SRHS lawsuit now officially in federal court

SRHS lawsuit now officially in federal court
Chancery Judge Neil Harris (Photo source: WLOX)
Chancery Judge Neil Harris (Photo source: WLOX)

JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Chancery Judge Neil Harris' ruling left no room for doubt. Under state law, he was bound to approve a motion by Singing River Health System attorneys to have the case remanded to federal court.

At stake is a temporary restraining order that prevents system officials from terminating the pension plan that is on the financial ropes.

For plaintiff attorneys, the clock is ticking. Harvey Barton is one of them.

"We're going to file motions today and ask the court to hear on an emergency basis to extend the TRO in federal court," Barton explained. "Obviously, we'd love to have it kicked back to state court. Not sure what's going to happen on that, but we will definitely be going to the judge, and I don't see any reason why the judge would not extend the TRO."

Another attorney, Jim Reeves, who has filed a separate class action suit against the health system on behalf of six clients, agrees.

"We're going to ask for an expedited treatment, and the courts will determine what that will be, but we're going to ask for it as soon as possible. We're prepared to start immediately," Reeves said.

Plaintiff attorneys are also critical of the health system action to have the case moved to begin with. Earl Denham is another.

"I think it's shameful that people run around from court to court trying to find one they can win in, but the truth will come out," Denham said.

I had a chance to talk with the woman at the center of this whole controversy, the center of this lawsuit. Her name is Cynthia Almond, and here is how she described her feelings.

"I'm trying not to worry, but it's not easy. Not sleeping like a lot of the other employees or retirees. We're all quite concerned as to how this is going to turn out," Almond said.

So, while the legal arguments remain the same, the legal venue is not, at least for now.

Meanwhile, health system officials issued a written statement Thursday, saying that until all the legal issues involving the pension plan have been settled, they would have no further comment.

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