Paw Paw case stalled for nearly five years

Published 11:29 am Thursday, February 16, 2012

A federal case nearly five years old involving two landowner groups and Warren County is continuing to plod along, a year after settlement talks morphed into more motions and claims.

No hearing has taken place before presiding U.S. District Judge David C. Bramlette III since September in the civil racketeering case brought against the county in 2007 over access to hunting property off Mississippi 465. The case, filed in May 2007, grew out of lower court cases dating to 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.

Last March, the case was restarted after a yearlong hiatus, during which the state Supreme Court ruled in a separate suit that most of the road is private. County motions to dismiss the federal case — whether the county intervened in the private land dispute in a way that violated the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act — are still pending, said attorney Ken Rector, the county’s counsel.

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“If the judge grants our motions, then we’re out,” he said. “That’ll be it.”

The county has argued its involvement stemmed from trying to enforce subdivision and flood plain ordinances in the densely wooded area north of Vicksburg, much of which spent several weeks underwater during the Mississippi River Flood of 2011. IWCLC has asked for $1 million in damages on each of six counts on the premise that county’s actions benefited only PPILC.

What’s on the table now includes a motion by PPILC to condemn the right of way between their land and IWCLC’s, a move Rector said is allowed by state law. PPILC had argued unsuccessfully in the state case that they held a prescriptive easement to the acreage.

Earlier motions to compel the five current and former supervisors and Vicksburg Mayor Paul Winfield to respond to further discovery were denied in December. This month, both land groups were denied more time to file another motion to compel responses from the defendants.

Defendants are the county supervisors from the 2004-08 term — David McDonald, William Banks, Charles Selmon, Carl Flanders and Richard George — and Winfield, who was the board’s attorney when the suit was filed.