apprised of her motion for modification by service of the summons and complaint, and that the notice requirements of Rule 81 were met by the notice of hearing she claims was sent to Marvin on February 19, 1992.

M.R.C.P. 81

M.R.C.P. 81 governs procedure in twelve categories of civil actions, including child custody actions. The comment to the Rule states:

Rule 81(a) lists 12 categories of civil actions which are not governed entirely by the M.R.C.P. In each of those actions there are statutory provisions detailing certain procedures to be utilized ... (h)owever in any instance in the twelve listed categories in which the controlling statutes are silent as to a...

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50 practice notes
  • Evans v. Evans, Nos. 2009–CP–00953–COA
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Mississippi
    • December 1, 2011
    ...assessment of fees. See McKee, 418 So.2d at 767 (reversing and remanding award based on insufficient evidence); Powell v. Powell, 644 So.2d 269, 276 (Miss.1994) (same). An itemized bill is not always required. Estimates may support an award in some circumstances if the estimates clearly exp......
  • Rhodes v. Rhodes, No. 2009-CA-00555-COA.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Mississippi
    • January 11, 2011
    ...of her attorney's fees. See McKee, 418 So.2d at 767 (reversing and remanding award based on insufficient evidence); Powell v. Powell, 644 So.2d 269, 276 (Miss.1994) (same). It is undisputed that Stacey offered no itemized bill of attorney's fees. While an itemized bill is not always require......
  • Evans v. Evans, NO. 2009-CP-00953-COA
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Mississippi
    • April 26, 2011
    ...assessment of fees. See McKee, 418 So. 2d at 767 (reversing and remanding award based on insufficient evidence); Powell v. Powell, 644 So. 2d 269, 276 (Miss. 1994) (same). An itemized bill is not always required. Estimates may support an award in some circumstances if the estimates clearly ......
  • Dennis v. Dennis, No. 2001-CA-01402-SCT.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • August 22, 2002
    ...the defendant must be served in accordance with M.R.C.P. 81, which requires that a summons be issued. See, e.g., Powell v. Powell, 644 So.2d 269, 273-74 (Miss. 1994) (discussion of Rule 81's applicability to contempt charges in domestic proceedings). Although David's attorney received a cop......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
50 cases
  • Evans v. Evans, Nos. 2009–CP–00953–COA
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Mississippi
    • December 1, 2011
    ...assessment of fees. See McKee, 418 So.2d at 767 (reversing and remanding award based on insufficient evidence); Powell v. Powell, 644 So.2d 269, 276 (Miss.1994) (same). An itemized bill is not always required. Estimates may support an award in some circumstances if the estimates clearly exp......
  • Rhodes v. Rhodes, No. 2009-CA-00555-COA.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Mississippi
    • January 11, 2011
    ...of her attorney's fees. See McKee, 418 So.2d at 767 (reversing and remanding award based on insufficient evidence); Powell v. Powell, 644 So.2d 269, 276 (Miss.1994) (same). It is undisputed that Stacey offered no itemized bill of attorney's fees. While an itemized bill is not always require......
  • Evans v. Evans, NO. 2009-CP-00953-COA
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Mississippi
    • April 26, 2011
    ...assessment of fees. See McKee, 418 So. 2d at 767 (reversing and remanding award based on insufficient evidence); Powell v. Powell, 644 So. 2d 269, 276 (Miss. 1994) (same). An itemized bill is not always required. Estimates may support an award in some circumstances if the estimates clearly ......
  • Dennis v. Dennis, No. 2001-CA-01402-SCT.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • August 22, 2002
    ...the defendant must be served in accordance with M.R.C.P. 81, which requires that a summons be issued. See, e.g., Powell v. Powell, 644 So.2d 269, 273-74 (Miss. 1994) (discussion of Rule 81's applicability to contempt charges in domestic proceedings). Although David's attorney received a cop......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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