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Attorney General Jay Nixon has appointed Springfield attorney Tom Strong to serve as Special Assistant Attorney General in the state's lawsuit against the tobacco companies.

Missouri filed the lawsuit in 1997 against the tobacco companies and will probably seek between $4 billion and $5 billion in damages to replace taxpayers' money used for Medicaid payments for tobacco-related illnesses of Missouri citizens.

A bill in Congress that would have given Missouri $5 billion for said purpose failed to pass earlier this month.

The Missouri case will begin Jan. 24, 2000, and Strong will work with Nixon's office to assemble a "formidable team of attorneys who will take on the best-paid legal team in the country," Nixon said.

Strong is the founder of the Strong Law Firm in Springfield and has served as governor of the American Trial Lawyers Association.

Missouri Assistant Attorney Gen-

eral Reuben Shelton will head the in-house team of attorneys to work with Strong.

Frank Evans, an attorney with Miller & Sanford in Springfield, said Strong's reputation in Missouri stands for itself.

"He is one of the finest trial law-

yers in the state, and certainly is a hard-working and dedicated attorney," Evans said.

Strong had this to say of his new task: "We in Missouri are on the right side; morality is with us in this. The state of Missouri is an innocent party here. Missouri couldn't say no to smoking. ... Missouri is right, morally, on this issue."

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