Chancery Court Districts and Chancery Court Judges in Mississippi

There are 20 Chancery Court districts and 49 Chancery Court judges. The number of chancery judges per district ranges from one to four.  In general, Chancery Court judges run for their seats in elections without party affiliation to serve four-year terms.  A court is entitled “The Chancery Court of  ____________ County, MS”, as opposed to having any reference to the district unless required by the specific court.  Chancery Courts were provided in Mississippi’s first constitutional convention in 1817, and Mississippi has had separate court of law and equity ever since, except for two brief periods in our early history as a state.  Section 147 of the Mississippi Constitution of 1890 provides that the Supreme Court shall not review and reverse a case where the only objection is that the cause was brought into Chancery Court when it should have been tried in Circuit Court or vice versa.

Chancery Courts have limited jurisdiction covering the subjects set forth in 159 of the Mississippi Constitution of 1890.  Land records are filed in Chancery Court. Chancery Court also maintains full jurisdiction over disputes in matters involving equity, domestic matters including adoptions, divorce and custody disagreements.  The jurisdiction of Chancery Court also covers matters of guardianship, final wills and testimonials, sanity hearings, and any challenges to the constitutionality of state laws.  Cases in which a county does not have a County Court, jurisdiction over juvenile matters are then given to Chancery Courts. A lawyer in private practice may be appointed to act as a youth court critic or guardian ad litem when juvenile matters such as neglect, delinquency, or abuse are heard. Although Chancery Court is a court of equity it has authorization to award retaliative damages as articulated in Tideway Oil Programs, Inc. V. Serio. 

If Chancery Court has jurisdiction over any portion of the case, it will hear all matters involved and may proceed to judgment even if all affairs had subject matter in which jurisdiction is dismissed or settled.  Generally, trials heard in Chancery Court are done so with only the Chancellor but State Law will grant parties the option to request a hearing by jury. Empaneling a jury is done so at the Court’s discretion. However, the Chancellor holds the right to disregard the findings of a jury.  Therefore, either way, the finial decision is ultimately up to that of the Chancellor.

When determining the proper County in which a Chancery Court matter will be heard is not something that can  be selected at random.  There must be affiliation between a county and the matter at hand.  Some examples are as followed: 1. Cases are heard within the county in which any necessary party resides 2. The property or some part of it must reside in the county of hearing in matters of real estate or personal property 3. Suits against executors, administrators and guardians shall be brought in the Chancery Court in which the will was admitted, the letters of administration were granted or the guardian was appointed. 4. If a case is brought forth in the wrong county the Mississippi Rules of Civil Procedure 82(d) provides for transfer to proper county when venue in incorrect and the costs of transfer is to be paid by plaintiff.

The adoption of the Mississippi Rules of Civil Procedure (MRCP) became effective January, 1982.  These rules were construed to secure a fast, fitting, and low-budget determination of every action.

These rules are intended to be applied as generously to civil actions as is judicially possible, whether in actions at law or in equity. However, nothing in the rules should be perceived as a modification to the traditional changes of jurisdiction between the law courts and equity courts in Mississippi.

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