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The University of Mississippi School of Law hosted a number of judges and lawyers from all over the State of Mississippi during the annual James O. Dukes Law School Professionalism Program, a half day program conducted by the Mississippi Bar Association as a part of the Fall Orientation.

The program, which began in 1999, was named for former Bar President James O. “Jimmy” Dukes, who had a vision for mentoring law students on professionalism in their career.

“Jimmy was instrumental in helping the Bar and our profession focus on the importance of high standards and civility in our practice,” said W. Briggs Hopson, III, current president of the Mississippi Bar Association, addressing the 1L students. “It’s never too early to start talking about the importance of professionalism. The challenges that we face as attorneys are the same challenges that you will face as a law student.”

Justice Ann Hannaford Lamar, Associate Justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court, delivered the Keynote Address of the program.

“I hope you all recognize that this is a calling,” she said. “Those of us who have the privilege to be a part of this profession know that it is an honorable profession with the highest tradition of service to our communities and to our fellow man. Lawyers are confidants, and they are counselors who represent clients during the most difficult times of their lives.”

As part of the Dukes Professionalism Program, students participated in breakout sessions, facilitated by lawyers and judges from all over Mississippi. The students were given real world scenarios and were asked how they would handle the situations.

“Take a good look at these distinguished judges and lawyers who have taken the day out of their very busy practice to come to Oxford and to take part in this professionalism program,” said Lamar. “They are here to help you understand that ethics and civility and professionalism are not just buzzwords that we use. They are what we strive for in our profession.”

The program concluded with a luncheon sponsored by the Ole Miss Law Alumni Chapter.

After the luncheon, 1L students participated in the Professionalism Oath Ceremony and Pinning Ceremony. This is the first year that incoming law students have taken the Professionalism Oath and received a University of Mississippi School of Law lapel pin. Macey Edmondson, Assistant Dean for Student Affairs, incorporated the Professionalism Oath and Pinning Ceremony with Orientation for a number of reasons.

“It’s important to stress why being professional, courteous, and trustworthy is so important to the legal community. Attorneys represent clients’ interests; an attorney’s own reputation should not hinder the ability to represent the client effectively,” she explained. “Furthermore, we are a self-regulating profession. Attorneys must conduct themselves and hold other attorneys to high standards. Finally, professionalism begins from day one of law school. A Student’s legal reputation begins at Orientation, and we felt that the Professionalism Oath put them on notice of what is expected in the legal profession.”

Professor Ronald Rychalk will appear in National Geographic’s film Pope vs. Catholic.The special details Hitler’s invasion of the Vatican and Pope Pius XII’s secret counter plan. Rychlak is the author of Hitler, the War, and the Pope, and he is an advisor to the Holy See’s delegation to the United Nations. In 2006 the Society of Catholic Social Scientists awarded him the Blessed Frederic Ozanam Award for Social Action, and in 2007 he was an honoree at the U.S. Holocaust Museum for this work on inter-faith dialogue. The movie airs on National Geographic September 4 at 8:00 (CT).

About the film: In the darkest days of World War II, St. Peter’s was shrouded in the shadow of the swastika. But even as the Führer surrounded him, the Pope was plotting a secret counter-offensive. Wartime Pontiff Pius XII has been derided for his public silence about the Holocaust. But evidence suggests his silence may have been subterfuge. And the man branded as “Hitler’s Pope” may actually have wanted to eliminate him.

View the movie promo.

Professor Mercer Bullard was recently featured on WalletHub’s piece “2016’s Best and Worst Cities to Retire.” Under the “Ask the Experts” section of the article, Bullard answered questions and gave tips about the factors that go into planning for retirement.

Read the full article.

Ole Miss Law Alumna Alysson Mills (JD, 2008) was recently named the Outstanding Young Lawyer of the Year by the Louisiana State Bar Association. The award is given each year to a young lawyer who has made exceptional contributions to the legal profession and the community. 

Mills is a partner of the New Orleans law firm Fishman Haygood, where her practice includes First Amendment, securities, and general commercial litigation.  She also regularly represents indigent criminal defendants in federal court.

According to Ole Miss Law faculty, the award was well-deserved.

“We have a former student that within just a few years is not only practicing successfully in her region, but she is also becoming a major player in First Amendment policy,” said Tucker Carrington, Assistant Professor of Law and Director of the George C. Cochran Innocence Project.

