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No Suffrage Restoration in 2016

Monday, April 25th, 2016

It’s time for my annual look at legislative restoration of suffrage rights. In 2004, 37 legislators authored 48 bills to restore voting rights to individuals and 35 of those made it through the legislative process to approval. This year only 2 legislators authored 2 bills and neither made it through the process.

Since 2004, 94 Mississippians have had their suffrage rights restored by the legislature. During Governor Phil Bryant’s administration (2012 till now), suffrage restoration has been fully an act of the legislature; passing without his signature (although while Bryant served as Lieutenant Governor, 21 suffrage rights measures passed.)

(Past posts on this issue from 2012, 2013 and 2015.)

Here is a chart tracking the number of bills filed, the number of legislators introducing the bills and the number of measures which made it through final approval.

MCPP & Mike Hurst launch Mississippi Justice Institute

Thursday, February 25th, 2016

This is great news coming from the Mississippi Center for Public Policy which has created the Mississippi Justice Institute with Mike Hurst at the helm. Here is the full release:

MCPP Launches Mississippi Justice Institute

Former Assistant US Attorney Mike Hurst to direct legal efforts

(JACKSON) – Mississippi Center for Public Policy (MCPP) today announced the creation of the Mississippi Justice Institute (MJI) as the Center’s legal arm to represent Mississippians whose state or federal Constitutional rights have been threatened by government actions. Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst has joined MCPP to serve as its General Counsel and as Director of MJI.

“For 23 years we’ve worked to help legislators write laws to guard the liberty of the people of Mississippi, to enhance their opportunities, and to protect their families,” said Forest Thigpen, President of MCPP. “Through the Mississippi Justice Institute, we will pursue those same goals in the judicial system by working to ensure our laws are carried out in a way that protects the liberty of our people and honors their Constitutional rights.”

Thigpen said, “We’re thrilled to have Mike Hurst join us to lead this effort. Mike’s work as a federal prosecutor, fighting public corruption in Mississippi, and his experience in constitutional issues in Washington, D.C., make him a perfect fit for this new project.”

Hurst said, “With the creation of MJI, I am excited about the opportunity to continue to pursue the interests of freedom and justice on behalf of Mississippi citizens in our courts. In the past, conservative legal groups from outside have come to Mississippi in order to fill this void - and they’ve done a fine job - but not all the violations of rights are headline grabbers. Mississippians need someone here to fight for the rights of our citizens whose life, liberty and property rights are being, abused, or limited by government. MJI will represent individuals or groups whose rights are threatened or infringed upon by the government, and we will intervene when important liberty interests or issues are being litigated in the courts, considered or decided upon by administrative agencies, or debated in the public square.”

Hurst noted MJI’s activities would include direct litigation on behalf of individuals, intervening in cases important to public policy, participating in regulatory and rule making proceedings, and filing amicus, or “friend of the Court,” briefs to offer unique perspectives on significant legal matters in Mississippi and Federal courts.

Hurst said, “America and Mississippi prosper with a limited government that allows free markets to work. Limited government isn’t just a conservative idea; it is the heart and soul of our state and federal constitutions. In practical matters, for families and businesses and citizens, an unconstitutional law or policy is only overturned if someone stands up and fights against it. MJI will be that champion for Mississippians in need.” Hurst said MJI will be announcing its first legal action “very soon.”

Prior to joining MCPP, Hurst served as Assistant United States Attorney from 2006 until 2015, when he resigned and ran as the Republican nominee for Mississippi Attorney General. As a federal prosecutor, Mike led some of the largest and most complex public corruption and white collar cases in the state’s history, including the recent bribery case against the former Mississippi Department of Corrections Commissioner. In 2014, Hurst was awarded the Director’s Award for Outstanding Prosecution of Fraud and Service to Fraud Prevention by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Executive Office of the United States Attorneys. Previously, Hurst served as Counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee focusing on the U.S. Constitution, and later as Legislative Director and Counsel for Congressman Chip Pickering.

The Mississippi Center for Public Policy is an independent, non-profit organization based in Jackson. It works to advance the ideals of free markets, limited government, and strong traditional families. Its work, including the Mississippi Justice Institute, is supported by voluntary, tax-deductible contributions. It receives no funds from government agencies for its operations. To learn more about MCPP, visit


Kasich featured speaker at Hinds-Rankin GOP fundraiser March 1

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016

GOP Presidential candidate Governor John Kasich will be the guest speaker at a fundraiser for the Hinds and Rankin County Republican committees on March 1, one week before the Mississippi Republican Primary.

Hinds County GOP Chairman Pete Perry stressed in an e-mail to committee members that this is a fundraiser for the Republican committees in Hinds and Rankin and not an endorsement  of Kasich for President:

This has to be treated as a fund raising opportunity for us and the others involved – not as any sort of endorsement of Governor Kasich.  As most of you know, I personally like and support him but I know there are others on our committees who like and/or are supporting other candidates. This event will feature Governor Kasich and his history and his experiences while serving as both a Congressman and as a Governor, so even if you are leaning toward voting for another candidate I urge you to get behind this event since it is going to be OUR fundraiser.

