Access to Justice Commission
The Access to Justice Commission was created by the Mississippi Supreme Court on June 28, 2006, to develop a unified strategy to improve access to the civil courts for the poor. The Commission is tasked to investigate the need for civil legal services to the poor in Mississippi, and to evaluate, develop and recommend policies, programs and initiatives which will assist the judiciary in meeting needs for civil legal services to the poor.
The Commission is divided into working groups. A Delivery System Committee is tasked to oversee development of an expanded and improved system for providing civil legal services to low income people. This group is working on a statewide call center and on ways to assist pro se litigants. A Resource Development Committee is working on a long-term plan to increase funding, and a subcommittee is dealing with recommendations for allocating new sources of funding. A Public Awareness Committee seeks to educate the bar, governmental leaders and the public about the scope of the need for legal services.
The Commission is made up of 23 voting members and eight ex-officio members. Co-Chairs are Chancery Judge Denise Owens and former Mississippi Bar President H. Rodger Wilder. Voting members of the Mississippi Access to Justice Commission include: Chancery Judge Margaret Alfonso, Gulfport; Court of Appeals Judge Donna M. Barnes, Tupelo; Rust College President Dr. David L. Beckley, Holly Springs; attorney Edderek Cole, Jackson; Justice Court Judge Deborah Gambrell Chambers, Hattiesburg; Supreme Court Justice Jess H. Dickinson, Gulfport; Supreme Court Presiding Justice James E. Graves Jr., Jackson; Rev. Hosea Hines, pastor of Christ Tabernacle Church, Jackson; Mississippi NAACP President Derrick Johnson, Jackson; Humphreys County Circuit Clerk Timaka Jones, Belzoni; Lela Keys, Delta Community Partners in Care, Clarksdale; Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians Chief Judge Hilda Nickey, Philadelphia; Hinds County Chancery Judge Denise Owens, Jackson; former Mississippi Bar President Joy Lambert Phillips, Gulfport; Rep. Thomas U. Reynolds, Charleston; Sixth District Circuit Judge Lillie Blackmon Sanders, Natchez; Constance Slaughter-Harvey, civil rights attorney and former Assistant Secretary of State, Forest; attorney William Lucien Smith Jr., counsel to Gov. Haley Barbour, Jackson; attorney Stephanie Barnes Taylor, chief compliance officer of Singing River Health System, Gautier; Sen. Gray Tollison, Oxford; Clarion-Ledger Publisher Larry Whitaker, Jackson; former Mississippi Bar President H. Rodger Wilder, Gulfport; and Mississippi Economic Council President Blake Wilson, Jackson.
Non-voting ex-officio commission members include: Martha Bergmark, President and Chief Operating Officer, Mississippi Center for Justice, Jackson; Sam Buchanan, Executive Director, Mississippi Center for Legal Services, Hattiesburg; Ben Cole, Executive Director, North Mississippi Rural Legal Services, Oxford; Dean Richard Gershon, University of Mississippi School of Law, Oxford; Jaribu Hill, Executive Director, Mississippi Workers Center, Greenville; and Dean Jim Rosenblatt, Mississippi College School of Law, Jackson.
Commission on Children's Justice
The Mississippi Supreme Court created the Commission on Children’s Justice in April 2006. The Commission laid the groundwork for the Supreme Court’s adoption of Uniform Rules of Youth Court Practice.
The Supreme Court reestablished the Commission by an order signed June 8, 2010, by Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr. The order charges the Commission with developing a statewide comprehensive approach to improving the child welfare system; coordinating the three branches of government in assessing the impact of government actions on children who are abused or neglected; and recommending changes to improve children’s safety, strengthen and support families and promote public trust and confidence in the child welfare system.
Supreme Court Justice Randy G. Pierce of Leakesville and Rankin County Youth Court Judge Thomas H. Broome of Brandon are co-chairs. Judge Broome heads a subcommittee focused on the Youth Court system. Court of Appeals Judge Virginia Carlton of Columbia leads a subcommittee addressing education issues.