In addition to her practice, Mills co-teaches a course on First Amendment and media law at Tulane University. While a student at Ole Miss Law, she was the Editor-in-Chief of the Mississippi Law Journal.

Professor Ben Cooper

The University of Mississippi School of Law was well represented at the ABA Annual Meeting in San Francisco last week. Professor Ben Cooper, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, and Alumnus Randy Noel (JD 1978), attorney at Butler Snow in Memphis, served on the ABA Commission on the Future of Legal Services. Cooper worked as a Reporter to the Commission, and Noel was one of the 30 members of the Commission, which was comprised of lawyers, judges, and academics from across the country.

“The ABA Commission on the Future of Legal Services is addressing issues critical to the legal profession and legal educators,” said Deborah Bell, dean of the Law School. “It is an honor for the Law School to be represented on the Commission by one of our distinguished graduates as well as Associate Dean Cooper.”

Since 2014, the Commission has been examining how to make legal services more accessible and affordable. . The culmination of the group’s work came with the Final Report, which Cooper had a hand in drafting. He also helped present the Report at the Annual Meeting.

“Working on these critical issues with this amazing group of innovative thinkers has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my professional career,” said Cooper.

Randy Noel

The Commission’s Report made a number of findings concerning the market for legal services in the United States and then offered a series of recommendations aimed at making legal services more accessible and affordable. You can read the full report here.

With the conclusion of the conference, the Commission’s work is now complete, but some of the Commission’s work will be carried forward by the new ABA Center for Innovation, an idea that was recommended by the Commission in its Final Report.

Read the full report.

Each year, the Ole Miss Alumni Association recognizes outstanding alumni of the university by inducting them into the Hall of Fame. Constance Slaughter-Harvey (JD 1970) has been selected as part of this year’s class and will be recognized at Homecoming 2016. 

Slaughter-Harvey, former Assistant Secretary of State and General Counsel, is founder and president of Legacy Education and Community Empowerment Foundation, Inc. She was the first African American female to receive a law degree from the University of Mississippi and the first female African American to serve as a judge in Mississippi. The Black Law Student Association at the University of Mississippi School of Law was named in her honor, and she received the Law School’s Public Service Award, becoming the first female and the first African American to be honored. She was an adjunct professor at Tougaloo College for more than 36 years. She serves as the Scott County Bar president and the Scott County Court prosecutor.

Slaughter-Harvey is the recipient of ABA’s Margaret Brent Award and Mississippi Bar’s Susie Buchanan Award, which are the highest honors bestowed on female attorneys; the R. Jess Award, National Legislative Black Caucus Nation Builder Award, and Woman Lawyer of the Year. Slaughter-Harvey is a life member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Magnolia Bar Association/Foundation, National Bar Association, American Bar Foundation, Mississippi Bar Foundation, NAACP and Girl Scouts. She was inducted into the Halls of Fame for Tougaloo College, National Bar Association and the University of Mississippi School of Law. She is featured in a documentary, “Standing on My Sisters’ Shoulders,” which received honors and recognition at the Kennedy Center in New York in 2004. She received the Rabbi Perry Nussbaum Civil Justice Award in 2016 and the 2016 Heritage Award.

She is the mother of Constance Olivia Burwell (James) and the grandmother of James A. Emmanuel “Tre” Burwell III.

The Alumni Association will host a reception for the honorees on Friday, September 30, at 6 p.m. in the Gertrude C. Ford Ballroom at The Inn at Ole Miss. A dinner for the award recipients will follow the reception at 7 p.m. Those interested in attending the dinner should register in advance by calling the Alumni Association office at 662-915-7375 before 5 p.m., Friday, September 16. The cost of the dinner is $50 per person, or tables of 10 are available for $450.’

Read more about the Alumni Association’s Awards.

Business Inside has ranked University of Mississippi School of Law as the 24th best school in the nation for securing federal judicial clerkships for students. According to the website, 6% of UM Law students obtain federal clerkships.

Read the full article here.


Professors Cliff Johnson and Jacob Howard from the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center at the University of Mississippi School of Law were among a team of lawyers that received the 2016 Trial Lawyer of the Year Award. The Award is given annually by Public Justice, the national non-profit firm aimed at ending injustice in the courts.

