Family law clinics set in Copiah, Hinds, Madison and Rankin counties
June 22, 2018
Free family law clinics are scheduled in Copiah, Hinds, Madison and Rankin counties in late June and July.
Low-income people who need help with family law matters such as guardianships to enroll children in school, uncontested divorce, legal name change and emancipation may be able to find legal assistance at one of the clinics.
The clinic schedule is:
Three law firms are giving their time to staff the Canton and Jackson clinics. The Mississippi Volunteer Lawyers Project partnered with the Butler Snow law firm to provide free legal representation at the June 29 clinic in Canton. MVLP and the Forman Watkins & Krutz law firm will provide free legal assistance at the July 20 clinic in Jackson. MVLP partnered with the law firm of Bradley Arant Boult Cummings, Mission First Legal Aid and the Mississippi Center for Legal Services to give free representation at the July 27 clinic in Jackson.
Patricia Gandy, pro bono counsel at Butler Snow and a member of the Access to Justice Commission, said, “Butler Snow is keenly aware there are many thousands of people in Mississippi who desperately need legal help, but simply cannot afford to pay. We are excited to participate in this initiative led by the Access to Justice Commission to help our neighbors navigate court proceedings, and, in many cases, resolve long-standing legal issues.”
Gayla Carpenter-Sanders, executive director and general counsel of the Mississippi Volunteer Lawyers Project, said, “Pro bono work helps to bring closure to legal matters for individuals who cannot afford an attorney. MVLP is fortunate to work with attorneys across this state who dedicate countless hours to making sure we restore hope in the lives of our underserved residents.”
Chancellor Cynthia Brewer of Madison said, “There is a tremendous need among people who live at or below poverty level to have guardianships, irreconcilable differences divorces and name changes dealt with in a professional manner.” Many people try to represent themselves because they can’t afford to hire a lawyer. They may try to use forms found on the internet and not specific to Mississippi law. “This has been a longstanding problem when they come in with their own draw up documents,” she said.
Attorneys at the legal clinics will help clients prepare documents, give limited legal advice and help them get ready to go to court on their own. Civil legal clinics are designed to give people enough basic legal advice and directions so that they can handle simple legal matters on their own in Chancery Court.
Judge Brewer will be available at the courthouse throughout the legal clinic to sign documents if matters can be concluded immediately. “If I can be available for those citizens to present their paperwork, I want them to get relief that day,” she said.
Local lawyers in Copiah County will provide free legal help during the June 28 clinic in Gallman. Attorney Butch McCardle, who helped organize the event, said, “It’s local attorneys helping out the community. I earn my living from this community. If we can give back, we want to give back.”
The Rankin County Chancery Court and the Rankin County Bar Association got an early start, holding a free legal clinic this past January. Nine attorneys helped 12 people, and planners worked out the details of how to conduct a larger clinic scheduled for June 29. All appointment slots are filled, said Chancellor Haydn Roberts.
The pro se clinics will become a regular feature in Rankin County Chancery Court. “We are going to do it every year in January and July,” Judge Roberts said.
Judge Brewer said that she also hopes to schedule future clinics for residents of Madison, Holmes, Leake and Yazoo counties. Two free legal clinics have been held in Canton in the past two years.
Thirty free family law clinics were scheduled across the state during June, which is Access to Justice Month. Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr. called for civil legal clinics to be held throughout the state. Local bar associations worked with the Access to Justice Commission and the Mississippi Volunteer Lawyers Project to organize the clinics.
Every Chancery Court district in the state will host a free civil legal clinic this year. A list of upcoming clinics is at this link: https://courts.ms.gov/Legal/CivilLegal.php.