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Chief Justice Randolph praises volunteer work, promises timely decisions by veteran jurists

March 4, 2019

On Friday, March 1, 2019, Chief Justice Mike Randolph remarked how blessed he was to lead a court of veteran jurists.

Justice T. Kenneth Griffis Jr.

In a speech at the Southern Regional Bar Meeting/Continuing Legal Education (CLE) on the Road Seminar in Hattiesburg, he said, “When I came to the Court on April 23, 2004, the Court had collective appellate experience…of 40 years and eight months. Today the collective appellate experience of the Mississippi Supreme Court is over 100 years.”

Presiding Justice Leslie King came to the Supreme Court in March 2011 after serving 16 years on the Court of Appeals, including seven years as Chief Judge. The Supreme Court’s newest justice, T. Kenneth Griffis, capped 16 years on the Court of Appeals as its Chief Judge. Justice David Ishee was elevated to the Supreme Court after serving on the Court of Appeals for 13 years. Justice James Maxwell came to the Supreme Court after serving for seven years on the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals hears similar cases to those of the Supreme Court.

Chief Justice Randolph vowed to continue his predecessors’ commitment to issuing timely opinions. When Randolph came to the Supreme Court 15 years ago, it was firmly stressed upon all justices the importance of issuing opinions within 270 days of the filing of the final brief in cases on appeal.

Former Chief Justice Jim Smith in 2004 pushed the Court to erase a backlog of cases that had lingered for years. Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr. maintained compliance. “We made a commitment to follow that 270-day rule,” Randolph said. “We will continue to adhere to that rule.”

Randolph encouraged the lawyers attending the CLE program to volunteer to serve at one of the many law clinics scheduled across the state to assist the impoverished. He reminded the attorneys that they are blessed to have the education and training they possess and the privilege to practice law. He urged them to give back to the communities they serve. “If you are given an opportunity to volunteer, do it.”

Justice T. Kenneth Griffis Jr.

Prior to his speech, Nicole McLaughlin, Executive Director of the Access to Justice Commission, told the attendees that there aren’t enough Legal Services lawyers to handle the estimated 200,000 to 250,000 people who need legal aid each year but can’t afford it. In 2015, the state’s two Legal Services programs and the Mississippi Volunteer Lawyers Project, MVLP, handled about 22,000 cases. Nearly 99,000 grandparents in Mississippi are raising grandchildren. She said 123,000 Mississippi children live in extreme poverty.

Immediately following the seminar, Chief Justice Randolph traveled to a guardianship clinic in Mendenhall to thank attorneys who volunteered without compensation to help grandparents, aunts, uncles and other relatives gain legal standing to enroll children in school and make medical and other decisions affecting the children’s welfare. Lawyers from Hattiesburg, Monticello, Magee, Mendenhall, and Raleigh assisted families who couldn’t afford to hire them. Families from Simpson, Smith, Covington, Jefferson Davis, and Lawrence counties were recipients of the pro bono legal assistance.

The Mississippi Bar, through MVLP’s Executive Director, Gayla Carpenter-Sanders, worked with local chancellors and the chancery clerks of the of the 13th Chancery District to establish this clinic. Chancellors David Shoemake and Gerald Martin were commended for co-sponsoring this event and making their entire judicial staffs available to assist. The chancery clerks were also commended for their invaluable assistance in this endeavor.

“There are families struggling to survive that need legal help but can’t afford it,” Randolph said as he visited with lawyers at the Simpson County Courthouse, telling them that every member of the Court supported what they were doing and encouraged them to continue.

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