Volunteer lawyers partner with local library to help people access legal information for problems ranging from divorce to social security and disability claims during Celebrate Pro Bono Week, Oct. 20–26.
Through a new outreach effort, the Capital Area Bar Association, in partnership with the Jackson-Hinds Library System, provided over 70 patrons with free legal advice and counsel on varying topics during Lawyers in the Library. Volunteer lawyers also discussed the pro bono resources available in Mississippi and how to access those resources to help patrons meet their legal needs. The event, held on October 21 at the Eudora Welty Library, was free and open to the public.
“Access to justice is a fundamental right we have as citizens of Mississippi, and that access must start with access to counsel, so we’re hoping this service provided patrons with legal advice and resources they may not have been able to access, otherwise” said Carlyn Hicks, public interest attorney and Pro Bono Chairman for the Capital Area Bar Association.
The event was a joint effort of the Capital Areal Bar Association, Mississippi Volunteer Lawyers Project, and the Mississippi Access to Justice Commission. “It was important for the Mississippi Volunteer Lawyers Project (MVLP) to co-sponsor the Lawyers in the Library event because the state’s legal services programs are not able to respond to everyone who has a legal matter that needs to be addressed by an attorney. This event helped to fill the service gaps, while also giving individuals direct access to attorneys, and ultimately to courts, as they try to obtain the very important and often urgent legal relief they are seeking” said Tiffany Graves, Executive Director and General Counsel of MVLP.
“The Mississippi Access to Justice Commission was created by the Mississippi Supreme Court to develop and implement initiatives designed to expand civil access to justice across the state. We are extremely excited about the success of the Lawyers in the Library event in Jackson, and we hope to see the program expand to other regions of the state” said Davetta Lee, Executive Director of the Mississippi Access to Justice Commission.
Charlotte Moman, Assistant Director for Public Service at the Jackson-Hinds Library System, shared her appreciation to the volunteer attorneys for their time and service. “We are so grateful to the Capital Area Bar Association for partnering with us in our efforts to meet the legal needs of our patrons, and meet the needs of our surrounding community” said Moman.
The Lawyers in the Library program is co-sponsored by the Mississippi Volunteer Lawyers Project and the Mississippi Access to Justice Commission. It is further supported by the Jackson Young Lawyers Association, Young Lawyers Division of the Mississippi Bar Association, and Mission First Legal Aid Office. It would not be possible without the support and participation of several volunteer attorneys from the Jackson Area, including John Colette, Melissa Malouf, Tami Munsch, Kenya Randal, Davetta Lee, Tiffany Graves, Francis Springer, Kate Margolis, Diandra Hosey, Tchanavia Bryant, Arthur Calderon, and Carlyn Hicks. Lawyers provided legal advice, answered complex legal questions, reviewed legal documents, and helped point patrons in the right direction as to their next steps in their legal issues. Matters ranged from family law, criminal law and expungements, social security and disability claims, and estate planning.