Making a federal case out of it?
June 10, 2015 1 Comment
Very few cases make it to the United States Supreme Court. According to stats from the Court, they receive “approximately 10,000 petitions for a writ of certiorari each year. The Court grants and hears oral argument in about 75-80 cases.” Your ordinary car wreck case where both parties are residents of the same state generally doesn’t have any federal questions. Appeals end at the highest appeals court for the state where the case was tried.
The alienation of affection case involving pro golfer John Daly that I previously discussed here is making a stop by the US Supreme Court due to the defendant filing a petition for writ of certiorari. The basis of the petition boils down to claiming the Mississippi courts have no jurisdiction over the defendant where:
- The plaintiff and defendant are non-residents of Mississippi
- The defendants contacts with Mississippi are insufficient to confer jurisdiction
- Mississippi has “virtually no interest in entertaining this dispute between the Plaintiff and another nonresident to which no Mississippi substantive law is likely to apply”
- The states of residency for the parties have abolished the tort of alienation of affection therefor allowing Mississippi courts to exercise jurisdiction here would corrupt the doctrine of state sovereignty.
Interesting arguments that raise federal issues.
The original opinion from the Mississippi Court of Appeals states:
While the state’s interest is not as strong in this case as it was in Knight since the marriage at issue is not a Mississippi marriage, we still conclude that Mississippi has “an especial interest” in this case. The Legislature, in modifying our state’s long-arm statute in 1980, expressed the public policy of the state to provide a forum for nonresidents to pursue compensation for torts committed in whole or in part in this state. See Camp, 462 So. 2d at 727; 1980 Miss. Law, Ch. 437. ¶33. The trial court recognized Miller’s strong interest in obtaining effective relief for the alienation-of-affection tort she alleges occurred within our borders. Miller lacks a viable alternative forum to adjudicate that claim, since both Tennessee and Florida have abolished alienation-of-affection as a cause of action. This fact increases Mississippi’s interest in adjudicating this claim.
While I support Mississippi’s reluctance to abolish alienation of affection cases for the benefit of Mississippi residents, I fail to see what business Mississippi has in providing a forum for out of state litigants in these matters or why Mississippi’s interests are increased in the matter due to the litigants being residents of states that have abolished alienation of affection.
My take – the Court of Appeals got it wrong, but statistically I do not expect the US Supreme Court to fix it. Petition for writ of certiorari will be denied. The case will head toward trial in Mississippi and may very well end up before the Mississippi appellate courts once again. For now, alienation of affection cases are viable in Mississippi where:
- the defendant is a Mississippi resident,
- a non-resident defendant engages in acts (romantic rendezvous) in furtherance of the alienation of affection while physically present in Mississippi, or
- a non-resident defendant directs contact (phone calls, gifts, emails, text messages, etc.) to a married person in Mississippi in furtherance of the alienation of affection.