The group earned the title for their litigation work ending illegal money bail practices in various municipalities, including Moss Point, MS. The MacArthur Justice Center at UM Law and Equal Justice Under Law, a non-profit civil rights organization in Washington, D.C., filed the federal civil rights class action lawsuit challenging Moss Point’s money bail system, which kept many defendants jailed while awaiting misdemeanor trials because they could not afford to pay their bail.

“The Law School is so proud of the work that Cliff, Jake, and the MacArthur Justice Clinic are doing,” said Deborah Bell, dean of the Law School. “The impact on Mississippi’s low income community is profound, and the litigation has ripple effects across the country as well, as this award recognizes.”

The full team consisted of Johnson, Howard, Alec Karakatsanis, Matthew Swerdlin, J. Mitch McGuire, William M. Dawson, Thomas B. Harvey, Michael-John Voss, Katie M. Schwarzmann, Eric A. Foley, and William P. Quigley. The award was presented Sunday, July 24 at Public Justice’s Annual Gala & Awards Dinner in Los Angeles.

“This award is not the end of the story,” said Johnson, Director of the MacArthur Justice Center at the University of Mississippi. “This is an ongoing challenge to the abusive money bail system.”

Johnson added that the current bail system in Mississippi is flawed.

“Bail is used for the purpose of making sure you don’t flee the jurisdiction of a court. The way bail is supposed to work requires courts to receive evidence and undertake an individualized analysis of whether or not a defendant actually is a flight risk. In misdemeanor cases, it is exceedingly rare for a defendant to skip town or otherwise fail to appear. Moreover, there is no evidence that paying money to a bail bondsman makes it more likely that a person will show up for court.

All too often in Mississippi bail is determined based on a fixed schedule that does not take into account an individual’s ability to pay. If a defendant can pay the full amount, he will get his money back when he appears in court. Defendants also have the option of paying a non-refundable percentage of the bail amount to a bail bondsmen who will post bail for them. Many defendants in misdemeanor cases cannot afford to pay anything, so they sit in jail until their trial.

“These cases have gotten national attention in part because they expose widespread violations of very clear legal principles regarding the proper use of bail and the incarceration of individuals solely because they are poor,” said Johnson. “But for so long we have been accepting this misuse of bail that results in the incarceration of tens of thousands of poor people without asking the simple questions: When did we start getting this so wrong? Why are we imposing bail in every single case?”

In November, a settlement was reached, and Moss Point agreed to stop the practice that routinely jailed the impoverished. The MacArthur Justice Center also recently settled a case against the City of Jackson that resulted in the elimination of money bail in misdemeanor cases there. The movement is gaining traction throughout the state.

“I think that people are starting to realize that it’s a bad policy, and it’s expensive for municipalities and counties to incarcerate people pre-trial. The only people benefiting are bail bondsmen,” said Howard. “People are starting to realize that we’re using this system just because we’ve always done it this way. The District of Columbia has had a presumption of release for years, and their system is very successful.”

“We continue to investigate bail practices throughout the state and anticipate bringing additional litigation against other municipalities regarding illegal bail practices,” added Johnson. “Part of what is most gratifying and significant about our work is that we were on the front end of what is snow balling into something really big and really important, and it’s the topic of a lot of conversations nationally.”

Johnson added that the only other country that uses commercial bail bond companies is the Philippines. While most of the United States uses this system, its consequences are felt more in poorer areas.

“We are the poorest state in the country. We have more people as a percentage of the population who can’t make bail even when it’s small.” he said. “The significance of incarceration is something we talk about a lot. Many studies show that even if you spend only three days in jail, the consequences are severe – you lose your job, you lose your housing. So we’re reminding people constantly that after just three days, things start to unravel, and that’s very bad news for defendants and the communities in which they live.”

Howard noted, “One of the things that the MacArthur Center is particularly focused on is the intersection of poverty and the criminal justice system, and one of the most common examples of how poor people are affected differently is the system of money bail. As that system is currently implemented in many courts in Mississippi and elsewhere, poor people accused of crimes often remain in jail pending their trials, not because they are likely to flee or because they pose a danger to the community, but because they are simply too poor to pay a bond.”

The MacArthur Justice Center at the University of Mississippi School of Law opened in the fall semester of 2014. The Center advocates for human rights and social justice through litigation, focusing on issues such as access to counsel, police misconduct, wrongful search and seizure, conditions of confinement, and juvenile justice. Students participate in all aspects of the Center’s litigation including case selection, witness interviews, research, discovery, and assistance trials.

