Smith v. Richmond (In re Crawford)

Decision Date26 April 2022
Docket Number2020-CP-01064-COA
Citation337 So.3d 1164
Parties In the Matter of the Guardianship and Conservatorship of Virginia Burnette CRAWFORD: Carol Smith, Appellant v. Dasie Mae RICHMOND, Appellee
CourtMississippi Court of Appeals





¶1. Carol Smith and Dasie Mae Richmond are sisters. Virginia Burnette Crawford is their mother. Smith, a Quitman County resident, filed a petition in the Quitman County Chancery Court seeking appointment as her mother's guardian in 2018. No further filings were made in the Quitman County Chancery Court proceeding until 2020.

¶2. In 2019, Crawford moved to Minnesota where Richmond lived. Richmond had a guardianship and conservatorship established for Crawford in Minnesota, and Richmond was appointed as her mother's limited guardian.1 Crawford subsequently wanted to return to Mississippi, so Richmond obtained a transfer order from the Minnesota court provisionally transferring the guardianship to Mississippi in accordance with the Uniform Adult Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Jurisdiction Acts (Uniform Adult Guardianship Acts),2 adopted by both Mississippi and Minnesota. Pursuant to the directive of the Minnesota court in the provisional transfer order and the Mississippi and Minnesota Uniform Adult Guardianship Acts, Richmond then filed a request to accept the transfer of the Minnesota guardianship, and related relief, in the Quitman County Chancery Court proceeding. Although she was not Crawford's guardian, Smith, pro se, also filed a petition in the chancery court proceeding seeking a transfer of the Minnesota guardianship to Mississippi and requesting she be appointed as her mother's "temporary substitute" guardian.

¶3. Based upon her consideration of the court file, including the Minnesota court's provisional transfer order, the chancellor issued an interim order accepting transfer of the Minnesota guardianship, provisionally finding that Richmond should continue as Crawford's guardian, and issuing instructions on repair and accounting issues that the chancellor determined required immediate resolution. In her interim order, the chancellor recognized the numerous other outstanding issues that needed to be addressed, and she explained that all issues would be addressed in future hearings to be scheduled "as soon as possible depending on schedules of Court and counsel."

¶4. Smith, pro se, filed a motion to set the interim order aside pursuant to Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b), a motion seeking the chancellor's recusal, and a "motion to change jurisdiction." The chancellor entered an order denying all three motions.

¶5. Smith, pro se, appealed from the chancellor's order appearing to assert in her appellate briefs that (1) the chancellor erred in denying her Rule 60(b) motion to set the interim order aside because it was void due to Richmond's alleged failure to request transfer of the Minnesota guardianship and because the interim order was a "fraud on the court"; and (2) the chancellor erred in denying Smith's motion to recuse. Smith listed the chancellor's denial of her "motion to change jurisdiction" in her notice of appeal, but Smith did not list this as an issue in her appellate brief, nor did she address it in any way in her briefs.

¶6. During the pending appeal, Crawford died. A "few days after" Crawford's death, Richmond filed a "motion to dismiss case as moot [or] as an impermissible appeal filed prematurely." On November 3, 2021, this Court entered an order passing this motion for consideration with the merits of this appeal. In her appellate brief, Richmond also requests that the Court (1) strike alleged "scandalous and disrespectful language" in the record; and (2) award appellate attorney's fees and costs.

¶7. For the reasons addressed below, we dismiss for lack of appellate jurisdiction Smith's appeal from the chancellor's denial of her Rule 60(b) motion to set aside the interim order, motion to recuse, and "motion to change jurisdiction." In accordance with this ruling, we grant Richmond's motion to dismiss Smith's appeal.

¶8. We deny Richmond's request to strike "scandalous and disrespectful language" in the record, without prejudice to Richmond's ability to renew her request in a motion filed pursuant to Mississippi Rule of Appellate Procedure 27. Similarly, we deny Richmond's request for appellate attorney's fees and costs, without prejudice to her ability to renew this request prior to the issuance of the mandate and in a motion complying with Appellate Rule 27 and the requirements of Latham v. Latham , 261 So. 3d 1110, 1115-16 (¶¶22-24) (Miss. 2019).


