Commissions, Task Forces & Committees
The Mississippi Access to Justice Commission was created by the Mississippi Supreme Court on June 28, 2006, to develop a unified strategy to improve access to the civil courts for the poor. The Commission is tasked 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 needs for civil legal services to the poor.
The Commission is made up of 21 voting members and 12 ex-officio members. Co-Chairs are Chancellor Jacqueline Mask of Tupelo and former Mississippi Bar President H. Rodger Wilder of Gulfport. Voting members of the Access to Justice Commission include: Supreme Court Justice Dawn Beam, Sumrall; Supreme Court Justice Leslie D. King, Greenville; Court of Appeals Judge Virginia C. Carlton, Jackson; Tenth District Chancellor Deborah Gambrell, Hattiesburg; Hinds County Chancellor Denise Owens, Jackson; Second District Circuit Judge Lisa P. Dodson, Gulfport; Sixth District Circuit Judge Lillie Blackmon Sanders, Natchez; Harrison County Court and Youth Court Judge Margaret Alfonso, Gulfport; Itawamba County Chancery Clerk Michelle Clouse, Fulton; attorney Kacey Bailey, Meridian; Jackson; Rep. David Baria, Bay St. Louis; David Calder, Director of the Child Advocacy Clinic at University of Mississippi School of Law, Oxford; attorney Kathryn Dickerson Clay, Waynesboro; attorney Edderek “Beau” Cole, Jackson; attorney Patricia Gandy, Madison; Faith Garbin, law librarian, Pascagoula Public Library; attorney Charliene Roemer, Biloxi; and attorney Trena Williams, Hernando.
Non-voting ex-officio commission members include: Dean Patricia Bennett, Mississippi College School of Law, Jackson; Sam Buchanan, executive director, Mississippi Center for Legal Services, Hattiesburg; Gayla Carpenter-Sanders, executive director/general counsel, Mississippi Volunteer Lawyers Project, Jackson; Ben Cole, executive director, North Mississippi Rural Legal Services, Oxford; Dean Susan Duncan, University of Mississippi School of Law, Oxford; Carlyn Hicks, director of Mission First Legal Aid Office, Jackson; Jaribu Hill, executive director, Mississippi Workers Center, Greenville; Beth Orlansky, advocacy director, Mississippi Center for Justice, Jackson; Jody Owens II, managing attorney, Southern Poverty Law Center, Jackson; Joi Owens, managing attorney, Disability Rights Mississippi; Jennifer Riley-Collins, executive director, American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi, Jackson; and Harry Yoste, executive director, Gulf Coast Women’s Center for Nonviolence/Northcutt Legal Clinic, Gulfport.
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The Special Committee on Judicial Election Campaign Intervention is created under the authority of Canon 5F of the Mississippi Code of Judicial Conduct.
The Mississippi Supreme Court created the Commission on Children’s Justice in April 2006. The Commission laid the groundwork for the Supreme Court’s adoption of Uniform Rules of Youth Court Practice.
The Supreme Court reestablished the Commission by an order signed June 8, 2010, by Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr. The order charges the Commission with developing a statewide comprehensive approach to improving the child welfare system; coordinating the three branches of government in assessing the impact of government actions on children who are abused or neglected; and recommending changes to improve children’s safety, strengthen and support families and promote public trust and confidence in the child welfare system.
The Mississippi Supreme Court, acting on a request from the Mississippi Attorney General, created the Commission for Study of Domestic Abuse Proceedings in an order signed May 21, 2008. The Commission’s purpose was to do a comprehensive study of statutes and rules relating to domestic violence issues and to identify and address needed changes. The Commission presented its report, containing 10 recommendations, to the Mississippi Supreme Court on Dec. 11, 2008. The Commission is no longer active.
Supreme Court Justice Ann H. Lamar of Senatobia and Special Assistant Attorney General Heather Wagner of Jackson were co-chairs of the 23-member commission.