For more information on the Public Justice Trial Lawyers of the Year Award, visit the website.

For more information on the MacArthur Justice Center at the University of Mississippi, visit their website.

The University of Mississippi School of Law is currently being featured as the “Law School Spotlight” on the Council on Legal Education Opportunity, Inc.’s new website. The website offers prospective students a chance to explore their options when applying for law schools. The spotlight helps to expose the Ole Miss Law School to students who may not have originally known much about Ole Miss.

CLEO chose Ole Miss Law to be the inaugural Law School Spotlight for its commitment to providing an educational environment that reflects broader society and its varied perspectives, people and principles. The feature also mentions that Ole Miss Law is “highly ranked and regarded in many respects” and notes “the Law School strives to promote diversity among its faculty, staff and student body through its academic and extracurricular programming.”

About CLEO: The Council on Legal Education Opportunity, Inc. (CLEO) is a national organization that was founded in 1968 to expand opportunities for minority and low-income students to attend law school. Since its inception, more than 10,000 students have participated in CLEO’s programs and joined the legal profession.

To view the spotlight, click here:

A Family Law Clinic sponsored by the Law School’s Pro Bono Initiative in partnership with the Alcorn County Bar Association, Alcorn County Chancery Court, and the Mississippi Lawyers Project provided free advice to low-income families on divorce, child custody, child support, guardianship, and other issues.

Read the full story.

OXFORD, Miss.– Last week over a dozen UM faculty and staff represented the Law School at the Mississippi Bar Convention in Destin, Florida and participated in workshops, attended meetings, visited with alumni, and promoted the school.

Attendees included Dean Debbie Bell (JD ’78), Associate Dean Jack Nowlin, Associate Dean Ben Cooper, Associate Dean John McCullouch (JD ’79), Professor David Calder (JD ’86), Professor David Case (JD ’88), Assistant Dean Macey Edmondson (JD ’01), Executive Director Kirk Purdom (Alumni Affairs), Director Suzette Matthews (Development), Staff Attorney Carole Murphey (JD ’94)(Judicial College), Director Randy Pierce (JD ’97)(Judicial College), Professor Ron Rychlak, Assistant Director Scott Thompson (Alumni Affairs), and incoming Communications Specialist Jordan Thomas.

“Nothing is more important to us than our alumni and our state,” said Dean Bell. “I am so glad we have this special opportunity each year to connect with our graduates and with the Mississippi Bar.”

In addition to the workshops, CLEs, and receptions, the Bar Convention events also included the Lamar Order Dinner and the Law Alumni Luncheon, both well attended by faculty and staff. At the Law Alumni Luncheon, Colette A. Oldmixon (JD ’81) of Poplarville was named Law Alumna of the Year, and Thomas Vaughn (JD ’76) of Gulfport was recognized for his service as president of the Law Alumni Chapter’s board of directors.

The Law School also had a promotional table in the Lawyers’ Marketplace, featuring a mini-kiosk with digital images of alumni dating back to the 1940s, assorted yearbooks with candid photos, flyers and handouts with information on Law School activities, giveaways, prizes, and copies of the Clarion-Ledger.

“I’ve loved attending the Mississippi Bar Convention,” said Associate Dean Jack Nowlin, one of the many staffers at the promotional table. “Talking with our alums about their careers and about the Law School’s new programs has been so much fun. This year, we also brought down old yearbooks, and folks enjoyed that tremendously. I’m already looking forward to next year.”

View images from the Bar Convention and vintage yearbook photos.

OXFORD, Miss.– Professor Matthew Hall and Professor Will Berry have been appointed to new endowed lectureships by Dean Deborah Bell in recognition of their outstanding achievements in teaching, research, and service.

Matthew Hall, associate professor of law and former senior associate dean, is the Law School’s newest Jessie D. Puckett, Jr., Lecturer in Law. Will Berry, associate professor of law and director of the Law School’s Cambridge Program, will become the Law School’s second Frank Montague, Jr. Professor of Legal Studies and Professionalism.

Professor Hall is a graduate of Harvard and the University of Kentucky College of Law. He teaches property, criminal procedure, legislation, and immigration. Hall also advises the Moot Court Board and recently finished up several years as associate dean for academic affairs and senior associate dean.

