Gartin Building Courtroom with the Great Seal of the State of Mississippi

Access to Justice Commission to meet August 23

August 20, 2010

The Mississippi Access to Justice Commission will meet at noon on Monday, Aug. 23, at the Mississippi Bar Center at 643 North State Street in Jackson. Members will gather for lunch at 11:30 a.m.

Former Mississippi Bar President Rodger Wilder of Gulfport will assume duties as co-chair of the Commission. Hinds County Chancery Judge Denise Owens remains as co-chair. Gulfport attorney Joy Lambert Phillips, also a former Mississippi Bar president, will step down as co-chair but will remain a member of the Commission. Phillips and Judge Owens have shared leadership duties of the Commission for four years.

Several new members to the Commission will be attending their first meeting. The Mississippi Supreme Court in an order filed Aug. 19 appointed new members including Chancery Judge Margaret Alfonso of Gulfport; attorney Edderek Cole of Jackson; Justice Court Judge Deborah Gambrell Chambers of Hattiesburg; attorney William Lucien Smith Jr. of Jackson, counsel to the Governor; and attorney Stephanie Barnes Taylor of Gautier, chief compliance officer of Singing River Health System. University of Mississippi School of Law Dean Richard Gershon of Oxford will serve as an ex-officio member of the Commission.

The Commission is expected to discuss its recently completed report on its findings from five public hearings. The report includes recommendations of ways to increase free civil legal assistance for the poor, increase funding for legal services programs and help litigants who represent themselves. Discussions are expected to include preparations for a formal presentation to the Supreme Court scheduled for 10 a.m. Sept. 14 at the Gartin Justice Building in Jackson.

The Commission is expected to discuss rule amendments proposed by the Supreme Court to address pro bono service by attorneys.

The Commission will talk about plans for National Pro Bono Week, which will be observed Oct. 24-30. The group will discuss the recently created Access to Justice web site, A law student intern will talk about research done through the Public Interest Law Foundation at the University of Mississippi School of Law. Commission members who attended the Equal Justice Conference in Phoenix will discuss ideas gathered from the national conference.

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 the civil legal services needs of the poor.

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