Other Commission members included: University of Mississippi School of Law Professor Deborah Bell; Mississippi College School of Law Professor Shirley Kennedy; Court of Appeals Judge Virginia Carlton of Columbia; Chancery Judges Margaret Alfonso of Gulfport, Jaye Bradley of Lucedale, and Cynthia Brewer of Madison County; Circuit Judges Margaret Carey-McCray of Greenville, Vernon Cotten of Carthage, and Kenneth Thomas of Cleveland; Justice Court Judge Deborah Gambrell of Hattiesburg; Municipal Judge John Shirley of Pearl; Gulfport Assistant City Prosecutor Martha Carson; Assistant District Attorney Kassie Ann Coleman of Hattiesburg; Hinds County Public Defender William LaBarre; Hinds County Assistant Public Defender Lynn Watkins; Mississippi Association of Chiefs of Police Executive Director Ken Winter of Oxford; Jackson attorney Brandi Brown of Catholic Charities; Mississippi Coalition Against Domestic Violence Executive Director Anna Walker Crump of Jackson; Sen. Gray Tollison of Oxford; Rep. Kimberly Campbell of Jackson; and Mississippi Judicial College Director Cynthia Davis of Oxford.
The 2007 Mississippi Legislature called for a Task Force to study the Justice Court system. The Task Force conducted extensive study and discussions of the Justice Court system and held nine public hearings between Sept. 6 and Oct. 8, 2007, in Tupelo, Senatobia, Kosciusko, Natchez, Jackson, Gulfport, Hattiesburg, Indianola and Meridian.
The Justice Court Task Force is no longer active. The Task Force concluded its work with the issuance of its report on Nov. 30, 2007. The report made recommendations with regard to qualifications, judicial training, elections, salaries, jurisdiction and discretion to limit jury trials.
Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Mike Randolph of Hattiesburg served as chairman of the Justice Court Task Force and Circuit Judge James T. Kitchens Jr. of Columbus was vice-chair.
Members were: Amite County Justice Court Judge Roger Arnold; Marshall County Justice Court Judge Ernest Cunningham; Webster County Justice Court Judge Jerry Jones; Carroll County Circuit Clerk Durward Stanton; Forrest County Circuit Clerk Lou Ellen Adams; Warren County Court Judge John S. Price Jr.; Copiah County Supervisor Perry Hood; Sen. Terry Burton, Newton; Sen. Charlie Ross, Brandon; Rep. Willie L. Bailey, Greenville; and Rep. Thomas U. Reynolds II, Charleston.
The Mississippi Code of Judicial Conduct Study Committee was created by order of the Mississippi Supreme Court in June 2009. It was charged with the responsibility of examining the 2007 American Bar Association Model Code of Judicial Conduct, reviewing the present Mississippi Code of Judicial Conduct, and recommending such changes and revisions in the Mississippi Code of Judicial Conduct as they found to be needed. The committee conducted a comprehensive study of the code and filed a draft of recommended revisions on April 7, 2010. The Supreme Court put the recommendations out for public comment on April 9, 2010.
The study committee chairman is attorney Luther Munford of Jackson.
Other members of the study committee include: Court of Appeals Judge Virginia Carlton, Columbia; Chancery Judge Edward E. Patten Jr., Hazlehurst; Circuit Judge Michael M. Taylor, Brookhaven; Washington County Court Judge Vernita King Johnson, Greenville; Warren County Justice Court Judge Edwin Woods Jr., Vicksburg; attorney William M. Dalehite Jr., Jackson; attorney David P. Pitre, Gulfport; and attorney John Walker, Jackson. Mississippi College School of Law Professor Donald E. Campbell serves as reporter to the committee.
The Supreme Court created the Mississippi Model Jury Instructions Commission in an order entered on Dec. 30, 2008. The commission’s purpose is to examine jury instructions used in state courts and recommend plain language instructions which would offer clearer guidance regarding application of the law for the lay persons who serve on juries.
The Commission is charged to conduct a comprehensive examination of jury instructions now in use and to recommend to the Supreme Court revised, modified and simplified instructions as needed. Emphasis is to be on instructions which give jurors guidance as to the law applicable to the cases before them in clear and concise language understandable to the jurors without legal training.
Presiding Justice George C. Carlson Jr. of Batesville is chair of the 22-member commission.