Professor Berry is a graduate of Vanderbilt Law School and received a D.Phil. from the University of Oxford. He teaches criminal law, sports law, criminal procedure, and employment discrimination. Berry is a highly productive scholar specializing in Eighth Amendment law and also serves as advisor to the Mississippi Sports Law Review.

“I am so pleased to be able to honor these two individuals with new appointments,” said Dean Bell. “Matthew Hall and Will Berry have made such immense contributions to the life of the Law School over the last few years. There is no one on the faculty more deserving.”

The recipients were very appreciative. “It is such an honor to serve as a Jesse D. Puckett, Jr., Lecturer,” said Professor Hall. “It is such a testament to the generosity the Law School enjoys from its friends and alums that we have lectureships like this.” “Serving as a Montague Professor,” said Professor Berry, “is quite an honor, and one for which I am very thankful. Support from our alumni is indispensable to the important work we do for students and for the legal community.”

Professor Hall joins the Law School’s other Puckett Lecturers in the appointment, Senior Associate Dean Jack Wade Nowlin and Professor Lisa Shaw Roy.

The Jessie D. Puckett Lectureship honors its namesake, Jessie D. Puckett, a native Mississippian who graduated from the Law School in 1953. Puckett went on to a very distinguished career with Exxon and Forest Oil Company. Puckett was very devoted and loyal to his alma mater and began an endowment to support Ole Miss law faculty in 1987 with an initial gift of $2,000. Puckett, who passed away in late 2014, continued giving throughout his life and through his estate. The Puckett Endowment is now worth nearly $1,000,000.

“Jessie D. Puckett’s generous support for faculty has made a tremendous difference in the life of the Law School,” said Associate Dean Jack Wade Nowlin, the senior Puckett Lecturer, who has held the appointment for fifteen years. “We owe Jessie D. Puckett a large debt of gratitude.”

Professor Berry joins Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Ben Cooper in holding the Montague Professorship.

The Frank Montague, Jr. Professor of Legal Studies and Professionalism Endowment was recently established by H. Dixon Montague of Houston, Texas, in honor of his father–Frank Montague, a native of Hattiesburg, Mississippi. The elder Montague, who passed away in 2013, was a 1950 graduate of the Ole Miss Law School who went on to an illustrious legal career in the state, one marked by numerous achievements and honors, including service as Mississippi Bar President and induction into the UM School of Law Hall of Fame.

Associate Dean Cooper views the Montague appointment as a very high honor. “To hold an endowed professorship honoring someone of Frank Montague’s stature in our legal community is a tremendous professional compliment, and the faculty support it has provided is very important to the Law School’s teaching, research, and service.”

Indeed, the Ole Miss Law School’s tradition, unlike that of many schools, is to recognize teaching and service, as well as research, with endowed appointments, something embraced by faculty and alumni alike.

“I am particularly grateful,” said Professor Hall, “to work at an institution that recognizes not only the crucial importance of scholarship but also the essential value of classroom teaching along with the contributions our faculty make to the legal profession in Mississippi and nationally. If you look at the impressive list of our faculty holding chairs and lectureships, you will see two things—an incredible group of teacher-scholars committed to the profession and a phenomenal level of support provided by our donors.”

Read more about Professor Matthew Hall here.
Read more about Professor Will Berry here.

Read more about Jessie D. Puckett, Jr. here and here.
Read more about Frank Montague, Jr. here and here.

OXFORD, Miss.–Dean Deborah Bell awarded summer Whitten Chair appointments to several law faculty this summer to support their scholarly research. The new summer Whitten Chair appointees are professors Will Berry, David Case, John Czarnetzky, Chris Green, Farish Percy, Larry Pittman, and Lisa Roy.

“I was very pleased to be able to appoint these distinguished professors to the Whitten Chair for the summer semester,” said Dean Bell. “Their scholarship is very important to the profession, the state, and the nation—as well as our students.”

The Jamie Lloyd Whitten Chair of Law and Government was first established in 1986 to honor Jamie Lloyd Whitten, who served as congressman from Mississippi’s First Congressional District for over fifty years. The purpose of the Whitten Chair is to ensure the highest quality learning enviroment for Ole Miss law students. The Chair promotes retention and recruitment of distinguished faculty—practitioners, judges, public officials, and legal scholars—to instruct and mentor students.