While not an endorsement of Kasich, the event provides him with a high profile Republican audience a week before voters go to the polls in Mississippi. The capital tri-county area of Hinds, Rankin and Madison counties made up 17.5% of the Mississippi Republican Primary vote in 2012.

In addition to the Primary on March 8, Hinds and Madison voters are also voting in a special state Senate election. Special elections are nonpartisan but it is a strongly Republican district and both candidates in the race are Republicans.

The event will be at the Jackson Hilton (1001 East County Line Road) with a reception at 6:00pm and a dinner at 7:00pm. A table of 8 costs $800. RSVP to with checks payable to Central Mississippi Republicans (975 North Street, Suite 206; Jackson, MS 39202).

Chancery/circuit run-off $$$

Monday, November 24th, 2014

On Tuesday, voters return to the polls in a number of elections across the state including a run-off for chancery judge and four run-offs for circuit judge. Here is a look at the fundraising and spending for those races based on the November 18 pre-run-off campaign finance reports.

Jones Judge Race: Landrum kicks-off; Rogers bows out; Parrish resigns as ADA

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

UPDATE: Today, State Auditor Stacey Pickering issued a demand for $313,726.73 against Judge Billy Joe Landrum for failing to follow state law in administering his Jones County Community Services Program. Pickering’s press release said, “The findings and information of this investigation will be made available to the District Attorney’s Office and turned over to the Judicial Performance Commission to determine if or what additional actions may be warranted.” Read the full release here: Demand Issued Against Jones County Judge

# # #

My column this week looked at the campaign finance reports of chancery/circuit judge candidates filed in July for the November election. While I didn’t have space to highlight the race for circuit judge in Jones County, it is one to watch.

On Tuesday, WDAM reported 28-year incumbent Billy Joe Landrum kicked off his campaign. But on July 15, Landrum filed a termination report with the Secretary of State showing he would no longer raise or spend any money on his campaign and that he had zero dollars cash-on-hand. He had previously reported raising $15,5000 and spending most of it.

Landrum currently is under investigation by the State Auditor’s Office. From my column earlier this year:

Landrum has confirmed the Auditor’s investigation to the press and claims it involves a community service program he initiated which requires participants (in jail or on probation) to do community service and pay a $50-a-month supervision fee which Landrum uses to buy equipment. Landrum has admitted to keeping the equipment at his personal farm and on one occasion using one of the trucks purchased through the program to travel to Orange Beach, Alabama. Landrum calls the investigation “a political witch hunt” and says he has offered to repay the mileage from the trip.

While mercy is part of justice, seeking leniency is not the reputation that Landrum has campaigned on in the past, including his 2000 campaign for Mississippi Supreme Court in which he failed to make the run-off with opponents Oliver Diaz (the incumbent) and Keith Starrett (now a federal judge). In that campaign, Landrum was largely funded by lawyer campaign contributions (around $100,000). Since then, the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) has criticized Landrum’s judicial “shenanigans” and his court where “flimsy silica cases reportedly still find a welcoming home.” In 2013, ATRA put Jones County on its “Judicial Hellholes Watch List” based on Landrum’s rulings in civil litigation cases.

Polling from earlier this year, before Landrum had opponents, showed the incumbent is well known in his district, but more voters would support a candidate less plaintiff friendly than those who would support Landrum for reelection.

One of his opponents, Noel Rogers, dropped out of the race this week telling WDAM, “After much prayer and thought, I just feel like this isn’t the right time. I feel like I need to wait another four years.”

WDAM reports another opponent, J. Ronald Parrish, resigned his position as assistant district attorney this week to campaign full time. Parrish made headlines with his prosecution of Dr. Malachy DeHenre. DeHenre performed abortions in Alabama and Mississippi but had his license suspended in both states due to health injuries to the mothers including death. Parrish prosecuted DeHenre for shooting and killing his wife and called him a “despicable nasty person” and said no case he handled “gives me as much gratification as this one.”

Landrum has two more opponents:

Grant Hedgepeth of Ellisville is a plaintiffs’ attorney focusing on auto accidents, criminal defense and mesothelioma and asbestos cases. He served one term as District Attorney for Jones County after defeating the then incumbent DA in the 1999 Democratic Primary by fewer than 400 votes; Hedgepeth was unopposed in the general election. He then lost in the 2003 Democratic Primary by nearly 1700 votes to the current DA, Tony Buckley (who became a Republican in 2011). Hedgepeth also served as an assistant attorney general under Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood.

Dal Williamson, a former Jones County Bar Association President in the race, and a past president of the Jones county Cattlemen Association. He is a partner at Williamson & Thompson which handles family law, personal injury cases and real estate services. He is a former law partner with retired U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Charles Pickering, Sr.

As of the July reports, Landrum had raised $15,500; Hedgepeth raised $12,000; Williamson raised $8582; and Parrish had not raised any yet.

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