Jackson County

State Supreme Court gives those filmed at 'secret' meeting a week to respond

JOHN FITZHUGH/SUN HERALD/FILESinging River Health System's embattled pension was the subject of a 57-page motion filed by retiree attorneys claiming a violation of the code of judicial misconduct by SRHS attorneys, Judge Breland Hilburn and Magistrate Brit Singletary.
JOHN FITZHUGH/SUN HERALD/FILESinging River Health System's embattled pension was the subject of a 57-page motion filed by retiree attorneys claiming a violation of the code of judicial misconduct by SRHS attorneys, Judge Breland Hilburn and Magistrate Brit Singletary. SUN HERALD

The state Supreme Court is requiring a response from Singing River Health System attorneys, a chancery judge and others who were video-recorded going into a meeting some attorneys claim was secret and kept from them.

Attorneys Earl Denham and Harvey Barton, who represent about 200 retirees suing SRHS over a failed hospital pension plan, taped the comings and goings from a Jan. 12 meeting of players in the chancery court case, the presiding judge and the special master.

Then the two attorneys appealed to the state high court for emergency relief, in part because they were excluded from the meeting.

After the meeting, Chancery Judge Breland Hilburn issued an order stopping all SRHS pension litigation in chancery court and cancelled a hearing at which Denham and Barton were planning to ask him to step down.

The Supreme Court order requires responses from SRHS attorneys Brett Williams and Kelly Sessoms; attorney and former judge Steve Simpson, who is the fiduciary agent for the pension; attorney Billy Guice, hired to represent Jackson County; Jim Reeves and Matthew Mestayer, attorneys for retirees; former SRHS Trustee Scott Taylor, who resigned Tuesday; Special Master Britt Singletary and Hilburn.

They have until Tuesday.

Those Denham and Barton accused of meeting in secret have variously said it was a court-sanctioned meeting; that such meetings are often allowed outside of court; that they talked only about clients other than those represented by Denham and Barton; that Hilburn wanted an update on the federal SRHS lawsuit, which Denham and Barton have not participated in; and the appeal to the state Supreme Court is an effort to derail the federal settlement Denham and Barton have said is inherently flawed.

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