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The Lyceum was the first building constructed on the campus of the University of Mississippi.

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Settlement Ends “Debtors’ Prison” System in Jackson, Mississippi

The landmark settlement of a federal class action against the City of Jackson, Mississippi, has brought an end to that city’s self-described “pay or stay” system alleged to have sent hundreds of people to jail each year because they could not pay fines and fees in misdemeanor cases.

The City 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.

In addition, Jackson no longer will require people arrested for misdemeanors to post a money bond in order to avoid pre-trial detention. Rather than releasing only those people who can afford to pay a bond and detaining those people who – although presumptively innocent – are too poor to pay their way out of jail, the city will release all people arrested for misdemeanors upon their written promise to appear in court on a specified date for a trial or other hearing. As an alternative to money bond, the city’s judges will have the option to place non-monetary pre-trial conditions on people arrested for misdemeanor offenses. For example, a judge might order a person accused of shoplifting to stay away from the location of the alleged misdemeanor until after the resolution of that person’s case.

 The case was filed on behalf of seven Jackson residents who were ordered to jail by Jackson municipal judges for periods ranging from 26-90 days due to their inability to pay court debts imposed in misdemeanor cases.

To read more about the lawsuit brought by the MacArthur Justice Center and the settlement agreement go HERE»

Settlement Ends Mississippi City’s Jailing of Impoverished People Awaiting Court Appearances for Misdemeanor Charges

Moss Point, a small city in Jackson County, Mississippi, has agreed to stop the practice of jailing impoverished people for up to a week while they wait to appear in court on misdemeanor cases.

The federal civil rights lawsuit challenged Moss Point’s use of money bail without any individualized assessment of a defendant’s ability to pay or the reasons for detaining or releasing the defendant. Under the challenged system, two defendants charged with the same alleged offense were treated differently based only on their wealth: those who could afford to pay a predetermined amount of money were released from jail with the requirement to appear in court at some later date, while those who were too poor to pay remained imprisoned at the City’s expense.

The lawsuit alleged that this practice resulted in the incarceration of hundreds of indigent defendants for up to a week while they waited to see a judge in misdemeanor cases such as disorderly conduct and public intoxication.

Several cities in Mississippi use similar money bail systems, and could face similar class action lawsuits.

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Temporary Injunction Stops Executions in Mississippi

U.S. Judge Henry T. Wingate has issued a preliminary injunction blocking Mississippi from carrying out executions.

The Court’s preliminary injunction order restrains the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) from executing prisoners with either pentobarbital or midazolam. In the Order, the court finds “that plaintiffs have shown a substantial likelihood in prevailing, at least, on their claim that Mississippi’s failure to use a drug which qualifies as an ‘ultra short-acting barbiturate or other similar drug’ as required by Miss. Code Ann. §99-19-51 violates Mississippi statutory law and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.”

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Court Orders Scandal-Plagued Mississippi Department of Corrections to Release Public Information About Executions

JACKSON, Miss. A decision in a lawsuit filed by the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center has resulted in a court ordering the Mississippi state officials to release public information about executions.

A judge in the Chancery Court of Hinds County has ordered the Mississippi Department of Corrections to produce un-redacted documents related to lethal injection drugs that are or have been in the possession of the Department for use in executions. Chancellor Denise Sweet Owens also granted attorneys’ fees under the statutory provision for “wrongful denial of access to records.” 

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Death Row Prisoner’s Mental Capacity and Constitutional Rights at Issue Before Mississippi Supreme Court

The Mississippi Supreme Court has been asked to overturn a lower court’s finding that Death Row prisoner Ricky Chase is not intellectually disabled — a lower court ruling that failed to follow a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that executing mentally retarded individuals violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, according to an appeal filed by the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center.

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Lawsuit Challenges Constitutionality of Jailing Mississippians Indefinitely

The constitutional rights of impoverished citizens arrested in Scott County, Mississippi, are routinely violated by the local authorities’ practice of holding prisoners in jail for months without filing formal charges and without providing legal representation to those unable to afford a lawyer, according to a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi.

The lawsuit alleges violations of the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments’ rights to counsel, to a speedy trial, and to a fair bail hearing.

“The Scott County system, a system we believe exists in several counties throughout Mississippi, results in the improper long-term imprisonment of Mississippians who were unable to make bail and do not have lawyers to represent their interest,” said Cliff Johnson, Director of the MacArthur Justice Center at the University of Mississippi School of Law. “These people simply languish in jail for months on end at the mercy of those who put them there. We hope to bring an end to these unfair and illegal practices.”

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MacArthur Justice Center Opens at Ole Miss Law 

The University of Mississippi School of Law is home to the third office opened by the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center, a non-profit a public interest law firm advocating for human rights and social justice through litigation. Opened in August 2014, the MacArthur Justice Center at Oxford 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.

Learn more »

Ole Miss Law Students to Receive Real-World Experience Through MacArthur Justice Center

The MacArthur Justice Clinic is the newest of 11 clinical and pro bono programs providing students at the University of Mississippi School of Law with real-world experience. Students will have an opportunity to participate in all aspects of the Center’s litigation, including selection of cases, witness interviews, research, discovery, and assistance at trials.

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Harvard Law Selects Jacob Howard as Wasserstein Fellow

Harvard Law School has selected Jacob Howard as a Wasserstein Public Interest Fellow. Howard will return to Harvard in September and spend three days on campus meeting with Harvard Law students to advise them about public interest career options. 

Read more about Jake and the fellowship program »

2016 Trial Lawyer of the Year Award

Four attorneys with the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center have been named recipients of the 2016 Trial Lawyer of the Year Award presented by Public Justice, the national non-profit firm pursuing high impact lawsuits to combat social and economic injustice.

Read about the award »

About the MacArthur Justice Center at Oxford, Mississippi

The Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center has expanded opportunities 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.  Learn more »

The MacArthur Justice Center at Ole Miss Law will work collaboratively with the MacArthur Justice Center offices in New Orleans and at the Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago.          

To visit the home website of the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center, GO HERE.