Talks on federal Paw Paw case set to resume in January

Published 12:04 pm Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Attorneys in a federal case on hold for a year involving Warren County and two groups of landowners will renew settlement talks after the new year.

A hearing is set for Jan. 11 before U.S. Magistrate John M. Roper in Natchez to determine whether a civil racketeering suit brought in 2007 over access to hunting property off Mississippi 465 should be restarted.

The case grew out of lower court filings that began in 2003 over the use of Paw Paw Road, a gravel path that leads to adjacent parcels owned by Issaquena Warren Counties Land Company and Paw Paw Island Land Company. In the federal case, IWCLC has asked for $1 million in damages on each of six counts on the premise that the county intervened on behalf of PPILC in a way that violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.

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A ruling Nov. 10 by the state Supreme Court upheld a chancery ruling that most of the access road is private, apparently completing an aspect of the case for which the federal case was stayed in September 2009 a few days into a settlement conference. Briefs filed last week asked the parties in the federal case to consider the state’s high court’s ruling during the January talks. Following a 90-minute closed session Monday, supervisors OK’d a catch-all directive to their attorney in the case.

“I make a motion that we instruct the attorney to continue as he’s done in the past,” District 1 Supervisor David McDonald said. District 2 Supervisor William Banks seconded the motion. Both men are named individually as defendants in the case, as are supervisors Richard George and Charles Selmon, former supervisor Carl Flanders and Vicksburg Mayor Paul Winfield, who was the board’s attorney when it was filed. The county has argued it became involved to try to enforce subdivision and flood plain ordinances in the remote area north of Vicksburg, most of which is a special flood hazard zone on recent federal flood maps.

IWCLC’s attorneys are Mark Herbert and Lisa Reppeto, both of Jackson.