A judge’s orders have created uncertainty around a lawsuit filed by Lee County Superintendent of Education Mike Scott against two Democratic party officials.
Early Monday, the Daily Journal learned that former Court of Appeals Judge Billy Bridges of Rankin County, who was appointed to hear the case, signed an order dismissing Scott’s lawsuit against state Democratic Party Chairman Jamie Franks.
Later Monday, it was revealed Bridges also signed an order “holding in abeyance” or postponing a decision on whether to dismiss Scott’s lawsuit.
Both orders were signed May 4.
The legal wrangling stems from an affair between Scott, who is seeking re-election later this year, and Franks’ former wife, Lisa Franks, who is an administrator in the county school system.
Scott filed his original lawsuit against Franks and Eric Hampton, chairman of the Lee County Democratic Party. Scott alleged that, among other things, Franks tried to extort, defame and interfere with his employment because last summer the Lee County Democratic Party, led by Hampton, tried to force Scott from office for what it described as improper conduct.
Franks and Hampton asked Bridges to dismiss the lawsuit, saying Scott had no grounds to sue. Tupelo attorney Jim Waide, representing Scott, argued that the lawsuit was filed to resolve the issue since Franks had threatened to sue Scott, but at the time had yet to do so.
Since the time Scott filed his lawsuit, though, Franks filed a counterclaim against Scott alleging alienation of affection.
Waide said that in the lawsuit he filed on behalf of Scott against Franks, the issue is whether there should be “an offset” of any damages awarded by a jury against Scott to Franks.
One order signed by the judge said that issue should be postponed until it was determined whether a jury awards damages.
But the judge also signed the order dismissing Scott’s lawsuit asking for the offset.
“The judge signed the order dismissing the lawsuit,” said Franks, a former state House member and the Democratic nominee in 2007 for lieutenant governor. “You can’t hold something in abeyance that does not exist.”
But Waide said, “He signed contradictory orders. It is unclear which order he meant to sign.”
At a December hearing before Bridges, Waide said Scott was not proud of his actions but did not break up the Franks’ marriage.
On Monday, Scott said, “I already admitted to what I did, but I will defend myself on other allegations.”
Franks said he hopes the alienation of affection counterclaim against Scott could be resolved by the end of the year. He said he is suing Scott in both his professional and personal capacity but not the Lee County School District.
Contact Bobby Harrison at (601) 353-3119 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal Jackson Bureau