¶9. In November 2018, Smith filed her "petition for the appointment of guardianship of the person and estate of Virginia Burnette Crawford" in the Quitman County Chancery Court, seeking to be appointed as Crawford's guardian/conservator. The docket sheet for this proceeding indicates that no other filings were made in the Quitman County Chancery Court proceeding until 2020.

¶10. In the meantime, Crawford went to live with Richmond in Minnesota. Richmond filed a petition seeking appointment as Crawford's guardian and conservator in the District Court for the Fourth Judicial District, Probate/Mental Health Division, in Hennepin County, Minnesota. The Minnesota court approved a guardianship and conservatorship in July 2019, appointing Richmond as guardian, issuing letters of limited guardianship to Richmond, and appointing Conservatorship Services LLC as conservator of Crawford's estate.

¶11. The docket for the Quitman County Chancery Court proceeding shows that in early April 2020, Smith filed an "emergency petition to accept jurisdiction of guardianship and conservatorship from Minnesota to Mississippi and to establish guardianship and conservatorship for Virginia Burnette Crawford." This pleading is not in the record.

¶12. In May 2020, Richmond filed a petition in the Minnesota proceeding seeking to transfer the guardianship from Minnesota to Mississippi. After a hearing on the matter, the Minnesota court issued a "provisional order granting petition to transfer guardianship and conservatorship to another state" on May 11, 2020 (the provisional transfer order). The provisional transfer order stated that notice of the petition was given to those persons who would be entitled to notice (including Smith), and there had been no objection to the transfer. The provisional transfer order further provided:

1. The Petitioner has presented sufficient facts to establish a case for transfer of the Guardianship and Conservatorship.
2. The Guardianship and Conservatorship should be transferred to Quitman County, Mississippi at this time.
1. The Petition to Transfer Minnesota Guardianship and Conservatorship is provisionally granted.
a. The Guardian and Conservator shall petition for guardianship and conservatorship in the other state.
b. After Mississippi issues a provisional order accepting transfer of guardianship and conservatorship, the Guardian shall move this Court for a final order confirming the transfer and terminating the guardianship and conservatorship.
c. The current Guardian and Conservator shall not be discharged in Minnesota until a Final Order is issued and this Court has approved the Conservator's Final Account.

¶13. After obtaining the provisional transfer order from the Minnesota court, Richmond filed an "answer and counterclaim" in the Quitman County Chancery court proceeding,3 responding to Smith's emergency petition seeking her appointment as guardian/conservator of her mother and, in Richmond's counterclaim, requesting that the Quitman County Chancery Court accept the jurisdictional transfer of the existing guardianship and conservatorship from Minnesota to Mississippi pursuant to the Uniform Adult Guardianship Acts adopted in both states.

¶14. On July 2, 2020, Smith moved to withdraw her emergency petition and filed a "petition to accept transfer of guardianship and conservatorship" on the same day. Smith requested the chancery court to accept the transfer of the Minnesota guardianship to Mississippi.4 Smith asserted that she was seeking transfer under the Minnesota and Mississippi Uniform Adult Guardianship Acts and cited Mississippi Code Annotated section 93-20-105 (Rev. 2018 & Supp. 2020)5 as authority for allowing her to do so. Smith also asserted that she was "eligible to be appointed full guardian and conservator in this State of Mississippi" pursuant to section 93-20-123(1).6

¶15. A hearing was set for 10:00 a.m. on August 12, 2020. Smith appeared at the hearing unrepresented by counsel. At the hearing, the chancellor explained to Smith that she could not represent her mother in the guardianship proceeding and that she would need to obtain legal representation before continuing in the case. The chancellor also explained to Smith that she would not accept Smith's pro se petition to accept transfer of the guardianship from the Minnesota court because, as Smith had already stated in the hearing, the Minnesota court "ordered Dasie Richmond to do [those] actions."

¶16. On September 1, 2020, the chancellor entered an order, sua sponte, entitled "interim order appointing Dasie Mae Richmond as guardian/conservator for Virginia Burnette Crawford, Ward, and accepting the transfer of the existing guardianship and conservatorship from the State of Minnesota to the State of Mississippi." The interim order provided that it was issued upon the chancellor's consideration of "the Petition and Counter Petition and pleadings herein relative to the care and welfare of Virginia Burnette Crawford ... [and] all the documents on file." The interim order also specifically provided that the chancery court had "jurisdiction of the parties and subject matter of this cause, pursuant...

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