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A 2011 amendment to Section 71-3-51 provides that, "from and after July 1, 2011," decisions of the Mississippi Workers' Compensation Commission may be appealed directly to the Supreme Court, rather than to the circuit court, as required under the previous version of the statute. On July 1, 2011, the Commission denied Petitioner Joseph Dewayne Johnson’s claim for benefits, so he appealed to the Supreme Court. The ordered the parties to brief two issues: whether Section 71-3-51, as amended was constitutional; and whether the Court had appellate jurisdiction over direct appeals from the Commission. Upon review, the Court concluded that Section 71-3-51 was constitutional, and that the Court had appellate jurisdiction over direct appeals from the Commission.Receive FREE Daily Opinion Summaries by Email
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF MISSISSIPPI
JOSEPH DEWAYNE JOHNSON
SYSCO FOOD SERVICES AND NEW
HAMPSHIRE INSURANCE COMPANY
DATE OF JUDGMENT:
HON. LILES B. WILLIAMS
COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: WORKERS’ COMPENSATION COMMISSION
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT:
CARLOS EUGENE MOORE
TANGALA LANIECE HOLLIS
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEES:
PAMELA S. RATLIFF
JEFFERSON PINCKNEY W. SKELTON
NATURE OF THE CASE:
CIVIL - PERSONAL INJURY
DIRECT APPEAL ASSIGNED TO THE
COURT OF APPEALS - 05/03/2012
MOTION FOR REHEARING FILED:
DICKINSON, PRESIDING JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:
Today we address the constitutionality of direct appeals from the Workers’
Compensation Commission (“Commission”) to this Court.
We hold that they are
constitutional, and that this Court has appellate jurisdiction over direct appeals from the
A 2011 amendment to Section 71-3-51 provides that, “from and after July 1, 2011,”
decisions of the Mississippi Workers’ Compensation Commission may be appealed directly
to this Court, rather than to the circuit court, as required under the previous version of the
statute.1 On July 1, 2011, the Commission denied Joseph Dewayne Johnson’s claim for
benefits, so he appealed here. We ordered the parties to brief two issues: whether Section
71-3-51, as amended, is constitutional; and whether this Court has appellate jurisdiction over
direct appeals from the Commission.2
When addressing a statute’s constitutionality, we apply a de novo standard of review,3
bearing in mind (1) the strong presumption of constitutionality; (2) the challenging party’s
burden to prove the statute is unconstitutional beyond a reasonable doubt;4 and (3) all doubts
are resolved in favor of a statute’s validity.5 When interpreting a constitutional provision,
we must enforce its plain language.6
After receipt of this appeal, this Court – on its own motion – ordered the parties to
brief the questions of whether Article 6, Section 146 of the Mississippi Constitution prohibits
Miss. Code Ann. § 71-3-51 (Rev. 2011).
The order also granted the Attorney General of Mississippi leave to submit an amicus brief,
under Mississippi Rule of Appellate Procedure 44, on the constitutionality of the statute.
Thoms v. Thoms, 928 So. 2d 852, 855 (Miss. 2006) (citing Austin v. Wells, 919 So. 2d 961,
964 (Miss. 2006)).
City of Starkville v. 4-County Elec. Power Ass’n, 909 So. 2d 1094, 1112 (Miss. 2005)
(citing Richmond v. City of Corinth, 816 So. 2d 373, 375 (Miss. 2002)).
Smith v. Braden, 765 So. 2d 546, 557-58 (Miss. 2000) (citing Loden v. Miss. Pub. Serv.
Comm’n, 279 So. 2d 636, 640 (Miss. 1973)).
Dye v. State ex. rel. Hale, 507 So. 2d 332, 349 (Miss. 1987) (emphasis omitted) (citing
State ex. rel. Greaves v. Henry, 87 Miss. 125, 40 So. 152, 154 (1906)).
direct appeals from the Commission to this Court, and whether this Court has jurisdiction
over such direct appeals.
Section 71-3-51 is amended to allow direct appeals from the Commission
to the Mississippi Supreme Court.
