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Judge Prentiss Harrell is 2018 recipient of Chief Justice Award

July 2, 2018


Circuit Judge Prentiss G. Harrell of Hattiesburg is the recipient of the 2018 Chief Justice Award.

Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr. will present the award on July 13 during the Mississippi Bar Convention in Destin, Fla. The annual award recognizes an individual whose work has significantly improved the judicial system.

Chief Justice Waller praised Judge’s Harrell’s innovations in the 15th Circuit District, which includes Jefferson Davis, Lamar, Lawrence, Marion and Pearl River counties. Earlier this year, Judge Harrell pushed to create the full-time public defender office for Pearl River County to ensure adequate representation of defendants and save money. Having a full-time office of three public defenders has moved cases more quickly to resolution, saving the county the expense of housing pre-trial detainees for many months. It’s the seventh full-time public defender office in the state.

Chief Justice Waller said that Judge Harrell’s promotion of a full-time public defender office for Pearl River County “has been a very progressive step in the administration of justice....This has provided a savings to the county and will result in better representation for indigent defendants.”

Chief Justice Waller noted the 15th Circuit’s utilization of federal grant funding to expand mental health treatment and support services in Drug Court. The 15th Circuit Drug Court benefits from two grants totaling more than $1.79 million obtained by Pine Belt Mental Healthcare Resources in October 2016 and October 2017. The grants pay salaries of a clinician and a peer support specialist to assist Drug Court participants and help pay for drug rehabilitation treatment.

Judge Harrell pushed for implementation of electronic filing for the entire 15th Circuit District, which was completed in 2017. Judge Harrell’s support for Mississippi Electronic Courts “brought the benefits of district-wide electronic filing to the geographically largest Circuit Court district to implement e-filing technology to date,” Chief Justice Waller said.

Judge Harrell is the senior circuit judge of the 15th Circuit District. He has served for more than 11 years. He is chairman of the legislatively created Corrections and Criminal Justice Oversight Task Force. He previously served as chairman and vice-chair of the Conference of Circuit Judges. He was a member of the Public Defender Task Force, which concluded its work June 30.

Before his election to the bench in November 2006, he 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.

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