The seven summer Whitten Chairs join the current distinguished chair-holders—Professor Michael Hoffheimer and Professor Ronald Rychlak. Previous appointees to the Whitten Chair include Dean Emeritus Sam Davis, former governor William Winter, Dean Emeritus Parham Williams, and former Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Reuben Anderson.

“Our new Whitten Chairs are hard at work on exciting research projects and are very grateful for the support they have received,” noted Senior Associate Dean Jack Wade Nowlin. “As professional educators, we know our research inspires classroom teaching and provides a broader service to the profession and our communities. Our faculty are doing important research in so many areas—constitutional law, civil procedure, criminal law, environmental law, religious liberties, bankruptcy, and more.”

Summer Whitten Chair recipients echoed these sentiments. “It’s wonderful to help honor Jamie Lloyd Whitten by working on my research projects this summer,” said Professor Chris Green, an expert in federal and state constitutional law. “Thinking about the law is the lifeblood of our institution, and it is critical for the education of our students that our professors open new frontiers of analysis and research during their summers.”

Professor David Case, an environmental law specialist and Ole Miss alumnus, also expressed his appreciation. “I’m extremely gratified to have received a summer appointment to the Whitten Chair and support for my summer research project, a law review article on an important water rights case currently pending in the United States Supreme Court–Mississippi v. Tennessee.”

Professor Larry Pittman, an accomplished scholar and Law School alumnus, is drawing on his Whitten Chair support to work on a new study of the Thirteenth Amendment. “Being a recipient of a Whitten Chair appointment is an honor that I greatly appreciate,” Professor Pittman said, “and one that shows the Law School’s commitment to research.”

Professor John Czarnetzky, a bankruptcy expert who recently received the University-wide teacher of the year award, agrees and summed up his colleagues’ feelings: “The support our faculty receives from endowed chairs, professorships, and lectureships empowers us to expand the horizons of legal knowledge and do our best work in the classroom for our students. Jamie Lloyd Whitten has left a great legacy for the Law School and for generations of future students.”

Read more about the Law School’s summer Whitten Chairs here: Will Berry, David Case, John Czarnetzky, Chris Green, Farish Percy, Larry Pittman, Lisa Roy.

The Law School’s MacArthur Justice Center has brought to an end a system in the Mississippi state capital of jailing people who can’t pay court fines. The Center’s lawsuit, filed with the civil rights group Equal Justice Under Law, was settled Monday.

The City of Jackson has agreed to give indigent defendants the choice of paying off their fines at the rate of $25 per month or performing community service and receiving credit toward their unpaid fines at the rate of $9 per hour.

Professor Cliff Johnson, Director of the MacArthur Justice Center, praised the City’s response. “We applaud Mayor Yarber, the City Council, and the City Attorney’s Office for taking seriously the allegations in our lawsuit and the realities facing so many Jacksonians who struggle mightily just to make ends meet.”

“The processes and procedures adopted by the Capital City pursuant to our agreement are a model for the rest of the state,” Johnson added, “and it is our hope that cities and counties throughout Mississippi will adopt these same practices.”

The settlement and the City’s reforms have been widely covered in the media, including the Washington Times.

Read the press release from the MacArthur Justice Center and Equal Justice Under Law.

Read the Washington Times article.

Professor Cliff Johnson, director of the MacArthur Justice Center at the University of Mississippi School of Law, was quoted in the Los Angeles Times on the “Mississippi Burning” case, noting that “this is one of the biggest cases of this century.”

Read the Los Angeles Times story.

Members of the TPR Study Group with Gov. Phil Bryant. (L-R): Randy Pierce, Mississippi Judicial College (MJC) director; Patti Marshall, Miss. Attorney General’s Office; Bill Charlton, MJC staff attorney; Gov. Phil Bryant; Carole Murphey, MJC staff attorney; David Calder, associate clinical professor at the University of Mississippi School of Law; Judge John Hudson, Jurist in Residence; and Judge Tom Broome, Rankin County Court judge.  Photo by Beverly Kraft, PIO of the Mississippi Administrative Offices of the Court.

Law addresses concerns highlighted in landmark case, helps provide better results for children

OXFORD, Miss. – On April 18, Gov. Phil Bryant signed the Termination of Parental Rights Act, a piece of legislation proposed by the Termination of Parental Rights Study Group and designed by a team assembled by the University of Mississippi School of Law.