Before July 2011, a party wishing to appeal a Commission order was required to file
the appeal in circuit court; and the party aggrieved by the circuit court’s decision could then
appeal here. But in its 2011 session, the Mississippi Legislature enacted the following
amendment to Section 71-3-51:
The final award of the commission shall be conclusive and binding unless
either party to the controversy shall, within thirty (30) days from the date of
its filing in the office of the commission and notification to the parties, appeal
therefrom to the Supreme Court.7
The matter at issue is whether this Court has jurisdiction to hear direct appeals from the
Article 6, Section 146 of the Mississippi Constitution sets forth this
Court’s jurisdiction and authority to hear cases.
Prior to 1984, our Constitution set forth this Court’s jurisdiction in a single sentence:
“The Supreme Court shall have such jurisdiction as properly belongs to a court of appeals.” 8
While there were likely many opinions of what jurisdiction “properly” belonged to a court
Miss. Code Ann. § 71-3-51 (Rev. 2011).
Miss. Const. art. 6, § 146 (1983).
of appeals, our precedent records no serious challenges to this Court’s jurisdiction under the
In 1984, the people of Mississippi amended Section 146 of their Constitution by
retaining the prior language – “The Supreme Court shall have such jurisdiction as properly
belongs to a court of appeals” – and adding the following language:
and shall exercise no jurisdiction on matters other than those specifically
provided by this Constitution or by general law. The legislature may by
general law provide for the Supreme Court to have original and appellate
jurisdiction as to any appeal directly from an administrative agency charged
by law with the responsibility for approval or disapproval of rates sought to be
charged the public by any public utility. The Supreme Court shall consider
cases and proceedings for modification of public utility rates in an expeditious
manner regardless of their position on the court docket.10
We find it compelling that the amended section retains the original language that
grants this Court “jurisdiction as properly belongs to a court of appeal,” and this Court long
ago held that phrase meant appeals of decisions rendered by a tribunal clothed with judicial
power.11 And for reasons discussed below, we find the Commission is a quasijudicial body
that renders judicial decisions. We also note that Section 71-3-51 is a general law, and
Section 146's language “or by general law” is difficult to misinterpret.
See Glenn v. Herring, 415 So. 2d 695 (Miss. 1982) (statute allowing parties to appeal if
judge failed to enter final decree within six months violated Section 146 because it conferred
appellate jurisdiction on Supreme Court when no final decree had been entered). See also Illinois
Cent. R. R. Co. v. Dodd, 105 Miss. 23, 61 So. 743 (1913); Yazoo Cent. R. R. Co. v. Wallace, 90
Miss. 609, 43 So. 469 (1907).
Miss. Const. art. 6, § 146 (1984).
Dodd, 105 Miss. 23 (1913); Wallace, 90 Miss. 609 (1907).
According to Black’s Law Dictionary, an appellate court “has jurisdiction to review
decisions of lower courts or administrative agencies.” 12
The Mississippi Workers’
Compensation Commission – unlike other commissions and agencies in state government –
makes the final factual determination in a particular case; there is no trial de novo. As this
Court has said, “appellate jurisdiction necessarily implies that the subject matter must have
been acted upon by [a] tribunal whose judgment or proceedings are to be reviewed.” 13 And
the Commission’s judgments may be – and often are – reviewed.
The cases brought before the Commission were cases heard in courts under the
common law. The Legislature moved the venue of these suits filed by employees against
their employers to the Commission. When the Commission decides a case in favor of the
worker, the employer is ordered to make periodic payments to the employee.14 And when
an employer whose right to an appeal has been exhausted fails to comply with the
Commission’s award, Section 71-3-49 says that
the commission may declare the entire award due and judgment may be
entered in accordance with the provisions of this section. Such judgment shall
be entered in the same manner, have the same effect, and be subject to the
same proceedings as though rendered in a suit duly heard and determined by
the circuit court, except that no appeal may be taken therefrom.15
Black’s Law Dictionary 405 (9th ed. 2009).
Glenn v. Herring, 415 So. 2d 695, 697 (Miss. 1982).
