SUPREME COURT-TRIBAL COURTS
Supreme Court seems to favor limits on tribal court lawsuits
WASHINGTON (AP) – The Supreme Court appears ready to impose limits on lawsuits in a Native American court against people who are not members of the Indian tribe.
The justices heard arguments Monday in a closely watched appeal by Dollar General Corp. over a civil lawsuit in the court of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.
The Tennessee-based company was sued in tribal court in 2005 over allegations that a store manager made sexual advances toward a 13-year-old boy placed in his store by a tribal youth employment program. Dollar General asked federal courts to block the lawsuit.
Justice Anthony Kennedy and his more conservative colleagues indicated they would side with the company.
Mississippi judge steps down to run foster care system
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) – Associate State Supreme Court Justice David Chandler is stepping down from the bench to take over Mississippi’s troubled foster care system.
The announcement, effectively immediately, was made Monday by Gov. Phil Bryant.
Bryant says Chandler and the Division of Family and Children’s Services will report directly to him, instead of to Department of Human Services Executive Director Rickey Berry.
The unit, which oversees Mississippi’s foster care system, is subject to an 11-year-old federal lawsuit alleging children are being abused because of state failings and demands reforms. In July, Mississippi agreed to hire a new director and make changes to avoid being held in contempt of court.
Chandler had served on the court since 2009. Bryant will appoint someone to fill the vacancy until the 2016 election, when Chandler’s term ends.
BRANDON, Miss. (AP) – Former Terry Mayor Rod Nicholson has been sentenced to prison for embezzlement.
Multiple media outlets report Rankin County Circuit Court Judge William E. Chapman III sentenced 58-year-old Rod Nicholson on Monday to 40 years in prison, with 30 years suspended. He will serve 10 years behind bars.
He’s also been ordered to pay over $7,000 in restitution, including court costs.
Nicholson pleaded guilty Nov. 23 to five counts of embezzlement and resigned. Prosecutors say Nicholson used a city credit card to pay for $2,700 in repairs on two personal vehicles. However, they believe he embezzled more than $32,000.
Before he was sentenced, Nicholson apologized. Witnesses who testified on his behalf asked the judge for leniency. Nicholson’s sister said he was extremely remorseful.
FUEL CARD THEFT
3 former highway workers charged with illegal fuel purchases
BATESVILLE, Miss. (AP) – Three former Mississippi Department of Transportation employees face charges of making illegal purchases using state fuel cards.
Sarah Smith, a spokeswoman with state Auditor Stacey Pickering’s office, says Connie Shegog, Clyde Poole Jr., and Torrie Willey, all of Batesville, were arrested Monday.
Smith says a grand jury indicted each Wednesday on one felony count of embezzlement. All three were released on $5,000 bail. The Associated Press couldn’t reach the three for comment Monday. Smith says none has lawyers.
Pickering’s office says all three were maintenance workers who bought fuel for personal use, and that Poole and Shegog also sold gas to truck drivers.
The auditor seeks payment of $12,751 by Shegog, $1,395 by Poole and $101.36 by Willey. In each case, the amount alleged stolen is roughly half the total.
Stories of historical Natchez trees to be unearthed
NATCHEZ, Miss. (AP) – The Mississippi Urban Forest Council and the Historic Natchez Foundation has launched a project to unearth stories of local trees.
The Natchez Democrat reports the two are partnering to collect photographs and stories of old trees throughout Natchez, including who planted the trees and why they were planted.
MUFC Executive Director Donna Yowell says the Historic Natchez Trees Project is less about the trees and more about the people whose stories can be told by the trees that inspired the project.
Yowell says documenting trees and their stories could also boost ecotourism for Natchez.
HNF Executive Director Mimi Miller says the information, photos and tree locations could be used to create tours for tourists.
Yowell and Miller hope to compile information collected through the project into a publication.
Owner wants to remove 5 Gulfport live oaks
GULFPORT, Miss. (AP) – A Gulfport property owner wants to cut down five Live oaks on Pass Road’s only tree-shaded lots so he can put in a parking lot that could help sell the property.
The Sun Herald reports the city’s Planning Commission rejected the request from Dennis Barber, but he has appealed to the City Council for permission to cut down the trees.
The city council is scheduled to consider the request at its Tuesday meeting.
The city staff recommended denial of the request because the building Barber is trying to sell, the old Gulf Regional Planning Commission office, already has parking in back. A representative of Barber said the business property would be easier to sell if a front parking lot with seven spaces is added for potential clients and visitors.
OLE MISS DONATION
Ole Miss gets $5M for its FedEx Center
OXFORD, Miss. (AP) – Ole Miss has received $5 million from two sources to benefit its athletics program.
The university announced Monday that FedEx will contribute $2.5 million to enhance the facility that already bears its name, the FedEx Student-Athlete Success Center.
And, the school received an anonymous gift of another $2.5 million that will also go toward the FedEx Center.
Ole Miss Athletics Director Ross Bjork told The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal that he appreciated the gifts, noting the Center is important in the overall development of the university’s athletes.
The Center is a 24,500-square-foot building in the northwest corner of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium that currently includes offices for academic counselors, a learning specialist and life skills as well as conference rooms, group tutoring rooms, computer labs and more.