Other members of the Commission include: Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians Senior Youth Court Judge Kevin Briscoe, Choctaw; Holmes County Youth Court Referee Robert Clark III, Lexington; Jacqueline Dedeaux, Mississippi Department of Human Services Division of Youth Services, Gulfport; Greene County Alternative School Principal Carolyn Hartfield Bishop, Beaumont; Pascagoula Public School District Superintendent Wayne Rodolfich, Pascagoula; Mississippi Judicial College Staff Attorney William Charlton, Oxford; Ray Sims II, director of the Office of Justice Programs of the Division of Public Safety Planning, Jackson; Special Assistant Attorney General Patti Marshall, Ridgeland; Chris Cherney, chief executive officer, Mississippi Children’s Home Services, Jackson; Sandra Parks, director of the Children’s Division of the Mississippi Department of Mental Health, Brandon; Lori Woodruff, deputy administrator for the Mississippi Department of Human Services Division of Family and Children’s Services, Stringer; Laurie Johnson, executive director of CASA Mississippi, Diamondhead; Kathy Pittman, director of the Mississippi Department of Human Services Division of Youth Services, Raymond; Kristi Plotner, Mississippi Division of Medicaid, Madison; Toni Kersh, bureau director, Department of Education Compulsory School Attendance Enforcement, Pearl; Pam Castle, Forrest County Youth Court prosecutor, Hattiesburg; Lea Anne Lemmons, school program coordinator, Family Crisis Services of Northwest Mississippi, Oxford; Joe Haynes, Jobs for Mississippi Graduates, Jackson; Alfred Martin, chairman of the Mississippi Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee to the Governor, Ridgeland; House Juvenile Justice Chair Rep. Earle Banks, Jackson; House Education Committee Chair Rep. Cecil Brown, Jackson; and Sen. David Blount, Jackson.
Commission for Study of Domestic Abuse Proceedings
The Mississippi Supreme Court, acting on a request from the Mississippi Attorney General, created the Commission for Study of Domestic Abuse Proceedings in an order signed May 21, 2008.
The Commission’s purpose was to do a comprehensive study of statutes and rules relating to domestic violence issues and to identify and address needed changes. The Commission presented its report, containing 10 recommendations, to the Mississippi Supreme Court on Dec. 11, 2008. The Commission is no longer active.
Supreme Court Justice Ann H. Lamar of Senatobia and Special Assistant Attorney General Heather Wagner of Jackson were co-chairs of the 23-member commission. Other Commission members included: University of Mississippi School of Law Professor Deborah Bell; Mississippi College School of Law Professor Shirley Kennedy; Court of Appeals Judge Virginia Carlton of Columbia; Chancery Judges Margaret Alfonso of Gulfport, Jaye Bradley of Lucedale, and Cynthia Brewer of Madison County; Circuit Judges Margaret Carey-McCray of Greenville, Vernon Cotten of Carthage, and Kenneth Thomas of Cleveland; Justice Court Judge Deborah Gambrell of Hattiesburg; Municipal Judge John Shirley of Pearl; Gulfport Assistant City Prosecutor Martha Carson; Assistant District Attorney Kassie Ann Coleman of Hattiesburg; Hinds County Public Defender William LaBarre; Hinds County Assistant Public Defender Lynn Watkins; Mississippi Association of Chiefs of Police Executive Director Ken Winter of Oxford; Jackson attorney Brandi Brown of Catholic Charities; Mississippi Coalition Against Domestic Violence Executive Director Anna Walker Crump of Jackson; Sen. Gray Tollison of Oxford; Rep. Kimberly Campbell of Jackson; and Mississippi Judicial College Director Cynthia Davis of Oxford.
Judicial Advisory Study Committee
The Mississippi Legislature created the Judicial Advisory Study Committee in 1993 with the adoption of Mississippi Code Section 9-21-21. The Study Committee makes policy recommendations to the Supreme Court and the Legislature for improvements affecting the administration of justice.
