Legislature declares June 'Access to Justice Month'

Legislature declares June 'Access to Justice Month'
A former Hattiesburg business owner will serve two years in prison and pay back more than $165,000 in backed taxes after a sentence handed down by a federal judge. (Photo source: Raycom News Network)

JACKSON, MS (WDAM) - The Mississippi Legislature has declared June Access to Justice Month with free family law clinics expected to in every county of the state.

The legislature adopted the resolution on Tuesday. The law clinics will help lower-income people resolve civil legal issues, and over forty counties will host the clinics in June with more expected later in the year, according to press release from Mississippi Administration Office of Courts.

State Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr. called on lawyers and bar associations statewide to organize the free clinics. Waller and the Access to Justice Commission have been working on the project since last year.

"It is vitally important for all citizens to have access to the courthouse," Waller said in the statement. "Mississippi has one of the highest rates of poverty in the United States and these legal clinics allow meaningful access with the assistance of volunteer lawyers."

The free clinics will help people resolve legal issues such as divorce, custody, visitation, child support, emancipation, name change, adoption, guardianship and domestic abuse protective orders, according to the press release.

"Pro se legal clinics provide the participants with free legal advice, information on how to prepare and file legal pleadings and how to present their case in court," said Nicole H. McLaughlin, who is executive director of the Access to Justice Commission and director of the Access to Justice Initiative of the Mississippi Bar. "The Commission is excited about the willingness of all the districts and volunteer attorneys to organize and assist at the clinics."

The bill was introduced by Speaker Pro Tempore Greg Snowden of Meridian and Rep. Percy Watson of Hattiesburg. The resolution noted that 695,000 people in Mississippi live at or below poverty level, and about 1.3 million of the impoverished and the working poor, almost 45 percent of the state's population, qualify for civil legal aid.

"I am extremely appreciative to the Legislature for the resolution recognizing the Access to Justice Commission," said Chancellor Jacqueline Mask of Tupelo, co-chair of the Access to Justice Commission. "We thank them for realizing the need, recognizing the month and taking action. The needs of our state in this field are significant, and Chancery Court judges across the state are to be commended for working to ensure that low-income litigants have access to their courtrooms. We have many attorneys who are volunteering their time to help meet the needs, and the entire Mississippi Bar is to be commended for its work."

You can view the free law clinics scheduled below. For a schedule that will be updated as more clinics are announced, visit courts.ms.gov.

Lincoln County, April 6, from 9 to 11 a.m. and 1 to 4 p.m. at the Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce Auditorium, 230 South Whitworth Avenue, Brookhaven:

  • Lafayette County, April 26 from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Lafayette County Courthouse, 300 N. Lamar Boulevard, Oxford;
  • Union County, April 30 from 4 to 7 p.m. at 109 E. Main Street, New Albany.
  • While details of some of the clinics are still being worked out, here is the Access to Justice clinic schedule for June:
  • Forrest County, June 1, 9 a.m.-1 p.m., Forrest County Chancery Court, 641 N. Main St., Hattiesburg;
  • Lamar County, June 1, 9 a.m.-noon, Lamar County Chancery Court, 403 Main St., Purvis;
  • Marion County, June 1, 9 a.m.-1 p.m., Marion County Chancery Court, 250 Broad St., # 2, Columbia;
  • Pearl River County, June 1, 9 a.m.-1 p.m., Pearl River County Chancery Court, 200 S. Main St., Poplarville;
  • Perry County, June 1, 1-3 p.m., Perry County Chancery Court, 103 S. Main St., New Augusta;
  • Alcorn County, June 5, 3-6 p.m., 600 East Waldron St., Corinth;
  • Scott County, June 6, time and location to be announced;
  • 9th Chancery District of Humphreys, Issaquena, Sharkey, Sunflower, Warren and Washington counties,  June 7, time and locations to be announced;
  • 17th Chancery Court of Adams, Claiborne, Jefferson and Wilkinson counties, June 7, 1-7 p.m., Adams County Chancery Court, Natchez;
  • Neshoba and Kemper counties, June 8, 9 a.m., Neshoba County Chancery Court, 435 Center Ave. N., Philadelphia;
  • George and Greene counties, June 13, time and location to be announced;
  • Jackson County, June 14, time and location to be announced;
  • Attala and Carroll counties,  June 15, 9 a.m., Attala County Chancery Court, 230 W. Washington St., Kosciusko;
  • Choctaw and Winston counties, June 22, 9 a.m., Winston County Chancery Court, 115 South Court Ave., Louisville;
  • 4th Chancery Court of Amite, Franklin, Pike and Walthall counties, June 22, tentatively scheduled 9 a.m., Pike County Courthouse, Magnolia;
  • Itawamba County, June 22, 2-5 p.m., 201 W. Main St., Fulton;
  • 14th Chancery District of Chickasaw, Clay,  Lowndes, Noxubee, Oktibbeha and Webster counties, June 26, times and locations to be announced;
  • Lee County, June 27, 3-7 p.m. and Nov. 6, 3-7 p.m., 200 W. Jefferson St., Tupelo;
  • Copiah County, June 28, 3-7 p.m., Copiah County Fairgrounds, 240 W. Gallman Rd., Hazlehurst;
  • Rankin County, June 29, 9 a.m.-3 p.m., Rankin County Chancery Courthouse, 203 Town Square, Brandon;
  • 11th Chancery District of Holmes, Leake, Madison and Yazoo counties, June 29, time and locations to be announced.

Access to Justice legal clinics currently scheduled for the remainder of the year include:

  • Hinds County, July 27, 9 a.m.-1 p.m., Hinds Chancery Court Building, 316 S. President St., Jackson;
  • Monroe County, Aug. 22, 3-6 p.m., 201 W. Commerce St., Aberdeen;
  • Prentiss County, Sept. 13, 3-6 p.m., 100 N. Main St., Booneville;
  • Pontotoc County, Sept. 25, 4-7 p.m., 34 S. Liberty St., Pontotoc;
  • Tishomingo County, Oct. 29, 3-7 p.m., 1008 Battleground Drive, Iuka.