Miss. Code Ann. § 71-3-47 (Rev. 2011).
Miss. Code Ann. § 71-3-49 (Rev. 2011).
The Commission’s judgments are filed in the circuit clerk’s judgment roll; they do not
pass through the circuit court or any other court. They are pursued and executed upon
exactly the same as judgments rendered by the circuit court. Also compelling is that the
Commission alone determines the facts of a workers’ compensation case.
Some argue that, for this Court to have jurisdiction, the case must first filter through
the circuit court. But we fail to see how cases can be nonjudicial while pending before the
Commission – the very tribunal where the facts are finally adjudicated, and whose decisions
this Court actually reviews – and then suddenly become judicial cases upon appeal to circuit
court, whose decisions are not even reviewed by this Court.
Before the amendment to Section 71-3-51, the Commission’s final decisions were
appealed directly to circuit court,16 which sat as an appellate court. And after the brief pause
in circuit court, the cases were appealed here. Upon receipt, we reviewed the Commission’s
decision, not the circuit court’s. In fact, we seldom even mentioned the circuit court’s
proceedings. For example, in Gregg v. Natchez Trace Electric Power Association, after the
Commission rendered its decision, the case filtered through circuit court and the Court of
Appeals before coming here.17 In reviewing the case, we stated:
This Court granted Gregg’s petition for certiorari to consider whether the
Commission erred . . . . We reverse and remand to the Commission. . . . This
Court’s review of a decision of the Workers’ Compensation Commission is
limited to determining whether the decision was supported by substantial
H.R. 1078, 2011 Leg., Reg. Sess. (Miss. 2011). Article 6, Section 156 authorizes the
Legislature to grant appellate jurisdiction to the circuit court. Miss. Const. art. 6, § 156 (1890).
Gregg v. Natchez Trace Elec. Power Ass’n, 64 So. 3d 473, 474 (Miss. 2011).
evidence. . . . The Commission erred by . . . . We reverse and remand this
case to the Commission . . . .18
In the entire opinion, the circuit court was mentioned only once, and then only to set
forth the chronology of appeals. The circuit judge had no power to call witnesses, receive
evidence, or adjudicate facts. The reality is that, under the previous statute, the circuit
judge’s decision played no part in this Court’s review or disposition of a workers’
compensation case. For these reasons, we reject the notion that a circuit judge’s ruling is
required to place a “judicial proceeding” tag on a workers’ compensation case.
To be clear, we do not hold today that this Court has direct appellate jurisdiction over
all agency decisions. Today, we address only appeals of workers’ compensation cases from
In a legitimate exercise of its constitutional authority, 19 the Legislature created an
inferior court when it gave the Commission the power and authority to make decisions that
are “conclusive and binding.” 20 Our opinion today is not inconsistent with Herring or Dodd.
In Herring, we held that the statute at issue was unconstitutional, because it allowed an
appeal where no final decision had been made.21 Here, the Commission’s decision on the
merits is a final, appealable decision. And in Dodd, we reasoned that the Legislature had not
Id. at 474-78 (emphasis added).
Miss. Const. art. 6, § 172 (1890) (“The legislature shall, from time to time, establish such
other inferior courts as may be necessary, and abolish the same whenever deemed expedient.”).
Miss. Code Ann. § 73-3-51 (Rev. 2011).
Herring, 415 So. 2d at 697.
conveyed the Railroad Commission “the power to apply the law to a state of facts and to
make a final declaration of the consequences which follow . . . .” 22 In contrast, Section 71-351 states that “[t]he final award of the commission shall be conclusive and binding unless
either party to the controversy shall, within thirty (30) days . . . . appeal therefrom to the
Supreme Court.” 23
As expressed in Dodd, “‘[t]he tribunal from which an appeal lies need not be called
a court; but it must be one having the attributes of a court – a tribunal where justice is
judicially administered.’” 24 Further, a judicial function occurs where a tribunal is the
ultimate finder of fact, and where it is empowered to render a binding decision after applying
the law to the facts. And the judicial power of a court includes “the power to hear and finally
determine controversies between adverse parties.” 25 Likewise, the Commission is the
ultimate finder-of-fact, one whose judgment is binding after applying the law to the facts in
cases involving adverse parties – a tribunal where justice is judicially administered.