The Parental Rights Study Group was convened at the suggestion of Chief Justice William Waller Jr. and chaired by former Associate Justice Randy Pierce, who is director of the Mississippi Judicial College, a division of the UM School of Law tasked with educating and training Mississippi judges and court personnel.

“After the Mississippi Supreme Court’s decision in the Chism v. Bright case, it became necessary for the Legislature to modify the then-existing statutes to provide a workable framework in termination cases,” Pierce said. “I was on the court when Chism was handed down and agreed with that decision, as did a unanimous court.

“However, the case magnified a need to study the TPR statutes. Chief Justice Waller asked me to chair a study group and to invite various stakeholders to participate.”

Chism v. Bright essentially reversed a judgment by the Union County Chancery Court, which took away parental rights from a father, saying all the prerequisites had not been met to do so. It also upheld the idea that there should be strict standards to apply when terminating the rights of parents.

The study group members included David Calder, UM law professor and director of the school’s Child Advocacy Clinic, and MJC staff attorneys Bill Charlton and Carole Murphey. In addition to resolving the concern raised in Chism, the study group sought to clarify other aspects of TPR cases and improve the fairness and efficiency of those proceedings.

Based on the study group’s recommendations, Charlton worked closely with Calder and Murphey to draft the proposed legislation. Calder provided a practitioner’s viewpoint in shaping the procedures and definitions included in the bill. Murphey assisted in organizing the overall structure of the legislation.

“David Calder, our child advocacy clinical professor, has been a tireless advocate for children for over 20 years,” Said Deborah Bell, dean of the School of Law. “His expertise, research and advice played an important role in the passage of this important legislation.”

The passage of the legislation helps Mississippi take a step toward becoming a model child welfare state, Charlton said.

“It was a special honor serving with the distinguished members of the study group who likewise share that goal, and Justice Pierce’s leadership as chair made it happen,” he said. “All the members of the study group played a significant role in the drafting process. I’m proud that House Bill 1240 passed in both the House and Senate by clear majority votes and with bipartisan support.”

Other study group members were:

  • Eugene Fair, judge of the Mississippi Court of Appeals
  • Cynthia Brewer, chancery court judge
  • Patricia Wise, chancery court judge
  • Tom Broome, county court judge
  • John Hudson, jurist in residence
  • Patti Marshall, special assistant Mississippi attorney general
  • Earl Scales, special assistant Mississippi attorney general
  • Joyce Hill Williams, special assistant Mississippi attorney general
  • Jeffrey Rimes, Taggart, Rimes & Graham PLLC
  • Caryn Quilter, staff attorney at the Mississippi Senate
  • Gwennetta Tatum, staff attorney at the Mississippi House of Representatives

“Playing a role in this endeavor was rewarding and meaningful,” Pierce said. “The Termination of Parental Rights Act work product required an enormous amount of time and effort.

“However, our goal in every case affecting a child is to have the best outcome possible. The new law will help provide better outcomes for children. And for that, I’m grateful to all who came together to get this done.”

By Jenny Kate Luster

OXFORD, Miss.–Ben Cooper, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Frank Montague, Jr. Professor of Legal Studies and Professionalism at the University of Mississippi School of Law, will serve on a panel at the ABA’s 42nd National Conference on Professional Responsibility being held June 1-3 in Philadelphia.  The panel will discuss the process of withdrawal from representing a client, covering concepts such as unreasonable financial burden withdrawal, how to advise lawyer-clients contemplating withdrawal, and what to do about unpaid fees; mandatory withdrawal situations such as fraud by the client or irreconcilable conflicts between the lawyer and client, as well as permissive withdrawal situations.  Cooper will serve on the panel with the Honorable Anne E. Lazarus, Superior Court of Pennsylvania, and Thomas Mason, partner Harris, Wiltshire & Granniss, LLP.

Read more about the conference by visit the ABA’s website.

Assistant Director of Career Services, Karen T. Peairs, Esq.

OXFORD, Miss.–Karen Peairs, assistant director for the Career Services Office at the University of Mississippi School of Law, was named recently as president of the Magnolia Bar, an organization whose purpose is to articulate the various problems confronting blacks and other people of color, and to assure that justice prevails in Mississippi.

