OXFORD • The attorney representing the family of a woman killed by a former Oxford police officer has until Thursday to explain why his California-based co-counsel should not be prohibited from practicing law in Mississippi.
Grenada-based lawyer Carlos Moore is the lead attorney in a federal wrongful death lawsuit filed on Aug. 5 by the family of a Dominique Clayton, shot and killed by former Oxford policeman Matthew Kinne. Kinne, the city of Oxford and Police Chief Jeff McCutchen are all named as defendants in the civil suit.
The city of Oxford filed a motion Aug. 26 to disqualify Los Angeles, California attorney James Bryant from the case because he is not licensed in the state and never got temporary permission to practice in the state. The Clayton family legal team was required to respond to the motion to disqualify within two weeks. Instead, Moore filed a motion for more time on the 14th day.
"Due to the demanding schedule of the plaintiffs' attorney, there has not been sufficient time to adequately complete the plaintiff's response," Moore wrote. He added that this was not an attempt to delay but simply to make sure he and his team have the "opportunity to adequately and thoroughly complete the response and supporting" materials.
Since there was no opposition to the motion from the city of Oxford, Magistrate Judge Jane Virden gave Moore one more week. The new deadline to file a response is this Thursday, Sept. 16.
The city of Oxford argued in their motion to disqualify that Bryant did not follow accepted legal procedures. In the original complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Oxford, Bryant was listed as a co-counsel with the notation that his application for temporary status was "pending." Bryant has represented himself as a co-counsel in two press conferences — one following Kinne's guilty plea and again a week later after the civil suit was filed.
City of Oxford attorney Todd Butler said Bryant never filed an application for "pro hac vice," the legal term for permission to practice in Mississippi. Under the rules guiding legal procedures in Mississippi, the "pro hac vice" should be denied if the nonresident attorney failed to secure permission before appearing in the case.
Butler said he notified Moore of the discrepancy shortly after the lawsuit was filed. When Moore took no actions to correct the problem over the next two weeks, Butler and Oxford filed a motion to disqualify Bryant on Aug. 26. Moore and Bryant finally applied to practice law in Mississippi the following day, Friday, Aug. 27.
Kinne, 40, pleaded guilty to capital murder on July 30 in Clayton’s death. He was sentenced to life in prison without the chance of parole by Circuit Court Judge Kent Smith.
The wrongful death lawsuit claims that Kinne was acting under the color of law when he conducted a welfare check on Clayton, 32, and shot her in the head while she slept in her own bed in May 2019. It alleges he was in uniform and in a marked Oxford Police Department vehicle, making witnesses believe he was there on official business.
The lawsuit claims the city and police department are liable because they hired Kinne despite an allegedly checkered past. The complaint said Kinne violated Clayton’s Fourth and 14th Amendment rights and additionally blames the department for the negligent training, supervision and retention of Kinne.