Today’s narrow holding is that, pursuant to Article 6, Section 146 of the Mississippi
Constitution, the Legislature is constitutionally empowered to confer appellate jurisdiction
Dodd, 105 Miss. 23, 61 So. 743 (1913).
Miss. Code Ann. § 71-3-51 (Rev. 2011) (emphasis added).
Dodd, 61 So. at 743 (quoting State Auditor v. Atchison, T. & S.F.R. Co., 6 Kan. 500
on this Court over direct appeals from the Commission and as with all workers’
compensation cases appealed to this Court, we assign this case to the Court of Appeals for
decision, and the Clerk of Court is directed to issue a merits briefing schedule.
DIRECT APPEAL ASSIGNED TO THE COURT OF APPEALS.
RANDOLPH, LAMAR, PIERCE AND KING, JJ., CONCUR. RANDOLPH, J.,
SPECIALLY CONCURS WITH SEPARATE WRITTEN OPINION JOINED BY
DICKINSON, P.J., LAMAR AND PIERCE. JJ. KITCHENS, J., DISSENTS WITH
SEPARATE WRITTEN OPINION JOINED BY WALLER, C.J., CARLSON, P.J.,
AND CHANDLER, J.
RANDOLPH, JUSTICE, SPECIALLY CONCURRING:
The Mississippi Workers’ Compensation Commission is a unique agency, as briefly
alluded to by the Majority. (Maj. Op. ¶ 10) (“The cases brought before the Commission were
cases [once] heard in courts under the common law. The Legislature moved the venue of
these suits filed by employees against their employers to the Commission.”). Specifically,
the Commission “administer[s]” the statutorily created mechanism under which “most suits
by injured workers against employers” have been removed from the tort system, with
“[e]mployers receiv[ing] fixed levels of potential liability which they can anticipate and treat
as a general ‘cost of doing business’” in exchange for “[e]mployees receiv[ing] guaranteed
compensation for covered injuries, bypassing the civil-litigation risks of either no recovery
or uncollectible judgments against insolvent employers.” Miss. Code Ann. § 71-3-1 (Rev.
2011); Franklin Corp. v. Tedford, 18 So. 3d 215, 220-21 (Miss. 2009) (quoting Note,
Exceptions to the Exclusive Remedy Requirements of Workers’ Compensation Statutes, 96
Harv. L. Rev. 1641, 1641 (1983)). In its role as a “quasijudicial” tribunal, the Commission
“renders judicial decisions[,]” such that this Court would be exercising “appellate jurisdiction
. . . over direct appeals from the Commission . . . .” 26 (Maj. Op. ¶¶ 8, 18). Accordingly, I
concur with the Majority’s specific and narrow holding that Article 6, Section 146, of the
Mississippi Constitution authorizes the Legislature to confer appellate jurisdiction upon this
Court by general law, as in Mississippi Code Section 71-3-51. See Miss. Const. art. 6, § 146.
I write separately, however, to note that a provision within Section 71-3-51 is problematic
under constitutional sections not argued in this appeal. I point out this infirmity simply to
bring it to the attention of the Legislature and to urge its alleviation through statutory
amendment. See Smith v. Fluor Corp., 514 So. 2d 1227, 1232 (Miss. 1987) (“The law has
been well settled that the constitutionality of a statute will not be considered unless the point
is specifically pleaded.”).
Section 71-3-51 provides, in pertinent part, that:
[t]he Supreme Court shall review all questions of law and of fact. If no
prejudicial error be found, the matter shall be affirmed and remanded to the
commission for enforcement. If prejudicial error be found, the same shall be
reversed and the Supreme Court shall enter such judgment or award as the
commission should have entered.[27 ]
Miss. Code Ann. § 71-3-51 (Rev. 2011) (emphasis added). In dictating the method of
disposition, which is inherently judicial in nature, the Legislature failed to acknowledge that
I add that Mississippi is not unique in permitting direct appeals of workers’ compensation
matters to the state supreme court. See Idaho Code Ann. § 72-724; Mont. Code Ann. § 39-71-2904;
Neb. Rev. St. Ann. § 48-185; N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 281-A:43(I)(c); 85 Okla. St. Ann. § 340(D).
