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The Mississippi Access to Justice Commission will conduct a public hearing about the unmet civil legal needs of poor people on Thursday, Aug. 27 in Meridian.
The hearing is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Union Station, 1901 Front Street in downtown Meridian.
Meridian Mayor Cheri Barry will host the public hearing. Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Jess H. Dickinson will serve as moderator.
The hearing is the fourth in a series of regional public discussions about the need for civil legal services for the poor. Earlier public hearings have been held in Gulfport, Greenwood and Oxford.
“We are pleased to be holding our final congressional district hearing in Meridian," Dickinson said. "We are grateful that Mayor Barry has agreed to host the meeting. We expect to gather additional information concerning the need for improvement in access to justice for so many of our citizens, including children, who live in poverty. We expect to use the information we obtain to report to the Legislature, the Governor and the Supreme Court the scope of the problem so we can begin to do something about it. We hope to have our final report completed before the legislative session begins in January.”
The purpose of the hearings is to create a record detailing the magnitude of the problems faced by low-income Mississippians as a result of their lack of access to legal assistance in a broad range of civil matters. The hearing will not address legal assistance in criminal matters.
The hearing will seek testimony regarding the difficulties faced by low income Mississippians who do not have access to civil legal assistance in matters such as housing, domestic violence, child custody, child care, health care and disabilities assistance. The Access to Justice Commission will issue invitations to speak to about 16 people. Among those expected to speak are low income people who have sought help from legal aid entities, representatives of Legal Services offices and Choctaw Legal Defense, a domestic abuse shelter representative, representatives of non-profit organizations which serve the poor, clergy, community and civic leaders, attorneys and judges.
Justice Dickinson will question the speakers. A listening panel of about 15 people, including judges, legislators, bar leaders, business people and community leaders, may also ask questions.
At the end of the program there will be approximately 30 minutes for public comment from the audience. A signup sheet will be available at the start of the hearing. The Commission will listen to as many people as may be accommodated in the time set aside for public comment. Members of the audience are asked to limit their presentations to two minutes.
The hearings will be transcribed. The Access to Justice Commission will use the testimony as part of the basis for recommendations to the Supreme Court, the Mississippi Legislature and the Mississippi Bar to increase the availability of legal assistance in civil matters.
The Supreme Court created the Access to Justice Commission in June 2006 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 need for civil legal services to the poor in Mississippi. The Supreme Court called for a series of regional public discussions about the need for civil legal services for the poor.
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