The Judicial Advisory Study Committee is made up of 21 voting members and two non-voting members. Voting members of the Study Committee include: Chairman, Court of Appeals Judge Tyree Irving, Greenwood; Vice-chair, Circuit Judge Lillie Blackmon Sanders, Natchez; attorney Lance Bonner, Jackson; businessman Howard Catchings, Jackson; attorney Gerald Cruthird, Picayune; Chancery Judge Sebe Dale Jr., Columbia; retired Chancery Judge Norman Gillespie, Oxford; Lauderdale County Circuit Clerk Donna Jill Johnson, Meridian; Chancery Court Administrator Noelle McKinnon, Laurel; Julie McLemore, Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce, Jackson; businessman Jimmy Murphy, Booneville; attorney J. Scott Newton, Jackson; Adams County Chancery Clerk Thomas O’Beirne, Natchez; Circuit Judge Lamar Pickard, Hazlehurst; attorney Alfred Rhodes Jr., Jackson; businesswoman Robin Robinson, Laurel; Harrison County Justice Court Judge Bruce Strong, Biloxi; Rankin County Circuit Clerk Carol Swilley, Brandon; attorney Aleita Sullivan, Mendenhall; retired Rep. Robert Vince, Sandy Hook; and Lauderdale County Court Judge Veldore Young, Meridian. Non-voting members are Senate Judiciary A Committee Chairman Sen. Joey Fillingane of Sumrall and House of Representatives Judiciary En Banc Committee Chair Rep. Edward Blackmon Jr. of Canton.
Justice Court Task Force
The 2007 Mississippi Legislature called for a Task Force to study the Justice Court system. The Task Force conducted extensive study and discussions of the Justice Court system and held nine public hearings between Sept. 6 and Oct. 8, 2007, in Tupelo, Senatobia, Kosciusko, Natchez, Jackson, Gulfport, Hattiesburg, Indianola and Meridian.
The Justice Court Task Force is no longer active. The Task Force concluded its work with the issuance of its report on Nov. 30, 2007. The report made recommendations with regard to qualifications, judicial training, elections, salaries, jurisdiction and discretion to limit jury trials.
Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Mike Randolph of Hattiesburg served as chairman of the Justice Court Task Force and Circuit Judge James T. Kitchens Jr. of Columbus was vice-chair. Members were: Amite County Justice Court Judge Roger Arnold; Marshall County Justice Court Judge Ernest Cunningham; Webster County Justice Court Judge Jerry Jones; Carroll County Circuit Clerk Durward Stanton; Forrest County Circuit Clerk Lou Ellen Adams; Warren County Court Judge John S. Price Jr.; Copiah County Supervisor Perry Hood; Sen. Terry Burton, Newton; Sen. Charlie Ross, Brandon; Rep. Willie L. Bailey, Greenville; and Rep. Thomas U. Reynolds II, Charleston.
Mississippi Code of Judicial Conduct Study Committee
The Mississippi Code of Judicial Conduct Study Committee was created by order of the Mississippi Supreme Court in June 2009. It was charged with the responsibility of examining the 2007 American Bar Association Model Code of Judicial Conduct, reviewing the present Mississippi Code of Judicial Conduct, and recommending such changes and revisions in the Mississippi Code of Judicial Conduct as they found to be needed. The committee conducted a comprehensive study of the code and filed a draft of recommended revisions on April 7, 2010. The Supreme Court put the recommendations out for public comment on April 9, 2010.
The study committee chairman is attorney Luther Munford of Jackson. Other members of the study committee are Court of Appeals Judge Virginia Carlton, Columbia; Chancery Judge Edward E. Patten Jr., Hazlehurst; Circuit Judge Michael M. Taylor, Brookhaven; Washington County Court Judge Vernita King Johnson, Greenville; Warren County Justice Court Judge Edwin Woods Jr., Vicksburg; attorney William M. Dalehite Jr., Jackson; attorney David P. Pitre, Gulfport; and attorney John Walker, Jackson. Mississippi College School of Law Professor Donald E. Campbell serves as reporter to the committee.