The prior version of Section 71-3-51 used “circuit court” in place of “Supreme Court,” but
was otherwise identical to the quoted excerpt. Miss. Code Ann. § 71-3-51 (2010).
this Court has routinely remanded cases to the Commission for further proceedings, when
warranted. See, e.g., Gregg v. Natchez Trace Elec. Power Ass’n, 64 So. 3d 473, 474 (Miss.
2011) (reversing and remanding “for a hearing on the issue of lost wage-earning capacity”);
J.H. Moon & Sons, Inc. v. Johnson, 753 So. 2d 445, 449 (Miss. 1999) (remanding for
further determinations regarding “rate of compensation”); ABC Mfg. Corp. v. Doyle, 749 So.
2d 43, 47 (Miss. 1999) (reversing and remanding following holding that statute of limitations
Directing this Court to reverse and render, in many instances, violates
fundamental separation-of-powers principles. See Miss. Const. art. 1, §§ 1-2. First, the term
“prejudicial error” begs the question, i.e., can any error exist which is not “prejudicial” to
some degree? Does this mean that the existence of any error mandates that this Court reverse
and render? If so, then the Legislature is improperly interfering with this Court’s role to
determine whether an error is harmless. See, e.g., McGee v. River Region Med. Ctr., 59 So.
3d 575, 580 (Miss. 2011) (quoting Vaughn v. Miss. Baptist Med. Ctr., 20 So. 3d 645, 654
(Miss. 2009)) (“Unless we can safely say that the trial court abused its judicial discretion in
allowing or disallowing evidence so as to prejudice a party in a civil case . . . we will affirm
the trial court’s ruling.”) (emphasis added). Second, in the event that “prejudicial error” does
exist, Section 71-3-51 inappropriately requires this Court to render “such judgment or award
as the commission should have entered.” Miss. Code Ann. § 71-3-51 (Rev. 2011). I fail to
see how this Court is equipped to render a proper “judgment or award” in all instances of
“prejudicial error.” Id. For example, if the “prejudicial error” involves excluded evidence
or witness(es), then the proper disposition would be to reverse and remand for a new hearing.
This is no less true if a case is improperly dismissed on statute-of-limitations grounds or if
further “lost wage-earning capacity” or “rate of compensation” determinations are necessary.
Gregg, 64 So. 3d at 474; J.H. Moon, 753 So. 2d at 449; Doyle, 749 So. 2d at 47. For these
reasons, I urge that the constitutional infirmity in this provision should be remedied by the
DICKINSON, P.J., LAMAR AND PIERCE, JJ., JOIN THIS OPINION.
KITCHENS, JUSTICE, DISSENTING:
Article 6, Section 146, of the Mississippi Constitution gives the Legislature authority
to expand this Court’s jurisdiction by general law, but only for the performance of such
functions as properly belong to a court of appeals. Article 6, Section 146, of the Mississippi
Constitution reads, in pertinent part: “[t]he Supreme Court shall have such jurisdiction as
properly belongs to a court of appeals and shall exercise no jurisdiction on matters other than
those specifically provided by this Constitution or by general law.” “[A]ppellate jurisdiction
necessarily implies that the subject matter must have been acted upon by [a] tribunal whose
judgment or proceedings are to be reviewed.” Glenn v. Herring, 415 So. 2d 695, 697 (Miss.
1982). A decision of the full Commission, however, is not equivalent to a final judgment of
a court. Thus, under Mississippi Code Section 71-3-51 (Rev. 2011), this Court would not be
exercising jurisdiction that “properly belongs to a court of appeals” in reviewing decisions
of the Workers’ Compensation Commission, which is an administrative agency, not a court.
See Miss. Const. art. 6, § 146. Direct appeals to the Mississippi Supreme Court from the
Commission are inconsistent with our constitutionally mandated authority.
