Local lawyers offer services for free at legal clinic
Published 12:01 am Friday, June 8, 2018
NATCHEZ — After her daughter died, Margaret Matthews was concerned about one thing: her two granddaughters.
Matthews’ daughter, Shanta, was fatally shot in a murder suicide in Baton Rouge, leaving her two daughters, ages 10 and 12, parentless.
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“I wanted them to have the best thing they could have,” Matthews said. “I just wanted to make sure they’re comfortable. I knew it was going to be hard, but I won’t let anybody else do it.”
On Thursday, Matthews became the legal guardian of the two girls thanks to a free legal clinic at the Adams County Chancery Court.
“I think it was just wonderful for us,” Matthews said. “It’s good for our community.”
Matthews’ was one of approximately a dozen families who participated in the free legal clinic Thursday.
More than a dozen local lawyer’s gathered in the Adams County Chancery Court Thursday to offer their services during the Adams County’s Chancery Court’s first free legal clinic.
Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice William Waller recently took on an initiative to offer free legal services across the state in local chancery courts.
Those clinics are all taking place this month, which has been named Access to Justice Month by Mississippi’s administrative office of courts.
“This is what America is about, reaching out to someone in need,” Waller said before court began Thursday. “These lawyers are my heroes because they are giving up their time to serve … their community.”
The free legal clinic was one of 30 across the state this month as a part of Waller’s initiative.
Local attorney and organizer of the clinic Anthony Heidelberg said the legal clinic was beneficial for everyone in the community.
“This is large for us,” Heidelberg said. “Some of the people who came, they didn’t even know what they needed.”
The legal clinic was only open to low-income families that needed aid in guardianships, uncontested divorces, legal name changes and emancipations.
Though the Natchez filings ran the gamut of applicable cases, Heidelberg said the vast majority of cases involved guardianships.
“There are a lot of grandmothers, sisters and aunts who have stepped into being a parent,” Heidelberg said. “We want to thank you for that.”
The only charge necessary for residents who participated was court filing charges, and Heidelberg said in some cases, even that fee was covered.
“For two families, the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity covered their filing costs,” said Heidelberg, who is a member of the fraternity. “This is our way of giving back, too.”