Posts Tagged ‘Ronnie Musgrove’


Thompson’s animus attack on Barbour

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

Congressman Bennie Thompson criticized former Governor Haley Barbour’s recent opinion piece in USA Today. Barbour wrote about racial changes in the South and Mississippi and bragged on Mississippi.

In Thompson’s response in today’s Clarion Ledger, he took several shots at Barbour. I thought I’d mention a few of them.

Thompson wrote:

Even after the [Voting Rights Act] was approved in 1965, white politicians in our state have used redistricting to deny blacks the opportunity to hold office.

I’m sure in the past fifty years that has been true. Most of that time, those “white politicians” were Democrats. But if we’re talking about how things have changed, we can look at last year when under Republican leadership, redistricting was used to increase the number of majority black Senate districts from 12 seats to 15 seats.

Thompson wrote:

In addition, not one of the black elected officials he raves about is a Republican, nor did he endorse any of them for municipal, county, state or federal office.

Yvonne Brown, the former black Republican mayor of Tchula, ran against Bennie Thompson. He might not want to remember her. Haley Barbour supported her. In Mississippi, Barbour supported a black Republican in a primary against a white Republican. I could make a list of black Republicans supported by Barbour for office in Mississippi (some others beside Brown who have run against Thompson).

Part of Thompson’s point is well taken. Speaking as a Republican, we need more black Republicans elected in Mississippi. And if Thompson’s claim is true, that no currently elected blacks in Mississippi are Republican (and I think he is right), then likely that is the reason Barbour did not endorse them. Not because they’re black; but because they’re not Republicans. I wouldn’t expect Congressman Thompson to go around endorsing white Republicans either. Heck, just this year in Canton and Jackson, Thompson attacked black Democrats because he thought Republicans were supporting them. So following Thompson’s political moves, if Barbour had endorsed a black Democrat for office, Thompson likely would have used that to attack that black Democrat.

Thompson wrote:

I do, however, recall the then-governor’s support for Judge Charles Pickering’s nomination to the Fifth Circuit — a move opposed by every major civil rights organization and ultimately rejected by the U.S. Senate.

Actually, the “then-governor” who supported Pickering’s nomination was Democrat Ronnie Musgrove. Barbour had not yet been elected.  I also recall that civil rights activist Charles Evers, brother of slain NAACP leader Medgar Evers, also supported Judge Charles Pickering’s nomination to the Fifth Circuit (Evers challenged Thompson to discuss which of them had been involved in civil rights work longer). Others, including then chairman of the Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus Philip West (later mayor of Natchez) also came out to support Pickering. I won’t go into a list of Pickering supporters, or the behind the scenes intrigue involving Thompson (it is in Pickering’s book: A Price Too High) who at one point, according to the book, said he could support Pickering but “he needed something.” Also, the U.S. Senate never rejected the nomination; it refused to vote on it despite Pickering’s majority support (Democrats filibustered consideration).

Thompson closed his response writing:

There is a public record that does not lend itself to revisionism.

Truth. Thompson also has a public record which includes radio commercials in Democratic Primaries saying things like, “Now the Republicans have hand-picked candidates in every race. They can’t win out-right, so they picked people who look like US to run” and “When I see Republicans from Rankin and Madison County supporting the other so-called Democrat in this race, I know that something is fishy.”

Barbour closed his piece by writing:

Political change in Mississippi and the South has been ubiquitous, and everyone is better off for it. Yet we must admit that that doesn’t mean there are no racial problems or no racism. To expect there will never be any racial discrimination in the South or anywhere else is unrealistic. And racial animus can cut both ways.

Indeed.


Court’s punt on damages shifts attention to Northern District campaign

Friday, August 24th, 2012

The Mississippi Supreme Court’s decision to decline to answer the U.S. Fifth Circuit on whether Mississippi’s cap on non-economic damages is Constitutional postpones the inevitable: an eventual answer. Justice Mike Randolph wrote on behalf of the majority, “The constitutionality of a statute is not to be addressed ‘abstractly, speculatively, or in the manner of an academic discussion’ but rather in the context of its clear application.”

One day a case with clear application will be decided by the Mississippi Supreme Court. That day will come after this November’s elections in which three seats on the Court are being contested, a fourth - Justice Leslie King - has no opposition.

In the Southern District, Justice Randolph faces Gerald Talmadge Braddock. I wrote back in July:

Challenging Randolph is Gerald Talmadge Braddock, a Vicksburg native practicing law in Hattiesburg where his firm specializes in “serious personal injury, matrimonial law, and criminal defense.” Braddock lists his “area of expertise” as “DUI cases, Mass Tort Litigation with major pharmaceutical manufacturing companies, personal injury claims, criminal defense.” On his web site, Braddock notes he is the youngest lifetime member of the Mississippi Trial Lawyer Association (now called the Mississippi Association for Justice) where he says he serves on the Board of Governors.

Braddock recently opened a Gulf Coast office to focus on litigation regarding the Deep Horizon oil drill disaster. Last month he said on his Twitter account, “If somebody said ‘Free Money In Mississippi’, there would be a riot. Well, I’m saying it, ‘Free Money In Mississippi From the BP Oil Spill’”.