Mississippi Model Jury Instructions Commission
The Supreme Court created the Mississippi Model Jury Instructions Commission in an order entered on Dec. 30, 2008. The commission’s purpose is to examine jury instructions used in state courts and recommend plain language instructions which would offer clearer guidance regarding application of the law for the lay persons who serve on juries.
The Commission is charged to conduct a comprehensive examination of jury instructions now in use and to recommend to the Supreme Court revised, modified and simplified instructions as needed. Emphasis is to be on instructions which give jurors guidance as to the law applicable to the cases before them in clear and concise language understandable to the jurors without legal training.
Presiding Justice George C. Carlson Jr. of Batesville is chair of the 22-member commission. Other members include: Court of Appeals Judge David M. Ishee, Gulfport; Circuit Judge James T. Kitchens Jr., Columbus; Circuit Judge Clarence E. Morgan III, Kosciusko; Circuit Judge Betty W. Sanders, Greenwood; County Court Judge Michael W. McPhail, Hattiesburg; professor emeritus Guthrie T. Abbott, Oxford, representing the University of Mississippi School of Law; Assistant District Attorney Archibald W. Bullard, Corinth, representing the Mississippi Prosecutors Association; attorney Ramel L. Cotton, Jackson, representing the Magnolia Bar Association; Mississippi Judicial College Executive Director Cynthia D. Davis, Oxford; attorney C. Joy Harkness, Meridian, representing the Mississippi Bar; Special Assistant Attorney General John R. Henry; attorney James E. Lappan of the Mississippi Office of Capital Defense Counsel, Jackson, representing the Mississippi Public Defenders Association; attorney James R. Moore Jr., Ridgeland, representing the Mississippi Defense Lawyers Association; Mississippi Judicial College Staff Attorney Carole E. Murphey, Batesville; Libby Riley, Meridian, representing the Governor; attorney Lance L. Stevens, Jackson, representing the Mississippi Association for Justice; attorney Forrest W. Stringfellow, Jackson, representing the Mississippi College School of Law; attorney R. Keith Foreman, Ridgeland, representing the Lieutenant Governor; businessman Jimmy Murphy, Booneville, representing the Speaker of the House; and at-large members attorney Merrida P. Coxwell Jr., Jackson; attorney Philip W. Gaines, Jackson; and attorney James D. Holland, Jackson.
Public Defender Task Force
The Public Defender Task Force was created by Mississippi Code Section 25-32-71 in 2000. The Task Force is charged by statute to:
• Make a comprehensive study of the needs by circuit court districts for state-supported indigent defense counsel, examining existing public defender programs, including indigent defense provided in the youth courts. Reports shall be provided to the Legislature each year at least one month before the convening of the regular session.
• Examine and study approaches taken by other states in the implementation and costs of state-supported indigent criminal and delinquency cases.
• Study the relationship between presiding circuit court and youth court judges and the appointment of criminal and delinquency indigent defense counsel.
Mississippi Supreme Court Justice James W. Kitchens of Crystal Springs is chairman and Circuit Judge William Chapman III of Madison is vice-chairman. Other members of the Task Force include: attorney Matthew Eichelberger, Jackson, representing the Mississippi Public Defender Association; Assistant District Attorney Archibald W. Bullard, Corinth, representing the Mississippi Prosecutors Association; Administrative Office of Courts Director Kevin Lackey, Ridgeland; Special Assistant Attorney General Marvin “Sonny” White, Jackson; Quitman County Chancery Clerk T.H. “Butch” Scipper, Marks, representing the Mississippi Association of Supervisors; attorney Jennifer Riley-Collins, Jackson, representing the Magnolia Bar Association; and former Justice Fred L. Banks Jr., Jackson, representing the Mississippi Bar. Legislative members include the chairs or designees of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Senate Appropriations Committee, the House Judiciary En Banc Committee, and the House Appropriations Committee
State Drug Court Advisory Committee
The State Drug Court Advisory Committee was created by Mississippi Code Section 9-23-9 in 2008. The Advisory Committee was established to develop and periodically update proposed statewide evaluation plans and models for monitoring all critical aspects of drug courts, make recommendations for improvements to drug court policies and procedures, and act as arbiter of disputes arising out of the operation of drug courts.
