Supra and the Mississippi Law Journal hosted a Poverty & Access to Justice symposium at the law school on Feb. 8, where legal leaders discussed barriers in the justice system.
The student-run event attracted national attention, drawing participation from prominent authors and panelists. A sampling of panelists includes Jess H. Dickinson, presiding justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court; Judge Donna Barnes, Mississippi Court of Appeals; Denise Owens, Hinds County Chancery Court and co-chair, Mississippi Access to Justice Commission; Douglas A. Blaze,dean of the University of Tennessee School of Law; Vincent Morris, director of the Arkansas Legal Services Partnership; Martha Bergmark, president of the Mississippi Center for Justice and former president of the Legal Services Corporation; Debbie Segal, pro bono partner, Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton, LLP. View a complete list.
Even though poverty and access to justice remain national issues, Mississippi is disproportionately affected due to staggering poverty levels, legal aid budget restrictions and the dissemination of the state’s population in rural communities. Part of the goal of the event, according to Kristen Kyle-Castelli, executive editor of Supra, the online companion to the Mississippi Law Journal, was to create a forum for the leaders in Mississippi to collaborate and learn from the experiences of other groups and states.
“Nearly a year ago, I reviewed my objectives for Supra to achieve during my tenure as editor,” she said. “Not only did I want to raise awareness of the issues surrounding the justice gap, I also wanted to establish Supra as a leading publication within Mississippi. I want practitioners to seek the information available on Supra, which is not limited to this Symposium. I think we achieved our original goals, and the new editor-in-chief candidates are dedicated to ensuring continued success.”
Kyle-Castelli was primarily responsible for the planning, working closely with UM Law Professor Debbie Bell. After extensive conversations, Kyle-Castelli decided to transform what was going to be a written event into a physical symposium so each state’s successes could be shared.
She received inquiries from professionals in California, Indiana, Washington, Maryland, Tennessee, Michigan, Wisconsin, New York and New Jersey.
“Even before the editing process was complete, some of the articles were gaining recognition,” she said.
“Professor [Ben] Cooper’s article was immediately picked up by the Legal Ethics Forum. Brooks Holland, Gonzaga University School of Law professor, wrote a ground breaking article on the new Limited License Legal Technician Practice Rule, which I believe will gain national attention as the first piece in the country to discuss the Washington Supreme Court’s ground breaking developments.”
Symposium topics discussed included “Access to Justice: A Mississippi Snapshot”; “Expanding the Providers: Law Schools, Big Firms, Corporate Counsel & Local Bars”; “Opening the Gates: Legal Technicians”; “Individual, Holistic, Policy and Systemic Approaches”; “Creative Solutions: Using Technology”; and “Civil Gideon”.
The event offered six hours of continuing legal education credit (including 1 Ethics hour) for attorneys and legal professionals in attendance.
“I came away with some misconceptions corrected,” said Larry Primeaux, chancery judge for the 12th district of Mississippi. ”In my district . . . [w]e are going to work with the Mississippi Access to Justice Commission and try to alleviate the problem in our corner of the universe.” Read more about his insights.
“For students interested in public service work, the symposium provided a wonderful networking opportunity to meet the leaders of the access to justice community in Mississippi,” Kyle-Castelli said. “For students without a direct interest in public service work, the event raised awareness of the challenges facing Mississippi in overcoming the enormous hurdles to increase access to justice.”