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Gov. Barbour's Statement on Earthquake/Tsunami in Japan

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“Marsha and I send our prayers and sincere condolences to the people of Japan. The images we are seeing from this beautiful country are heart wrenching. Mississippi shares a special relationship with this great nation. Not only are we economic partners, but also the Japanese people were very kind to Mississippi as we worked to rebuild and recover after Hurricane Katrina. Having been through our own unprecedented natural disaster, I know Mississippians feel a special kinship with the Japanese as they deal with the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami.” ]]]]> ]]>

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Vicksburg attorney receives award for outstanding pro bono service

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Josie Mayfield Hudson (photo courtesy MVLP / David Wiggins)

Attorney Josie Mayfield Hudson of Vicksburg received the Curtis E. Coker Award for outstanding pro bono service during the Mississippi Volunteer Lawyers Project’s Oct. 28 livestreamed awards presentation.

Hudson is a public defender in Warren County Circuit Court and maintains a private civil and criminal law practice. She received MVLP’s Pro Bona Award in 2015. Since 2015, Hudson donated more than 60 hours of civil legal representation in 22 cases through the Volunteer Lawyers Project. She has volunteered her time with MVLP since 2011.

“The main purpose of this award is to foster awareness of the need for involvement of the private bar in delivering legal services to the poor, particularly through MVLP,” said MVLP Vice-chair Ben Piazza. The Curtis E. Coker Award is named in honor of the late Mississippi Bar President Curtis E. Coker, who was a leading advocate for making legal services available to all. The Mississippi Pro Bono Project, the forerunner of MVLP, was founded in 1982 during Coker’s presidency.

Supreme Court Justice Dawn Beam was honored as the recipient of the Mississippi Volunteer Lawyers Project’s Beacon of Justice Award. The Beacon of Justice Award is given annually to a member of the judiciary who provides outstanding leadership in promoting and supporting equal access to justice, Piazza said.

Justice Beam, of Sumrall, is co-chair of the Commission on Children’s Justice. The Commission works to develop a statewide comprehensive approach to improving the child welfare system; coordinates the three branches of government in assessing the impact of government actions on abused and neglected children; and recommends changes to improve children’s safety, strengthen and support families and promote public trust and confidence in the child welfare system.

Justice Beam also served as co-chair of the Commission on Guardianship and Conservatorship. The Commission made recommendations which led to legislative passage of stronger protections for children and vulnerable adults. Changes to guardianship and conservatorship laws went into effect Jan. 1.

MVLP also recognized individual attorneys, a corporate legal department and a law school program for outstanding efforts in providing free legal representation to the poor.

MVLP presented Pro Bono Awards to attorneys Erica Haymer of Lexington, Louwlynn Vanzetta Williams of Jackson and the University of Mississippi School of Law Pro Bono Initiative. The Pro Bono Award recipients contributed more than 135 hours of free legal services valued at more than $20,000 between June 2019 and June 2020, said MVLP Executive Director Gayla Carpenter-Sanders.

Haymer has provided more than 20 hours of free legal service each year since 2017. She practices law with the firm of Bryant Clark PLLC. She previously served as Municipal Judge of Cruger and Tchula, special prosecutor in Holmes County Justice Court and public defender in Lexington Municipal Court. Haymer currently serves as prosecutor in Holmes County Youth Court.

Williams spent many years representing indigent Death Row inmates, first as a staff attorney then as director of the Office of Capital Post-conviction Counsel. She is now in private law practice, representing clients in civil matters and criminal appeals. Williams has volunteered her time with MVLP since 2007, Carpenter-Sanders said.

Pro Bono Initiative students annually participate in more than 30 legal clinics and legal outreach presentations, providing approximately 1,000 volunteer hours, Carpenter-Sanders said. University of Mississippi School of Law Professor Deborah Bell and Pro Bono Initiative Director Kris Simpson accepted the Pro Bono Award on behalf of law students.

The Pro Bono Initiative began in 2011 as a poverty law class taught by Bell. Law students partnered with private practice attorneys in Washington County Chancery Court’s quarterly Pro Se Day starting in 2011. Students have worked in free family law clinics in four Chancery Court districts, helped with expungement clinics and veterans clinics and provided assistance to inmates.

