Access to Justice Commission to meet June 16

June 11, 2008

The Mississippi Access to Justice Commission will meet Monday, June 16, at 10 a.m. at the Mississippi Bar Center at 643 North State Street in Jackson.

Commission members and guests will gather at 9:30 a.m. for informal discussions over coffee. Commission Co-Chairs Chancery Judge Denise Owens and Joy Lambert Phillips will call the meeting to order at 10 a.m. Members of the media are invited. The meeting is scheduled to last until shortly before 1 p.m.

The Commission meeting agenda includes:

• remarks from Rodger Wilder, president-elect of the Mississippi Bar;

• a presentation from John Berndt regarding the Mississippi Mediation Project;

• an update on efforts to develop ways of assisting people who, for economic reasons, seek to represent themselves in civil matters in court. Court of Appeals Judge Donna M. Barnes, chair of the Pro Se Subcommittee, will discuss ethical issues in pro se assistance.

• a report from Supreme Court Justice Jess H. Dickinson about the Commission’s briefings of legislators in March regarding the unmet civil legal needs of poor people. Justice Dickinson will also discuss the distribution of a locally produced DVD which outlines the unmet civil legal needs.

• a report from Justice Dickinson and consultant Bonnie Allen about a public hearing held April 18 in Gulfport, and efforts to schedule similar public hearings in other areas;

• a report from Judge Owens, Ms. Phillips and Administrative Office of Courts Project Manager David Dykes regarding the application for grant funding from the Mississippi Bar Foundation’s Interest on Lawyer Trust Accounts (IOLTA) program;

• a report from Judge Owens, Ms. Phillips and Mississippi Volunteer Lawyers Project Executive Director Shirley Williams regarding their recent attendance of the national Equal Justice Conference in Minneapolis.

The Access to Justice Commission was created by the Mississippi Supreme Court in June 2006 to develop a unified strategy to improve poor people’s access to the civil courts. 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 made up of 23 voting members and eight ex-officio members. The Commission includes members of the judiciary, a representative of the Governor, legislators, business and community leaders, and members of the clergy. Representatives of entities which provide legal services to the poor are ex-officio members.

The Mississippi Access to Justice Commission works to address civil legal representation of the poor. It does not deal with indigent criminal defense issues.