September 28, 2010 § Leave a comment

From the Mississippi Bar’s BAR BRIEFS …

October 1 Is Deadline to Submit Comments on Proposed Mandatory Pro Bono Rule

The Mississippi Supreme Court Rules Committee on the Legal Profession seeks comments on two proposed rule changes. The first proposed change would amend Rule 6.1 of the Mississippi Rules of Professional Conduct.  As proposed the change would make pro bono service mandatory, and would increase the fee to be submitted in lieu of performance from $200 to $500.  The second proposed rule change is to Rule 46 of the Mississippi Rules of Appellate Procedure. The proposed change would increase pro hac vice admissions fees from $200 to $500. These proposed rule changes may be found on the Supreme Court website at . The deadline for filing comments is October 1, 2010. Comments are encouraged and should be filed with the Clerk of the Supreme Court, Gartin Justice Building, P. O. Box 249, Jackson, MS 39205-0249.

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I have read reports that only around 100 lawyers, out of 5,000 or so members of the Mississippi Bar have submitted comments.  That’s pretty pathetic … and apathetic.  This is a proposal that will impact your practice.  At the risk of being boringly repetitious, I beg you to submit your comments.  Just click on the link and fire away.  You don’t even need to spend a postage stamp.


September 27, 2010 § Leave a comment

Unanimously, yet.  This from the Bar’s BAR BRIEFS …

Board of Commissioners Unanimously Oppose Proposed Rule 6.1 Changes

By a unanimous vote, the Bars Board of Commissioners voted to oppose the proposed amendments to Rule 6.1. The Board of Bar Commissioners expressed its collective opinion that the proposed changes would be counterproductive to the goal of increasing delivery of legal services to the poor. The Bars opposition to the proposed changes in Rule 6.1 is being filed with the Clerk of the Mississippi Supreme court.


September 27, 2010 § 3 Comments

The only thing I am hearing on mandatory pro bono (MPB) from lawyers in east Mississippi is stony silence.  You would think that a measure with so many ramifications for lawyers, particularly small-town lawyers of which we have many, would provoke a major reaction.

Meanwhile, down the board, you will find an earlier post and some insightful comments from lawyers in other parts of the state on the subject, the latest from John Gillis in Water Valley, who makes some points that deserve your consideration. 

Although I think Mr. Gillis and others make some valid and even persuasive points, I do disagree with their argument that MPB constitutes a form of involuntary servitude.  In my opinion, that argument is is based on a business-model view of the legal profession, a view that is incomplete and incorrect.  The law is a profession and not a business.  Lawyers have a duty to the administration of justice. 

The Preamble to the Rules of Professional Conduct states:  “A lawyer is a representative of clients, an officer of the legal system and a public citizen having special responsibility for the quality of justice.”  [Emphasis added]  It goes on to say:  “As a public citizen, a lawyer should seek improvement of the law, access to the legal system, the administration of justice and the quality of service rendered by the legal profession … A lawyer should be mindful of deficiencies in the administration of justice and the fact that the poor, and sometimes persons who are not poor, cannot afford adequate legal assistance.  Therefore all lawyers should devote professional time and resources and use civil influence to ensure equal access to our system of justice for all who, because of economic or social barriers, cannot afford or secure adequate legal counsel.”  [Emphasis added]     

Mr. Gillis is perhaps too young to remember the days when all lawyers were subject to that infamous telephone call from the Circuit Judge to come defend an indigent prisoner.  That practice persisted until counties began hiring public defenders to do the job.  Back then I did not know a single attorney who refused the judge on the ground that the requirement was a form of Marxism (as Mr. Gillis characterizes it).  Those of us who were fairly competent accepted the burden as an obligation of the profession, not always gladly I assure you, but always with the understanding that it was our professional responsibility. 

I also do not understand the significance of the point that no other state has MPB.  How does that matter?

As for the other arguments, I think they are sound and need to be considered.  I am not sold on the idea of MPB, although I do lean toward it as a solution to a major problem facing the courts and the bar. 

It does seem to me that two things are necessary before a final decision is made on MPB:  First, much more study needs to be done; and second, many more lawyers’ voices’ need to be heard.  The silence on the subject is baffling to me.


August 31, 2010 § 1 Comment

Philip W. Thomas of Jackson publishes the Mississippi Litigation Review & Commentary blog, and you can find a link to it on the right of this page.  If you don’t view it regularly, you’re doing yourself a disservice.

Thomas turned his attention yesterday to the proposed rule change to the Rule 6.1 of the Rules of Professional Conduct that would make pro bono mandatory in our state.  His post, Mandatory Pro Bono Coming to Mississippi? is linked for you to read.   

I already commented on the proposed rule here, and my views are contrary to Mr. Thomas’s.  There is a comment to my post taking issue with my position, and you should read it.

My suggestion is that you study the proposed rule, read over these posts and any other material on the subject that you can find, and submit your comment to the Supreme Court.  Whatever your position, this will affect you and your practice,  and you need to make your voice heard.  You can read a copy of the proposed rule here.

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