Access to Justice Hearing to discuss legal needs for poor people - - Jackson, MS

Access to Justice Hearing to discuss legal needs for poor people

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By  Julie Straw - bio | email | twitter

JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - In this economy when money is tight for most, where can someone turn for legal help?  If a person can't afford an attorney, what options does he or she have?  That was the purpose of the Access to Justice Public hearings Monday. 

Rakeem Muhammad feared his young daughter was being abused and neglected by his ex-wife.  He needed an attorney to fight for custody, but could not afford the fees.  "A lot of people don't know where to go.  I didn't know where to go," said Muhammad.

Muhammad's story was one Cynthia Brewer has heard all too often.  She is Chancery Judge for Madison, Leake, Yazoo and Holmes counties.

"There rarely passes a day that there is not someone or some set of facts that a lawyer would make a difference in the presentation of those facts," said District 11 Chancery Judge Brewer.

Several Mississippi Supreme Court Justices listened to Muhammad's situation and the tales of judges and attorneys.  The goal is to help people who can not afford an attorney to represent them.

"I feel like some of the money should be used towards better informing people of their services," said Muhammad.

Some suggested creating television ads to let people know there are places to turn.  Department of Human Services directed Muhammad to the Mississippi Center for Legal Services who represented him in court, free of charge.  Other organizations also offer legal help like Catholic Charities and Stew Pot Legal Clinic.

"Maybe this will open people's eyes that there are some community services being provided that they didn't know about," said Judge Brewer.

Now the Access to Justice Commission will pass along their recommendations to the legislature and the Mississippi Bar.

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