Couple's divorce ordered back to Lee County

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Michael and Jane Turner’s divorce case likely returns to Lee County after the Mississippi Court of Appeals said it was improperly granted two years ago.
Tuesday, it reversed Chancellor Talmadge Littlejohn’s decisions and sent it back to follow the appeals court’s opinion.
Only an appeal by Jane Turner to the Mississippi Supreme Court could hold up the proceedings.
It all came down to a piece of paper, the COA said in its 4-3 ruling: The judge’s order granted withdrawal of Michael Turner’s counsel but also set a new date for the divorce trial.
Michael Turner didn’t get the notice and failed to show for the trial.
Without him, Littlejohn granted his wife the divorce, gave her custody of their son, awarded her attorney’s fees and distributed their marital property.
Turner tried to get the ruling set aside but to no avail.
“Because Michael was not served with notice of the Dec. 8, 2009, hearing,” the court said, “we find the resulting divorce judgment void.”
Judge Jimmy Maxwell, who wrote the majority opinion, found agreement from Judges Donna Barnes, Ermea Russell and Tyree Irving.
The dissent by judges Kenneth Griffis, David Ishee and Virginia Carlton notes that the court was not required to serve notice on Turner but that his withdrawing counsel, Jak Smith, was.
“Smith’s representation did not end until he gave Michael ‘reasonable notice,’” Griffis wrote, noting Littlejohn did not abuse his discretion or “was manifestly wrong.”
patsy.brumfield@journalinc.com