/Online site will answer civil legal questions

Online site will answer civil legal questions

Tiffany Graves, executive Director of the Mississippi Access to Justice Commission said that the online service is meant to provide information to the public and answers to civil legal issues. She is also partnering with Mississippi Volunteer Lawyers Project to make the service available. The online service, ms.freelegalanswers.org, will provide information about common legal problems, such as divorce, child custody, housing, landlord-tenant disputes, land issues, trust and estate matters, will and probate matters, wage and employment issues, bankruptcy, and consumer disputes, Graves said. The online service is a “good start” for general questions, according to Chancellor Lawrence Primeaux (Midland), who oversees all civil cases in the District 12 area of east-central Mississippi. He said that poor people can find it difficult to access our courts. These are the types of issues that can make people’s lives miserable and even endanger their little savings. Primeaux stated that the legal advice line could help people understand and identify those problems so they can make informed decisions about how to deal with them. Gayle Carpenter-Sanders is the executive director of Mississippi Volunteer Lawyers Project. She said that the website was important because it “provides the first step for individuals to determine whether they even require access to the judiciary system.” Sanders also notes that not all legal issues are legal and that not all legal matters require a lawyer. She stated that the website was designed to provide direction. This is what (Mississippi Volunteer Lawyers Project), hopes to accomplish by participating in this project. Nearly 700,000. Mississippians live below the poverty line, and are eligible for public-funded legal services. These people have 22 lawyers assigned to them in Mississippi to help with any civil legal issues. Mississippi Volunteer Lawyers Project pairs poor people who need legal services with lawyers from private practices willing to volunteer their time. Graves stated that the new legal information website addresses only civil legal issues and not criminal cases. Anyone with legal issues can use the site to get referral information. The state supports the establishment of local public defenses in criminal cases. Local libraries and courthouse clerks offices will promote information about the site. Access to Justice Commission’s 10th anniversary summit will mark the launch of the online civil-issues website. It will be held at the Mississippi Supreme Court Building in downtown Jackson. Lisa Foster, Director of the Office for Access to Justice at the U.S. Department of Justice, will be the keynote speaker for the anniversary. In 2006, the Mississippi Supreme Court, Mississippi Bar and Bar Foundation funded the Mississippi Access for Justice Commission. It was created to find ways to improve civil legal services delivery and close the civil justice gap. Graves is also a member of the Mississippi Today board of directors. She stated that the 2011 changes in the professional rules for lawyers were the most important step towards expanding civil-law assistance to the poor. She said that the change allowed lawyers to offer “limited scope, short-term assistance” to the poor without locking them into long-term relationships. Graves stated that it also allowed more attorneys to volunteer to join the state’s talent pool and help with advice hotlines, writing letters, and providing information to those who are unfamiliar with the state’s legal system. Sanders and Graves both stated that the next step in expanding public access to civil justice is providing sufficient personal training and education for people to be able to represent themselves in limited local courts. Judge Primeaux said that the next logical step for civil-issue access would be a “form bank” which he called a “form bank”. This form could be tailored to Mississippi courts and can be used by self-represented low-income people to solve simple legal issues. Graves stated that there won’t be enough free (pro bono) lawyers available. Therefore, he suggested that more information and training could help the public. This is not a business opportunity. Support this work by making a regular donation to our Spring Member Drive.