Supreme Court appoints four new members to Access to Justice Commission, reappoints three

July 11, 2023

The Mississippi Supreme Court recently appointed four new members to the Access to Justice Commission and reappointed three members.

Department of Child Protection Services workers deliver Thanksgiving meals

New members are Dan Hall of Madison, Mary Purvis of Jackson, Tunica County Justice Court Judge Richard W. "Wes" Ryals II of Tunica and Catherine Servati of Oxford. Reappointed to the Commission are Presiding Justice Leslie D. King of Greenville, retired Chancellor Denise Owens of Terry and Professor David Calder of Oxford.

Chief Justice Mike Randolph signed the appointments order on June 21. Appointees' three-year terms will end June 30, 2026.

The quarterly meeting of the Access to Justice Commission is scheduled for Aug. 15 at 10 a.m. at the Gartin Justice Building in Jackson.

The Mississippi Supreme Court created the Access to Justice Commission in June 2006. The Commission works to develop a unified strategy to improve access to justice in civil legal proceedings for the poor in Mississippi. The Commission is tasked with investigating the need for civil legal services to the poor and evaluating, developing and recommending policies, programs and initiatives that will assist the judiciary in meeting needs for civil legal services to the poor.

Hall is a minister and president of On Course Solutions, LLC, a leadership development consulting company. He has worked with churches, non-profits, government agencies and the financial sector. His work has included consultation and leadership in church revitalization, racial reconciliation, international humanitarian aid and business ventures, and mentoring business leaders. He is a founding member of the Executive Board of Mission Mississippi. He served as president of the Southern Baptist Convention Large Church Roundtable. He served in executive leadership positions with the Jackson Police Department Chaplaincy, the Jackson Youth Initiative, the Berry Institute, the Strategic Cultural Initiative, Father's Heart Ministries, Operation Barnabas and the Hope Science Institute. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Baylor University and a Master of Business Administration from Belhaven University. He holds certifications in executive leadership from Cornell University and in mediation from Sullivan University. He attended Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.

Purvis is the Assistant Dean and Director of Legal Analysis and Communication at Mississippi College School of Law. She previously served as the executive director of CASA, Court Appointed Special Advocates Mississippi. She serves on the Mississippi College School of Law Child Advocacy Advisory Board and the Child Welfare and Advocacy Committee of the Mississippi Bar. She previously served on the Board of Directors of the Mississippi Women Lawyers Association, as chair of the Bar Admissions Ceremony Committee of the Young Lawyers Division of the Mississippi Bar, and on the Board of Directors for Operation Shoe-string, the Mississippi Children's Museum and Junior League of Jackson. She graduated magna cum laude from Millsaps College, and earned her Juris Doctor, summa cum laude, from Mississippi College School of Law.

Ryals has served as a Justice Court Judge since 2015, and has been attorney for the town of Tunica since 2020. He previously served as a municipal public defender and attorney for the Tunica County Airport Commission. His private practice includes family law, disability law, personal injury law and criminal defense. He earned a Bachelor of Business Administration from Mississippi State University and a Juris Doctor from the University of Mississippi School of Law.

Servati serves as a law clerk for U.S. Magistrate Judge David Sanders of the Northern District of Mississippi. She previously served in the same position for U.S. Magistrate Judge Roy Percy. She also was an adjunct professor of legal research at the University of Mississippi School of Law. Before joining the staff of the federal judiciary, she practiced law with the firm of Webb Sanders & Williams in Tupelo. She earned a Bachelor of Arts, magna cum laude, in English from the University of Mississippi and a Juris Doctor, magna cum laude, from the University of Mississippi School of Law. As a law student, she worked with the Housing Clinic, helping low-income clients with landlord-tenant issues, and with the Mississippi Innocence Project.

Presiding Justice King has served as an appellate judge for more than 28 years. He has served on the Mississippi Supreme Court since 2011. He was an original member of the Mississippi Court of Appeals, having been elected after the Court was founded in 1994, and beginning his service in 1995. He was Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals from April 30, 2004, through March 1, 2011, when he began his service on the Supreme Court. He served in the Mississippi House of Representatives 1980 - 1994. He was chairman of the Mississippi Black Legislative Caucus, and served as vice-chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and the Conservation and Water Resources Committee. In his early career, he was Youth Court counselor for Washington County, public defender, Youth Court prosecutor, and Municipal Court Judge for the Town of Metcalfe. He graduated from the University of Mississippi and earned a law degree from Texas Southern University School of Law.

Judge Owens served as co-chair of the Access to Justice Commission for 10 years. She has worked to improve access to justice since she was a law student at George Washington University. She worked for two years as a law clerk at a Washington, D.C., Legal Services elder law clinic. Her first job after she was admitted to the Bar was as a staff attorney for Legal Services in Jackson. When she was elected to the Hinds Chancery Court bench in 1989, she was one of the first two African-American women chancellors elected in the state. She served as chair of the Conference of Chancery Judges 2000-2001. She recently served as president of the American College of Business Court Judges. She was the 2016 recipient of the Susie Blue Buchanan Award, an annual award presented by the Mississippi Bar's Women in the Profession Committee to an outstanding woman lawyer who has achieved professional excellence and has actively paved the way to success for other women lawyers. She retired from the chancery bench in December 2022. She is a graduate of Tougaloo College and George Washington University School of Law.

Calder is a clinical professor of law and director of the Child Advocacy Clinic at the University of Mississippi School of Law. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in religious studies from Mississippi College and a Juris Doctor from the University of Mississippi School of Law. He served as law clerk for U.S. Magistrate Judge Jerry A. Davis for two years before entering private practice. He directed the Fair Housing Clinical Program at the University of Mississippi School of Law from 1994 to 1996, and he served as a part-time visiting clinical professor in the Civil Legal Clinic before becoming a full-time faculty member.