MVLP presented its Torchbearers Award to the Entergy Mississippi Legal Department. Entergy’s attorneys co-hosted free legal clinics dealing with divorce, emancipation, guardianship and expungement, providing more than 65 hours of free legal services. Entergy attorneys also co-hosted an event to answer questions posed through the website https://ms.freelegalanswers.org/. Entergy provided $20,000 that allowed MVLP to conduct 30 free legal clinics during the past five years, assisting more than 250 individuals, said Kimberly Jones Merchant, immediate past chair of the board of MVLP. Funding from Entergy also supported MVLP’s direct representation program, assisting more than 40 individuals.

MVLP recognized Merchant for her prior service as board chair. “We sincerely thank you for your dedication and your service to the board,” Cockrell said.

The 2020 awards program was a livestreamed virtual presentation due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

MVLP provides legal assistance to low income people through direct legal representation and legal clinics for self-represented litigants who cannot afford to hire a lawyer. MVLP relies on the donated time of attorneys who volunteer.

During 2019, nearly 500 attorneys provided more than 800 hours of free legal services through the Volunteer Lawyers Project, said Board Chair Courtney Cockrell. Those efforts finalized almost 350 cases and provided services to more than 6,200 people.

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Community rallies to support a young man after terrifying robbery

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Kofi Louis is all smiles on his new bicycle (photo by David Day).

The Vicksburg Warren County community has come together in a big way to support a young man and his family after a robbery.

It all began Monday, Oct. 26, when 13-year-old Kofi Louis experienced a terrifying armed robbery. Louis was pushed off his bike by a robber who pulled a gun on him before stealing the bike. If that wasn’t enough, the robber also took Louis’ keychain with his house key, leaving his home vulnerable.

When the news got out about what happened, the community leapt into action to set things right. A GoFundMe account was set up to raise money for a new bike, and several local folks donated to the cause.

Linda Shows, Stormy Deere and Vicksburg Daily News’ Tommy Parker decided to organize a relief effort with city and county officials for Louis and his family. Together, they rallied the support of Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace, Fire Coordinator Jerry Briggs, Vicksburg Police Chief Milton Moore, Officer Michael Battle, Crime Prevention Specialist Danielle Williams, and Chris Gilmer with Vicksburg Locksmith.


The group visited Louis at his home to let him know he has the full support of the community, and then took him to Walmart to replace his bicycle. While most of the group was out shopping, Gilmer stayed behind to replace all the locks on the Louis home for free.

The presence of so many officers caught the attention of Walmart manager Angela Shelby.  When she realized what was going on, she insisted that Walmart would happily donate not only a bicycle but also a helmet, cupholder, safety lights, a bike lock and earbuds.

Michael Battle, Angela Shelby, Danielle Williams, Reed Birdsong, Milton Moore, Kofi Louis, Jerry Briggs, Linda Shows, Alicia Louis, Thomas Parker, Martin Pace, Percy Wright, and Cora Collins.

Alicia Louis updated her GoFundMe page to let everyone know that the bike has been gifted.  She thanked everyone for supporting her brother and assured them the money raised would go toward tools, tubes, and whatever is needed to maintain the new bicycle.

The outpouring of generosity from the entire community has touched the Louis family and helped turn a frightening robbery that shook their home into a blessing and a reminder that good will prevail.

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MSDH Office of Tobacco Control receives two awards for smokefree efforts

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The Mississippi State Department of Health’s Office of Tobacco Control received two awards from the American Nonsmoker’s Rights Foundation: the Smokefree Air Challenge award and the Smokefree Air Challenge E-Cigarettes award.

The awards were presented at the ANR annual Smokefree Indoor Air Challenge and Voices for Smokefree Air awards ceremony.

The virtual awards ceremony was established by ANR to acknowledge and recognize states that excel in passing 100% smokefree provisions in workplaces, restaurants and bars. Mississippi has 171 smokefree cities with the passage of comprehensive smokefree air ordinances, 137 of which have ordinance that include restrictions on electronic cigarettes.

“The smokefree air policies implemented by these cities will protect all employees and customers in businesses and other public places from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke,” said Amy Winter, director of the Office of Tobacco Control at MSDH. “There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.”

In 2019, 14 Mississippi cities passed comprehensive smokefree air ordinances. At this time, 36% of Mississippi’s population is protected from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke and e-cigarettes.

“The adoption of these smokefree air ordinances by cities across Mississippi is an important step in improving our state’s overall health status,” Winter said. “We hope this activity at the local level demonstrates the widespread public desire for a comprehensive statewide policy.”

For information and resources about the dangers of e-cigarettes and tobacco products, visit www.healthyms.com/tobacco. For help with quitting visit www.quitlinems.com, or call the Mississippi Tobacco Quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

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