In her new role, Peairs will be responsible for presiding over all meetings for the year, and for the oversight of the Bar’s programming.

“Karen Peairs has been a committed and dedicated member of the Magnolia Bar,” said Debbie Bell, dean.  “We are proud that her efforts and leadership have been recognized with this honor.”

She will be organizing their Annual Boy’s and Girl’s Law Camp, the Tougaloo Summit, Fall CLE Program,  their Mid-Winter Meeting and Banquet, Judicial Symposium and the Magnolia Bar Association Annual Meeting as a part of the Mississippi Black Professionals Association.

In addition to this, Peairs says she has some personal goals she wishes to accomplish.

“I really want to grow membership within the Magnolia Bar and in districts outside of Jackson to ensure their participation,” she siad. “I also hope to strengthen our program to attract new people to the legal profession, and then help new lawyers overcome some of the difficulties of becoming lawyers.”

Peairs also said she wants to expand the organization’s existing programming to diminish unmet legal needs in Mississippi.

Peairs got involved with the Bar by attending meetings, and was eventually assigned a district director position for the northeast district, where she won district director of the year.  She organized programming such as a meet and greet between the law school’s BLSA chapter and the Magnolia Bar, got alumni involved to help African American students, and also worked for several years on the organization’s expungement clinic, which is held at the law school.

Peairs has counseled law students for nearly 15 years.  She holds bachelor’s degrees in psychology and African American studies from Washington University in St. Louis, and a master’s in clinical psychology from Emory University.

She worked as a career specialist and instructor in Higher Education for the undergraduate Career Center at the University of Mississippi before taking a position as the associate director for Career Services at the University of Baltimore School of Law in Baltimore, Maryland. While working at that law school, she decided to pursue her law degree, which she received from the University of Maryland in 2004.

She is a member in good-standing of the Mississippi Bar Association and is also a newly appointed board member for the North Mississippi Rural Legal Services.

By Prof. Phil Broadhead

On April 22, 2016, the UM Law Transactional Clinic made a presentation at a regional continuing legal education seminar hosted by the Business Law Network and Regions Bank in Memphis, Tennessee. Community outreach is a vital portion of the Transactional Clinic, and it sent third-year law students Jessica Rice and Elizabeth Robinson to the Business Law Network’s 2016 Spring Conference to make a presentation on the “fine line” between simple advocacy and formal legislative lobbying in the context of a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Cameron Abel, one of the clinic’s supervising attorneys, began the Clinic’s address to the group by speaking of the Clinic’s mission and its services to non-profit organizations and small LLC businesses. Rice and Robinson, two advanced students in the Clinic, then explained how the IRS defines “lobbying,” the restrictions the law places upon non-profit organizations in formal lobbying, and the provision for penalties if the restrictions are exceeded. The students closed the presentation with the general advice the Clinic gives to all of their non-profit clients.

Jessica Rice said, “The opportunity to present at these CLE’s has been an invaluable one. Presenting really makes you know the information, I have learned so much more about non-profits and public speaking [through participating in the Clinic] than I expected.”

Left to Right:
Jess Waltman, Marie Wicks, Andrew Carter, Marilyn Rozier, Heather McElwee, Natalie Mann, Cam Abel, Prof. Czarnesksy, Jessica Rice, Prof. Bullard, Ricky Clifton, Brennan Black, Gregory Alston

Andrew Carter, Marilyn Rozier, Natalie Mann, and Heather McElwee

This was the second time the Clinic participated at a conference hosted by the Business Law Network, who said it hopes to make their partnership with Regions Bank in these events a permanent opportunity to educate the public on topics of interest and value to their businesses.

OXFORD, Miss. – Professor Ronald Rychlak’s 2013 book Disinformation has just been released in new Russian and Portuguese translations. Coauthored by Ion Mihai Pacepa, the highest-ranking Soviet bloc intelligence official ever to defect to the West, Disinformation recounts the history of post-WWII Soviet disinformation campaigns and their effect on Western politics. This groundbreaking work has found an international audience, and the new editions in Russian and Portuguese join a Romanian translation published last year.

“This remarkable book will change the way you look at intelligence, foreign affairs, the press, and much else besides.” – R. James Woolsey, former director of U.S. Central Intelligence Agency

Read more about Disinformation here and here.