Randolph’s campaign is well funded, supported by all sides of the legal community, well organized and should be successful over Braddock who has struggled to gain financial support or build a grassroots network.

In the Central District, Chief Justice Bill Waller, Jr. faces State Representative Earle Banks. As I wrote last month, the nature of the district makes this race competitive, despite Waller’s fundraising and organization advantages. Banks consistently opposed tort reform in the legislature, there is no indication he would change his mind on the Court.

A victory by Braddock or Banks would create a seismic shift on the Court in favor of trial lawyers. But for those supporting Mississippi’s tort reform including the caps on non-economic damages, the greatest concern should be the open race in the Northern District.

Josiah Coleman, a defense attorney from Oxford, has been endorsed by the Mississippi Association of Realtors, the Mississippi Medical PAC, BIPEC and the Mississippi Manufactures Association. The Mississippi Republican Party endorsed Coleman and this week an e-mail from GOP National Committeeman Henry Barbour and former GOP Chairmen Brad White, Arnie Hedermann and retired Judge Jim Herring (a Fordice appointee formerly on the Court of Appeals) endorsed Coleman and blasted his opponent Flip Phillips:

But while business organizations are rallying around Josiah, his opponent – Flip Phillips – is attempting to conceal his liberal Democrat ties. The truth is Flip Phillips is the former President of the Mississippi Trial Lawyer’s Association and has contributed upwards of $15,000 to Ronnie Musgrove, Jim Hood, Chuck McRae and the Democrat National Committee. He also led the legal effort to overturn the tort reform that helped stop trial lawyers from making Mississippi a legal hellhole.

Phillips is not just a practicing trial lawyer, he is a philosophical advocate for the plaintiffs bar and his election to the Court would not just be a vote but a clever voice of persuasion to move the Court away from the established balance. From my column in June:

Coleman’s opponent is Richard T. “Flip” Phillips of Batesville, a former president of the Mississippi Trial Lawyers Association (now Mississippi Association for Justice). Early in the campaign, Phillips, a well regarded and successful attorney, was being presented to many in the business community as a candidate they could support. But his view of the civil justice system, as discussed in an article published in the Mississippi Law Journal in 2001 titled “Class Actions & Joinder in Mississippi” is exactly the opposite of what state business interests want in a judge.

Phillips wrote, “the fundamental purpose of civil litigation today is shifting from a strictly compensatory purpose to regulatory or punitive purposes.” At a symposium discussing the article, he argued Mississippi became “lawsuit central” in the country not because of the excessively high verdicts, but rather, because the rest of the country was not as enlightened as Mississippi. Rather than reform lawsuit abuse in Mississippi, he seemed to argue the rest of the country should become more like the Magnolia State. In another presentation Phillips argued the elected branches of government have failed to do their jobs and “regulation by litigation” could address policy issues involving tobacco, guns, insurance, health care and product liability.

Because the constitutionality of damage caps could come before the Court, Phillips and Coleman can’t address the issue in the campaign. However, in a 2009 case from DeSoto County, Phillips represented a plaintiff against a construction company who won a $30 million judgment: $13.7 million in noneconomic damages. Because of the damages cap, the trial judge reduced that portion of the verdict to $1 million, leaving $17.2 million for the plaintiff. Phillips appealed arguing the damage cap was unconstitutional and asked the Court to strike it down. The plaintiff and the construction company settled before the Court had an opportunity to decide the issue.

The Court’s decision yesterday not to answer on the constitutionality of Mississippi’s non-economic damage caps should focus attention on the race in the Northern District. While it is unknown how the Court will rule when the question finally and fully comes before it, the perspective of Phillips is clearly known as he has argued before the Court it is unconstitutional.


How soon some forget: Musgrove & college funding

Monday, May 21st, 2012

Former Governor Ronnie Musgrove took some shots at Republicans at the Mississippi Democratic Party’s Fourth Congressional District Caucus this weekend. From the Hattiesburg American online:

Musgrove stressed the importance of funding education, and he chastised the “Republican-led state government” for not doing so since he left office as governor in 2004. “They have given us skyrocketing college tuition, and they are determined not invest in our universities and not to invest in our community colleges,” he said. “It’s a crying shame. They are going to make sure, before it is over with, that students don’t have a chance to go to college.”

How soon some forget.

Haley Barbour actually made a campaign issue of the cuts to community college and university funding under the Musgrove Administration in 2003 when he challenged and defeated Musgrove.

The results from this Barbour document notes: during the Musgrove Administration, the community college budget was cut 16 percent ($32 million) and the universities budget was cut 7 percent ($45 million). Under Governor Haley Barbour, support for community colleges increased 29 percent ($50 million) and support for universities increased 16 percent ($93 million).


State of the State - Word Clouds: Musgrove, Barbour, Bryant

Monday, January 30th, 2012

Following Governor Phil Bryant’s first State of the State I took a look at Governor Haley Barbour’s first SOTS as well as Governor Ronnie Musgrove’s first SOTS. I turned the three into word clouds and excluded a few terms that were often repeated (Mississippi, Mississippi’s, Mississippians, state). I’ll post which is which later.


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