Singing River Health System retirees accused the judges presiding over their lawsuit against SRHS of misconduct. The plaintiffs filed an emergency motion with the Mississippi Supreme Court yesterday. They charged the judges and several lawyers in the case held a secret meeting to discuss the case on January 12. The motion states:
Due to serious concerns regarding the impartiality, bias, and ongoing conduct of Judge L. Breland Hilburn and Special Master Brett Singletary, the Special Master appointed by Judge Hilburn to oversee the discovery, interviewing witnesses, and obtaining expert consultation, Plaintiff filed a motion to recuse both Judge Hilburn and Special Master Singletary on or around December 4, 2015. The hearing on the motion to recuse was set for January 13, 2016 at 9:00 am. As was Plaintiff's Motion to Resume Discovery.
At approximately 4:51 p.m. on January 12, 2016, Plaintiffs counsel received an unexpected e-mail order from Judge Hilburn. In said e-mail, Judge Hilburn announced that he was staying the Jackson County Chancery Litigation i.e. plaintiff's lawsuit. The stay, though noted to be Temporary Stay, has no set end date, and may continue in perpetuity.
Plaintiff was left stunned.
Prior to issuing said Order cancelling Court on January 13, 2016, and thereafter, Judge Hilburn attended a clandestine, ex parte meeting the very day of his extraordinary Order, January 12, 2016, with numerous members of the Defense Counsel and other attorneys with interest adverse to Plaintiffs. The secret meeting was held at the law office of Special Master Britt Singletary in Biloxi, Mississippi, and ended less than an hour before Hilburn entered his e-mail order staying Plaintiff's litigation. This meeting was never noticed and Plaintiff and her attorneys were not intended by the attendees to learn about the meeting.
The secret meeting with Judge Hilburn was attended by the following attorneys, all of whom have interests adverse to or conflicting with the Plaintiff:
1. Attorney Brett Williams, a partner with the Dogan and Wilkinson Law Firm, the law firm representing Singing River Health System, and son of Roy Williams, long time counsel for Singing River Health System who was also a partner with Dogan and Wilkinson and only left the practice approximately one month after this litigation began;
2. Attorney Kelly Sessums of the Dogan and Wilkinson Law Firm, the law firm representing the Singing River Health System;
3. Attorney and former Judge Steve Simpson, the Special Fiduciary appointed by the Court to represent the interests of all of the plan beneficiaries;
4. Attorney William "Billy" Guice of the Rushing and Guice Law Firm, special counsel hired to represent Jackson County, Mississippi;
5. Attorneys James "Jim" Reeves and Matthew Mestayer of the Reeves and Mestayer Law Firm, counsel for approximately eight plaintiffs in the Federal Class Action lawsuit, who are referred to as the "Lay" Plaintiffs;
6. SRHS Retirement Plan Trustee, Scott Taylor who was recently appointed Trustee of the Singing River Health System by John McKay;
7. Special Master Britt Singletary, appointed by Judge Hilburn to facilitate discovery; and of course
8. Judge L. Breland Hilburn, Chancery Court Judge over the Singing River Health System Litigation, appointed by the Mississippi Supreme Court.
Each of the aforementioned parties can be seen on the film labeled Exhibit 1- Video Camera "1," Exhibit 2- Video Camera "2," and in the set of still images taken from the video labeled as Exhibit 3- "Still Images 1-9." The secret January 12, 2016, meeting clearly violated numerous ethical rules applicable to the attorneys present and, most importantly, the Code of Judicial Conduct which requires Judge Hilburn and Special Master Singletary to remain impartial and forbids them from engaging in such ex parte communication.
The Plaintiffs are filing for an emergency hearing by the Mississippi Supreme Court as the only venue where the Plaintiffs may obtain justice. This case involves a local government divided in a One Hundred Fifty Million dollar ($150,000,000.00) conspiracy and fraud affecting as many as three thousand two hundred (3,200) plan beneficiaries, all of whom have been employed by the Singing River Health System. What started as a travesty for the retirees of the hospital has now been exacerbated due to the judicial corruption of the special Judge appointed by this very court and his appointed Special Master, Britt Singletary. Judge Breland Hilburn, who was appointed to replace Chancellor D. Neil Harris, has by his actions, forced Attorneys for the majority of the Plaintiffs to file a motion for the Judge to recuse himself. In the Chancery action for discovery and accounting, the Judge has intentionally delayed and refused discovery, refused to make the Defendants follow the law, and has been so opposed to the undersigned Plaintiffs' counsel that there is not a semblance of fairness or justice.
The recusal motion, amongst other motions, was set for hearing on January 13, 2016. On January 12, 2016, Judge Hilburn had a secrete ex parte meeting with most of the attorneys representing interests opposed to the Plaintiffs represented by the undersigned counsel, as well as the Court appointed special fiduciary and a newly appointed Trustee of the hospital. At the conclusion of the meeting, Judge Hilburn sent out an e-mail at 4:51 pm canceling the next days hearing under the guise of judicial economy regarding the parallel pending Federal Court Class Action Certification. All state court actions have been stayed by Judge Hilburn pending his further orders if necessary. This order was in furtherance of the conspiracy between Judge Hilburn and most of the defense attorneys along with a few of the Plaintiffs' attorneys, Jim Reeves and Matthew Mestayer, who stand to make in excess of six million dollars ($6,000,000.00) in attorney fees in the class action for entering into a despicable deal with the County and Singing River Health System that does not protect the retirees in the future, and provides no guarantee of future payments.
Judge Hilburn knowingly and intentionally violated multiple Judge Hilburn knowingly and intentionally violated multiple Judicial Canons when he attended and participated in the clandestine meeting with the above mentioned attorneys. The attorneys involved have committed ethical breaches for which they should all be sanctioned, and the trustee and fiduciary have violated their duty to protect the retirees and plan beneficiaries. This conspiracy is in furtherance of a previous conspiracy to terminate the plan benefits and
extinguish the debt that the Health System owed to the plan for failure to make their share of the plan contributions since 2009, and likely prior, as well as lost earnings.
This case demands the immediate attention of the Supreme Court to protect the integrity of the entire judicial system in Mississippi.
However, Judge Singletary denied any wrongdoing took place. He told WLOX:
Singletary confirmed a meeting took place at his office Tuesday afternoon.
"There was nothing secret about it," Singletary said. "It had nothing to do with any pending motions in state court. It was about the federal court case."
Singletary said when the meeting began, Judge Hilburn made it clear the meeting would focus solely on the status of the Singing River Pension Fund and the status of the federal court case related to the proposed class action settlement. According to Singletary, since the meeting was not about the state case and Denham and Barton have refused to join the federal settlement, there was no obligation to include them in the meeting.
"The state court cases were severed, so they had no right to be there," Singletary said.
A proposed class action settlement to fund the retirement plan is pending before U.S. District Judge Louis Guirola. A hearing in that case is scheduled for Wednesday morning. Rest of story.