The Advisory Committee is chaired by Kevin Lackey of Ridgeland, director of the Administrative Office of Courts. Other members include: Rankin County and Youth Court Judge Thomas H. Broome, Brandon; Eighth Circuit District Drug Court Coordinator Marcus Ellis, Walnut Grove; Christopher B. Epps, Commissioner, Mississippi Department of Corrections, Jackson; Herbert Loving, director, Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse, Mississippi Department of Mental Health, Jackson; Adams County and Youth Court Judge John N. Hudson, Natchez; Special Assistant Attorney General Patti Marshall, Ridgeland; Rep. Bobby Moak, Bogue Chitto; Ruth Ann Rigby, alumni relations coordinator, Pine Grove Behavioral Health, Jackson; Circuit Judge Betty W. Sanders, Greenwood; and Circuit Judge Michael M. Taylor, Brookhaven.
Task Force for Youth Court Rules of Procedure
The Task Force for Youth Court Rules of Procedure was created by order of the Mississippi Supreme Court on Oct. 22, 2007, and charged with overseeing development of a set of uniform rules of procedure for Youth Courts. The Mississippi Judicial College developed proposed uniform rules, and the Task Force made extensive recommendations. The Mississippi Supreme Court adopted Uniform Rules of Youth Court Practice which became effective Jan. 8, 2009.
Task Force Co-chairs were Supreme Court Justice Mike Randolph of Hattiesburg and Judge Thomas B. Storey of West Point, who is Clay County Youth Court Referee. Other members of the Task Force included: Rankin County Court Judge Thomas H. Broome, Adams County Court Judge John N. Hudson, Forrest County Court Judge Michael W. McPhail, Department of Human Services officials Ricky Felder and Kathy Pittman, Department of Mental Health Executive Director Ed LeGrand, Department of Education officials Joy Milam and Steve Williams, Court Improvement Program Coordinator Jamie McBride, and Administrative Office of Courts Project Manager Dennis Perkins.
Uniform Criminal Rules Study Committee
The Uniform Criminal Rules Study Committee was established by the Mississippi Supreme Court in 2004. The committee is conducting an extensive examination of rules which cover every aspect of criminal proceedings from arrest through post-trial motions. The objective is to have a comprehensive, uniform set of criminal rules of procedure that will be applicable to all criminal prosecutions across the state. The Study Committee is developing recommendations for a set of Rules of Criminal Procedure to govern practice and procedure in justice, municipal, county and circuit courts.
The committee is made up of 12 members. Co-chairs are Circuit Judge R.I. Prichard III of Picayune and Court of Appeals Judge Larry E. Roberts of Meridian. Members are Court of Appeals Judge L. Joseph Lee; Rankin County Court Judge Kent McDaniel; Forrest County Court Judge Michael W. McPhail; District Attorney Ronnie Harper of Natchez; District Attorney John R. Young of Corinth; Special Assistant Attorney General Ed Snyder; attorney Joe Sam Owen of Gulfport; attorney John M. Colette of Jackson; attorney Thomas E. Royals of Jackson; and attorney Jim Lappan of the Mississippi Office of Capital Defense Counsel.
Local GIS Task Force
Survey (Zipped Excel File)
Task Force Report to ITS
ITS Report to Legislature
Special Committee on Judicial Campaign Intervention
Public Statement – November 1, 2006
2008 Final Committee Report
2004 Final Committee Report
2002 Final Committee Report