“This Court has long since recognized that the legislature may constitutionally create
administrative agencies and confer upon such agencies fact finding and quasi-judicial powers
. . . .” 28 Walters v. Blackledge, 220 Miss. 485, 506-07, 71 So. 2d 433, 440 (Miss. 1954).
“Although exercising quasi-judicial powers,” such administrative agencies “do not have the
final authority to decide and to render enforceable judgments . . . .” Id. at 439 (citation
omitted). There can be no execution, garnishment, or other collection action upon an order
of the full Commission for the payment of money unless an employer defaults in the payment
of compensation due an employee pursuant to a decision of the Commission. Miss. Code
Ann. § 71-3-49 (Rev. 2011). Only then is the Commission’s decision enforceable by means
of an entry of judgment by the circuit clerk of the county in which the injury occurred or of
the county where the employer’s principal place of business is located. Id.
In 1984, an amendment to Article 6, Section 146, of the state Constitution granted the
Legislature the authority to confer original jurisdiction upon this Court over appeals from a
particular administrative agency. “The Legislature may by general law provide for the
Supreme Court to have original and appellate jurisdiction as to any appeal directly from an
administrative agency charged by law with the responsibility for approval or disapproval of
rates sought to be charged the public by any public utility to accord to the Legislature the
power to convey by general law.” Miss. Const. art. 6, § 146. This amendment, approved at
Given that I would characterize the Commission as a quasijudicial body, I reject the
majority’s conclusion that, in passing Section 71-3-51, the Legislature created an inferior court
under Article 6, Section 172, of the Mississippi Constitution when it granted the Commission the
power and authority to make decisions that are “conclusive and binding.”
the polls by the people of Mississippi, constitutionally established the only authority by
which the Legislature, by general law, may confer original jurisdiction upon this Court with
respect to appeals from governmental entities other than courts. Clearly, this authority
pertains only to the Public Service Commission, not to the Workers’ Compensation
Finally, Section 71-3-51, as amended in 2011, is a statute similar to those struck
down in Glenn v. Herring, 415 So. 2d 695 (Miss. 1982); and Illinois Central Railroad
Company v. Dodd, 105 Miss. 23, 61 So. 743 (Miss. 1913). In Herring, 415 So. 2d at 697,
this Court invalidated a statute which: (1) required a chancellor or judge to issue a final
decree six months after the later of either the date the matter was taken under advisement or
the date set for final briefing or memoranda of authority; and (2) provided the right to direct
appeal to the Supreme Court should the trial court fail to issue a final decree within six
months. A party appealing was to proceed “as if a final decree [had] been rendered
adversely.” Id. In striking down the statute, this Court reasoned that, without a final
judgment in the court below, we would be acting, not as an appellate court, but as a trial
court, which ran afoul of Article 6, Section 146, of the state Constitution. Id. at 648. This
Court concluded: “[I]t is clear that the function of trial courts is to render decisions in matters
presented to them, and the function of this Court is to review and revise, if necessary, judicial
decisions of inferior tribunals.” Id. In support of this premise, the Herring Court reasoned:
[Illinois Central Railroad Company v. Dodd, 105 Miss. 23, 61 So. 743 (Miss.
1913)] clearly teaches that appellate jurisdiction necessarily implies that the
subject matter must have been acted upon by the tribunal whose judgment or
proceedings are to be reviewed. In the case at bar the trial court has not
rendered a judicial decision on the subject matter of the case, so there is no
judgment to be reviewed on appeal.
Herring, 415 So. 2d at 697.