Other members include: Court of Appeals Judge David M. Ishee, Gulfport; Circuit Judge James T. Kitchens Jr., Columbus; Circuit Judge Clarence E. Morgan III, Kosciusko; Circuit Judge Betty W. Sanders, Greenwood; County Court Judge Michael W. McPhail, Hattiesburg; professor emeritus Guthrie T. Abbott, Oxford, representing the University of Mississippi School of Law; Assistant District Attorney Archibald W. Bullard, Corinth, representing the Mississippi Prosecutors Association; attorney Ramel L. Cotton, Jackson, representing the Magnolia Bar Association; Mississippi Judicial College Executive Director Cynthia D. Davis, Oxford; attorney C. Joy Harkness, Meridian, representing the Mississippi Bar; Special Assistant Attorney General John R. Henry; attorney James E. Lappan of the Mississippi Office of Capital Defense Counsel, Jackson, representing the Mississippi Public Defenders Association; attorney James R. Moore Jr., Ridgeland, representing the Mississippi Defense Lawyers Association; Mississippi Judicial College Staff Attorney Carole E. Murphey, Batesville; Libby Riley, Meridian, representing the Governor; attorney Lance L. Stevens, Jackson, representing the Mississippi Association for Justice; attorney Forrest W. Stringfellow, Jackson, representing the Mississippi College School of Law; attorney R. Keith Foreman, Ridgeland, representing the Lieutenant Governor; businessman Jimmy Murphy, Booneville, representing the Speaker of the House; and at-large members attorney Merrida P. Coxwell Jr., Jackson; attorney Philip W. Gaines, Jackson; and attorney James D. Holland, Jackson.
The Public Defender Task Force was created by Mississippi Code Section 25-32-71 in 2000. The Task Force is charged by statute to:
• Make a comprehensive study of the needs by circuit court districts for state-supported indigent defense counsel, examining existing public defender programs, including indigent defense provided in the youth courts. Reports shall be provided to the Legislature each year at least one month before the convening of the regular session.
• Examine and study approaches taken by other states in the implementation and costs of state-supported indigent criminal and delinquency cases.
• Study the relationship between presiding circuit court and youth court judges and the appointment of criminal and delinquency indigent defense counsel.
Mississippi Supreme Court Presiding Justice James W. Kitchens is chairman of the Task Force, and Demetrice Williams of the Public Defenders Association is vice-chair.
Other members of the Task Force are: André de Gruy of the Office of State Defender; Circuit Judge Prentiss Harrell; Kevin Lackey, director, Administrative Office of Courts; District Attorney Hal Kittrell, Mississippi Prosecutors Association; Special Assistant Attorney General Jerrolyn Owens; Tanisha Gates, Magnolia Bar; Jennie Eichelberger, Mississippi Bar; Steve Gray, Mississippi Association of Supervisors; Rep. Mark Baker; Rep. John Read; Sen. Hob Bryan; and Sen. Eugene “Buck” Clarke.
The State Intervention Courts Advisory Committee was created by Mississippi Code Section 9-23-9 in 2003. The Advisory Committee was established to develop and periodically update proposed statewide evaluation plans and models for monitoring all critical aspects of drug courts, make recommendations for improvements to drug court policies and procedures, and act as arbiter of disputes arising out of the operation of drug courts.
The Advisory Committee is chaired by Justice Robert Chamberlin, Mississippi Supreme Court.
The Task Force for Youth Court Rules of Procedure was created by order of the Mississippi Supreme Court on Oct. 22, 2007, and charged with overseeing development of a set of uniform rules of procedure for Youth Courts. The Mississippi Judicial College developed proposed uniform rules, and the Task Force made extensive recommendations. The Mississippi Supreme Court adopted Uniform Rules of Youth Court Practice which became effective Jan. 8, 2009.
Task Force Co-chairs were Supreme Court Justice Mike Randolph of Hattiesburg and Judge Thomas B. Storey of West Point, who is Clay County Youth Court Referee.
The Uniform Criminal Rules Study Committee was established by the Mississippi Supreme Court in 2004. The committee is conducting an extensive examination of rules which cover every aspect of criminal proceedings from arrest through post-trial motions. The objective is to have a comprehensive, uniform set of criminal rules of procedure that will be applicable to all criminal prosecutions across the state. The Study Committee is developing recommendations for a set of Rules of Criminal Procedure to govern practice and procedure in justice, municipal, county and circuit courts.
The committee is made up of 12 members. Co-chairs are Circuit Judge R.I. Prichard III of Picayune and Court of Appeals Judge Larry E. Roberts of Meridian.
Members are: Court of Appeals Judge L. Joseph Lee; Rankin County Court Judge Kent McDaniel; Forrest County Court Judge Michael W. McPhail; District Attorney Ronnie Harper of Natchez; District Attorney John R. Young of Corinth; Special Assistant Attorney General Ed Snyder; attorney Joe Sam Owen of Gulfport; attorney John M. Colette of Jackson; attorney Thomas E. Royals of Jackson; and attorney Jim Lappan of the Mississippi Office of Capital Defense Counsel.