Gartin Building Courtroom with the Great Seal of the State of Mississippi

Three state judges honored by Mississippi Bar Foundation

April 14, 2017

Circuit Judge Prentiss G. Harrell of Hattiesburg and Circuit Judge Carol L. White-Richard of Indianola were inducted as fellows of the Mississippi Bar Foundation on April 13.

Judge Prentiss Harrell, Judge Carol White-Richard and Judge Michael McPhail

Forrest County Court and Youth Court Judge Michael W. McPhail received the Bar Foundation’s Law Related Public Education Award during a dinner at the Old Capitol Inn in Jackson.

The Bar Foundation presented the 2017 Professionalism Award to Professor Emeritus Guthrie T. Abbott Jr. of Oxford.

The Law Related Public Education Award is presented annually to a lawyer who has demonstrated excellence in advancing the public’s understanding of the law and the legal system. Judge McPhail was recognized for his passionate advocacy for children, his tireless work in the field of juvenile justice, and for more than 25 years of volunteer work as a judge of high school mock trial competitions. Judge McPhail also has taught criminal justice courses at the University of Southern Mississippi for about 25 years.

Judge McPhail said that he enjoys teaching, and considers it part of his purpose in life. “That’s the biggest thing in my life. I’ve got purpose.”

Judge McPhail has served as Forrest County and Youth Court Judge for 33 years. He started the Forrest County Safe Babies program in November 2005, and helped Rankin County start a similar program in 2015. The Safe Babies program targets infants and toddlers up to 3 years of age who enter the court as a result of abuse and neglect, and who are headed for the foster care system. The Forrest County pilot program, recognized as a model, was among the first four sites in the nation.

Judge McPhail served briefly as an assistant district attorney for Forrest and Perry counties before he was appointed to the bench. He is a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi and Mississippi College School of Law.

Judge Harrell is chairman of the Conference of Circuit Judges. He previously served as conference vice chair. He is the senior circuit judge of the 15th Circuit District, which includes Jefferson Davis, Lamar, Lawrence, Marion and Pearl River counties. He has served for more than 10 years as a circuit judge. He previously served for nine years as county attorney for Lamar County. He is a graduate of William Carey University and the Mississippi College School of Law. He entered law school after a career in private business, primarily real estate and construction.

Judge White-Richard has served as a circuit judge of the Fourth Circuit District since January 2015. The district includes Sunflower, Leflore and Washington counties.

Judge White-Richard was born and grew up in Holly Springs. She graduated from Tulane University with a double major in English and communications. She earned a law degree from Vanderbilt School of Law. Before her election to the bench, she practiced law as an assistant district attorney, criminal defense attorney, and in private practice with her husband, attorney Bennie L. Richard. She was the first female African-American public defender for Washington County. She is former president of the Mississippi Public Defenders Association.

Others inducted as Fellows of the Mississippi Bar Foundation are: F. Hall Bailey, Jackson; Brehm T. Bell, Bay St. Louis; Tommie S. Cardin, Ridgeland; Edward P. Connell Jr., Clarksdale; Margaret O. Cupples, Jackson; Bobby L. Dallas, Ridgeland; Michelle D. Easterling, West Point; John F. Hawkins, Jackson; Stephen P. Kruger, Jackson; Crystal W. Martin, Jackson; D. Andrew Phillips, Oxford; Susan L. Steffey, Jackson; Pieter Teeuwissen, Jackson; Lee Thaggard, Meridian; Susan R. Tsimortos, Jackson; James K. Wetzel, Gulfport; and James L. Wilson IV, Greenwood.