Just as in Herring, Section 71-3-51 would authorize direct appeal of the instant case
from the full Commission, bypass the circuit court, and impermissibly require this Court to
review an administrative determination that is in nowise a judicial decision. Under the
previous version of Section 71-3-51, the circuit court has always served as the proper
“intermediate court of appeals” for decisions of the full Commission. See Smith v. Jackson
Const. Co., 607 So. 2d 1119, 1124 (Miss. 1992); Walker Mfg. Co. v. Cantrell, 577 So. 2d
1243, 1247 (Miss. 1991); Hardin's Bakeries v. Dependent of Harrell, 566 So. 2d 1261, 1264
(Miss. 1990). This Court distinguished the role of the circuit court from that of this Court in
Dodd, 61 So. at 745, as follows: “jurisdiction of the circuit court is very different from that
of this [C]ourt. It may be that [the circuit court] was properly given the jurisdiction to review
by certiorari the quasi judicial acts of a tribunal exercising quasi judicial powers.”
Since “appellate jurisdiction necessarily implies” that this Court’s proper role “is to
review and revise, if necessary, judicial decisions of inferior tribunals,” and no judicial
decision of a lower court has occurred in the instant case, Section 71-3-51 impermissibly
would require this Court to act as a court of original jurisdiction. See Herring, 415 So. 2d
at 648. The Attorney General attempts to distinguish Herring from the instant case by
arguing that, while Herring struck down a statute conferring original jurisdiction upon the
Supreme Court over trial court matters where a final judgment had not been entered, this case
involves a statute that seeks to confer appellate jurisdiction on this Court over final decisions
of an administrative, nonjudicial agency. Section 71-3-51 cannot and does not impose
appellate jurisdiction upon this Court. As such, Herring is not distinguishable from the case
In Dodd, 105 Miss. 23, 61 So. 743 (Miss. 1913), this Court struck down a statute
which permitted direct appeal to this Court from any order of the Railroad Commission. In
so doing, this Court reasoned:
“[A]ppellate jurisdiction,” spoken of in the Constitution, is that kind of
appellate jurisdiction which had theretofore been exercised by the highest
judicial tribunals of the respective states, and not an unlimited appellate
jurisdiction over any matter or thing arising either in courts or out of courts
which the wisdom or folly of any future Legislature might see fit to confer or
impose upon it.
Id. at 743. In Dodd, the Court’s analysis looked to the statute that had created the Railroad
Commission, which the Court found had promulgated the existence of a “mere administrative
agency” and had not conveyed to the Railroad Commission “the power to apply the law to
a state of facts and to make a final declaration of the consequences which follow . . . .” Id.
at 744. The Dodd Court held that a decision of an administrative agency is not sufficient to
confer jurisdiction upon the Supreme Court. Id. at 743. “The fact that there has been a
decision . . . is not sufficient; but there must have been a decision by a court clothed with
judicial authority and acting in a judicial capacity.” Id. (citation omitted). Ultimately, the
Supreme Court found that a statute aimed at conferring jurisdiction on this Court to review
the validity of a decision of an administrative agency such as the Railroad Commission had
the effect of calling upon the Court to “render an advisory opinion to one of the other
departments of the state government,” which the state Constitution prohibits this Court’s
doing. Id. at 745.
Sysco and the Attorney General argue that the Dodd decision is distinguishable
because the statute at issue in that case allowed a direct appeal to this Court from the
Railroad Commission, which was a rule-making agency charged with setting tariffs and rates
(a legislative function, not a quasijudicial function). I fail to find Dodd distinguishable. While
the full Commission is quasijudicial in nature and, thus, is imbued with some indicia of a
court of record, its orders are not decisions rendered “by a court clothed with judicial
authority and acting in a judicial capacity.” Dodd, 61 So. at 743.
The state Constitution does not provide the Legislature the authority to confer
jurisdiction over direct appeals from the Commission to this Court. Our jurisdiction is “not
an unlimited appellate jurisdiction over any matter or thing arising either in courts or out of
courts which the wisdom or folly of any future Legislature might see fit to confer or impose
upon” this Court. Dodd, 61 So. at 743. Consequently, this Court does not have jurisdiction
over Johnson’s direct appeal. As such, the proper disposition is to dismiss this appeal.
Otherwise, the Supreme Court of Mississippi will become the first, last, and only court to
pass upon this and all future Mississippi workers’ compensation cases in which appeals from
the Commission are taken.
WALLER, C.J., CARLSON, P.J., AND CHANDLER, J., JOIN THIS OPINION.