Parents facing termination of their parental rights may soon have access to free legal help.
House bill 772 passed the Senate Tuesday.
If it becomes a law, the bill will help parents who cannot afford to pay for a lawyer.
“We don’t want parents without the ability to defend themselves and often times our system can be incredibly expensive,” Sen. (Dist. 42-R) Chris McDaniel said.
The youth court steps in by appointing a lawyer for the parents. Right now, parents with limited income only have access to Mississippi Legal Services but it’s not guaranteed that they will get a lawyer.
“Because of our limited resources, we can’t provide all the assistance that is needed, so there are a lot of people that qualify for our services that we cannot assist,” Executive Director at Mississippi Legal Services Sam Buchanan said.
McDaniel said it is important to help these families, but it will take some time for the Senate to work out details on how to fund the bill.
“Taxpayers already fund public defenders and others that are used to vindicate constitutional rights this will be very similar to that but granted it won’t cost nearly as much,” McDaniel said.
But overall, the bill is a step in the right direction, according to lawyer Chase Ford Morgan.
"Parents should have the same rights as those individuals that are afforded the right to a public defender,” Morgan said.
McDaniel said with this bill, parents will not have to worry anymore.
“We shouldn’t have to pay a lawyer thousands and thousands of dollars to vindicate our civil liberties and rights that belongs to us as individuals,” McDaniel said.