Judge recuses himself from some, not all, SRHS cases

Judge recuses himself from some, not all, SRHS cases

JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - The judge at the center of the Singing River Health System cases has recused himself from at least some of the proceedings. Judge Breland Hilburn will not preside over any cases involving attorneys Earl Denham and Harvey Barton.

The law firm alleged that Hilburn violated a Supreme Court order to hold a hearing on recusal motions. A judge ruled on Feb. 1 that the allegations by Denham and Barton did not require recusal, and denied the requests without holding a hearing. Barton then promised to appeal the ruling directly to the state Supreme Court.

According to a court document sent to WLOX, none of the nearly 30 lawyers involved in the litigation joined the motion by Denham and Barton which requested court and Special Master's recusal.

Hilburn's recusal only applies to cases being handled by Denham and Barton. According to Denham, Hilburn stepping down from only a handful of cases does not solve the problem.

"I don't think this judge should have anything to do with any of the cases in Mississippi," Denham said.

Barton said Hilburn's decision is "not acceptable," and he won't be satisfied until the judge is removed from all of the cases. Denham said he still plans to file an appeal with the Mississippi Supreme Court, citing the "secret meeting" between Hilburn and the other attorneys.

Attorney Jim Reeves issued a statement Thursday lamenting Judge Hilburn's resignation:

We regret that the dishonest conduct of two attorneys have created a situation where Judge Hilburn needed to resign in those cases. However, we are pleased that he will remain the Judge in all other state court cases, including those filed by this firm. Judge Hilburn has done an outstanding job in the very difficult Singing River litigation. We believe that of the 20-30 attorneys who have appeared before him on this matter all would agree, save for two. The Judge's recusal in those separate State Court cases in no way affects the proposed class action settlement. We look forward to bringing what we believe to be a very good Federal Court settlement to conclusion at the upcoming Fairness Hearing.

Britt Singletary, the Special Master appointed to the case, released a statement saying Hilburn asked him to remain in that position:

"Judge Hilburn called me today to inform me he is recusing himself from the Barton/Denham cases in Chancery Court. He asked me to remain in my position as Special Master at least until the Supreme Court appoints another judge. I will do as he requests. It is necessary to keep a judicial officer in place in the event the Supreme Court directs I hold hearings into authority of attorneys to stalk a Circuit Judge and the filing of void affidavits in support of the motion to recuse Judge Hilburn. Judge Hilburn was committed to protecting all retirees, the SRHS financial viability and the tax payers of Jackson County.

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