Attorneys representing more than 200 Singing River Health System retirees in a lawsuit over retirement benefits are asking the state Supreme Court to hold an emergency hearing, claiming major ethical violations by key court officials involved in the case.
The 57-page motion was filed today by attorneys Harvey Barton and Earl Denham. It claims presiding Judge Breland Hilburn, Magistrate Britt Singletary and attorneys representing Singing River Health System communicated with each other about the case without the knowledge of Barton and Denham.
Attorneys for the retirees claim they have video from three days ago, when they say "Judge Hilburn attended a clandestine, ex parte meeting the very day of his extraordinary order, January 12th, 2016, with numerous members of the defense counsel and other attorneys with interest adverse to the plaintiffs."
WXXV has obtained exclusive video of what Barton and Denham say is the meeting, which allegedly occurred at Singletary’s office in Biloxi. They also claim that less than an hour after this meeting ended, the judge entered an email order stopping litigation, staying all proceedings in Chancery Court.
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Denham and Barton had entered motions asking for Hilburn to step down from the case, motions that were to be heard at a Jan. 13 court proceeding.
Barton and Denham told WXXV they were never notified of the secret meeting and did not attend. They claim the meeting clearly violated the code of judicial conduct, which forbids either party to the case to communicate directly with the judge without the other parties’ knowledge.
No word yet on a hearing on the motion. News 25 reached out to Judge Hilburn and Special Master Singletary, but had not received a response late Friday.
Watch the video at WXXV-TV.