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

Guardianship Commission sets Sept. 7 Town Hall meeting in Jackson

August 29, 2018

The Mississippi Commission on Guardianships and Conservatorships will conduct a town hall meeting at 10 a.m. Sept. 7 at Mississippi College School of Law in Jackson.

The Commission, led by Co-chairs Justice Dawn Beam and Mississippi Judicial College Director Randy Pierce, will outline efforts to safeguard the lives of children and vulnerable adults and protect their assets.

The Mississippi Supreme Court created the Commission in April 2017 to develop recommendations to improve the way the courts protect children, vulnerable adults and estates, Justice Beam said. The Commission is working on recommendations for legislation and court rule changes. A legislative proposal that is still taking shape is the Mississippi GAP Act, which includes a series of recommendations that would guard and protect vulnerable wards.

Chancellor Joseph Kilgore of Philadelphia said the town hall meeting will allow representatives of the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, legislators, judges, state agency heads and others who have an interest in guardianships and conservatorships to learn about the work the Commission has done and the proposals that it will put forth. It is an opportunity “to answer any questions they have and engage in a conversation with them about our mission, focus and goals,” said Judge Kilgore, who is co-chair of the Commission’s Subcommittee on Conservatorship of Estates. “We want to have an open line of communication with all stakeholders.”

Chancellor Catherine Farris-Carter of Cleveland said the town hall meeting “will be an opportunity for legislators, legal practitioners, caregivers and the judiciary to work together on the development of sound laws to provide real world solutions to issues that for too long have been hidden from public view and ignored by the masses.”

“One of the highest priorities of the Chancery Court is to ensure that our vulnerable fellow citizens’ lives, health and material possessions are safeguarded from those who would take advantage of them and do them physical harm,” said Judge Farris-Carter, who is co-chair of the Subcommittee on Guardianship for Adults.

Resident Jurist John Hudson of Natchez, a member of the Subcommittee on Guardianship of Children, said, “Our laws have not had a meaningful review for years.” Technologies that can put the most vulnerable population at risk didn’t exist when the statutes were written.

Those laws lack provisions for oversight, monitoring and accountability of guardians and conservators, which has led to abuse and fraud against the most vulnerable – children, disabled adults and the elderly.

“We must ensure that we do all we can to protect the interests and indeed the lives of these individuals. I see this as a mission to do just that. We need the involvement of the broader community in this quest. I see this town hall as one way to engage that broader community,” Judge Hudson said.

Justice Beam will open the town hall meeting. Whitney Griffin, corporate counsel for YoungWilliams, will give an overview of the Commission’s work.

Pierce will serve as moderator for a panel discussion that will start at 10:35 a.m. Panelists include Commission members Chancellor Farris-Carter, Chancellor Kilgore, Judge Hudson, attorney Rick Courtney of Jackson, attorney Gray Edmondson of Oxford, and attorney John Smallwood of Hattiesburg.

The Supreme Court created the Commission on Guardianships and Conservatorships in the wake of incidents of fraud and abuse of vulnerable people. The Supreme Court charged the Commission to identify gaps and inconsistencies in state laws and to propose statutory and procedural solutions.