A group commissioned to help people who can't afford an attorney is celebrating its 10 year anniversary by working to help more people. MPB's Desare Frazier reports.
More than 600,000 Mississippians qualify for free legal help but there are not enough legal-aid attorneys. The Mississippi Access to Justice Commission works to provide legal help to Mississippians in civil cases. It could be child custody, guardianship or changing the name on a birth certificate. Hinds County Chancery Court Judge Denise Owens.
"Older people find out the name on the birth certificate isn't the name they've been using and it can be an "E" at the end versus an "L." Well, they can't access their social security, their medicare anything of that nature," said Owens.
Some cases require an attorney, others the judge says can be handled by the individual. Access to Justice partners with agencies and private lawyers to provide legal advice and offer clinics. They're hosting a summit to celebrate their 10th anniversary and devise more ways to help residents. They have an interactive website where people can find forms for civil cases and they're working on a mobile app. Judge Owens says they want to partner with telemedicine providers.
"I mean because it makes sense. We can use that same technology, those same resources and serve not only their medical needs but their legal needs as well," said Owens.
Lisa Foster, is here from the U.S. Department of Justice to talk about federal resources like victim assistance funds to pay attorneys.
"One thing we know, research tells us the single most important thing you can do for a victim of domestic violence is get her a lawyer," said Foster.
Members of Access to Justice say they're also working on a legal-aid program for veterans.