The Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center at the University of Mississippi School of Law is a public interest law firm advocating for human rights and social justice through litigation. The MacArthur Justice Center will focus on issues such as police misconduct, wrongful search and seizure, conditions of confinement, juvenile justice, inmate access to health care and mental health treatment, access to parole, prosecutorial misconduct, discrimination in the criminal justice system, and indigent rights. The goal of the Center is to bring about meaningful and positive change in Mississippi through litigation of cases addressing systemic weaknesses in the State’s criminal justice and legal systems. The MacArthur Justice Center at Ole Miss Law will work collaboratively with MacArthur Justice Center offices in New Orleans and at the Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago.
Who We Are
Cliff Johnson, Director, has practiced law in Mississippi for more than 20 years, including five years as a federal prosecutor. In addition to becoming the first Director of the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center at the University of Mississippi School of Law in 2014, Johnson joined the faculty of the law school where he is an assistant professor of law and supervises law students participating in the MacArthur Justice Clinic.
Prior to joining the MacArthur Justice Center, Johnson was a partner for 13 years at the Jackson law firm of Pigott & Johnson, where he handled a wide variety of complex civil and criminal matters. His work in private practice included representation of dozens of whistleblowers in health care fraud cases against hospitals, nursing homes, ambulance companies, physician clinics and other health care providers. He also represented death row inmates in federal appeals, litigated on behalf of victims of racial and LGBT discrimination, and helped lead the legal challenge to the proposed “personhood” amendment to the Mississippi state constitution.
From 1996 to 2001, Johnson was an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi. He was responsible for all civil health fraud cases in the district, handled criminal jury trials of cases involving complex fraud schemes and participated in jury trials of narcotics cases.
Before becoming a federal prosecutor, he was an associate at the Jackson law firm of Butler Snow for three years and was a law clerk to U.S. District Court Judge William H. Barbour, Jr.
During 2005-2006, Johnson was a Fulbright Scholar at the Raoul Wallenberg Institute for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law in Lund, Sweden. While in Sweden, he taught Law and History of the American Civil Rights Movement at the Institute and Lund University Law School. He also conducted research and lectured throughout Sweden on the political and social challenges resulting from Sweden’s immigration policy and integration efforts. Since 2006, Johnson has lectured in Sweden on numerous occasions, including speeches at the Nobel Museum and Wallenberg Institute graduation ceremonies. He returns to Stockholm each year to serve as moderator of an international symposium for human rights lawyers from developing countries.
In 1989, Johnson received a bachelor’s degree in political science, with high honors and special distinction, from Mississippi College. In 1992, he received a law degree from Columbia Law School, where he was a Charles Evans Hughes Fellow and a member of the Columbia Human Rights Law Review.
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Jacob Howard joined the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center at the University of Mississippi School of Law in 2015. He splits his time between the Center and the Law Office of McDuff & Byrd, a civil rights and criminal defense firm in Jackson, Mississippi, where he has been an associate since 2012. Jake has litigated civil rights and criminal cases at the trial, appellate, and post-conviction stages in state and federal court.
Since 2013, he has been the co-coordinator of an effort to ensure that all juvenile offenders serving life sentences in Mississippi’s prisons receive an opportunity for release on parole pursuant to the United States Supreme Court’s decisions in Graham v. Florida and Miller v. Alabama.
From 2010 to 2012, Jake was an E. Barrett Prettyman Fellow at the Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C. As a Prettyman Fellow, he represented indigent criminal defendants in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, while also supervising student-attorneys and assisting with classroom instruction in Georgetown’s Criminal Defense and Prisoner Advocacy Clinic. Before the Fellowship, Jake was a law clerk for the Honorable Myron H. Thompson in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama.
Jake graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, where he served as executive director of the Harvard Prison Legal Assistance Project and represented indigent clients in Boston-area criminal courts through the Criminal Justice Institute. In 2009, he was selected by a vote of the student body to receive the Gary Bellow Public Service Award in recognition of his commitment to social justice and public interest work while a student at Harvard Law School. In 2012, he received a master of laws degree in advocacy from the Georgetown University Law Center.
Prior to law school, Jake earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, with highest distinction, from the University of Michigan and a master’s in teaching from the University of Washington. From 2003 to 2006, he was a social studies teacher at a public high school in Covington, Wash.
Jake is admitted to practice in all Mississippi state and federal courts and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. He is also admitted to practice in the District of Columbia.
MacArthur Justice Clinic
The MacArthur Justice Clinic at the University of Mississippi School of Law will provide law students with opportunities to participate in all aspects of the Center’s litigation. Students will assist in case selection, interview witnesses, conduct research, discovery, draft pleadings, argue motions before federal judges, and, when possible, participate at trial. Through this student involvement, the MacArthur Justice Clinic seeks to develop lawyers sensitive to the need for advocacy in the areas of human rights and social justice. Students working with the Clinic gain invaluable hands-on experience in sophisticated litigation and develop relationships with outstanding practitioners working at the forefront of some of the most interesting and challenging areas of the law.
The MacArthur Justice Clinic is newest of the 11 clinical and pro bono programs at the University of Mississippi.
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