The Mississippi Center for Justice opened its doors in 2003 with a simple mission: dismantling the policies that keep Mississippi at the bottom of nearly every indicator of human well-being and deny African-American and lower-income Mississippians the opportunity to advance themselves.
Today, progress is being made. As a home-grown public interest law firm, the Center is advancing racial and economic justice through an approach that combines legal services with policy advocacy, community education and media outreach. The Center partners with national, regional and community organizations to develop and implement campaigns designed to create better futures for low-income Mississippians and communities of color in the areas of educational opportunity, financial security, healthcare, affordable housing and other vital issues.
Supported and staffed by attorneys and other professionals, the Center develops and pursues strategies to combat discrimination and poverty statewide.
Mississippi Center for Justice was organized to address the urgent need to re-establish in-state advocacy on behalf of low-income people and communities of color. Since its beginnings, the Center has advanced social and economic justice in Mississippi by:
Attorney Vangela M. Wade has a long-standing connection to Mississippi Center for Justice, having joined the Board of Directors in 2016 and served as Secretary/Treasurer, Chair of the Audit Committee, and Chair of the Board of Directors. She currently serves as MCJ’s president and CEO. Vangela began The Wade Law Firm, PLLC, after building a diverse and distinguished résumé as a lawyer. Her background also includes working as a law clerk with the Mississippi Court of Appeals, a special prosecutor with the Madison/Rankin County District Attorney’s Office, and as a corporate defense attorney with local and national employment law firms. She has also served as an adjunct law professor at the University of Mississippi School of Law. In addition to her legal experience, she advised public and private employers and organizations as a consultant in matters involving diversity and fair employment practices. Vangela currently serves on the board of Mississippi Today. She is a member of the International Women’s Forum – Mississippi Forum and of the Land Title Association of Mississippi. Previously, she served on the board of trustees of St. Andrew’s Episcopal School for eight years. She earned her BA from Mississippi State University and her Juris Doctorate from the University of Mississippi School of Law. With over 23 years of experience in Mississippi Law, Vangela is dedicated to the fight against Mississippi’s culture of injustice by seeking systemic solutions to ensure equity in the lives of all Mississippians.
Rob McDuff is director of the George Riley Impact Litigation Initiative. The Initiative was launched by MCJ in 2017 to pursue litigation around issues affecting large numbers of Mississippians. It has filed cases relating to voting and election issues, racial discrimination, discrimination based on sexual orientation, reproductive freedom, police misconduct, consumer protection, and prisoners’ rights. Its work includes the representation of Curtis Flowers, the charges against whom were dismissed after Flowers endured six trials and 23 years in prison despite significant evidence of his innocence and the prosecutor’s discriminatory pattern of striking African-American jurors. Rob is a graduate of Millsaps College and Harvard Law.
Linda Dixon serves as the health law director at the Mississippi Center for Justice, a position she has held since November 2008. Prior to joining the Center, she was the assistant secretary of state for elections for the Mississippi Secretary of State’s Office, where she previously held the position of senior attorney and director of elections training and education. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice from Southern University at New Orleans and her law degree from Mississippi College School of Law. Linda’s work focuses on access to health care and HIV discrimination and stigma. Linda is a member of the Mississippi Bar and the Magnolia Bar Associations. Linda currently serves on the Southern Black HIV/AIDS Advisory Council, Mississippi HIV Planning Council, and the Access Care & Engagement TA Center Advisory Council. She serves on the Mississippi College School of Law Alumni Association Board. Linda previously served on the Southern AIDS Coalition Board of Directors, the Mississippi Sickle Cell Foundation, and the steering committee of the Southern HIV/AIDS Strategy Initiative.
John serves as the managing attorney for the Mississippi Center for Justice office in Biloxi, MS and also serves as housing law director. He is a founding staff member of the Center’s Katrina Recovery Office, which opened its doors in October 2005 to provide legal advocacy to tens of thousands of residents whose homes were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. In 2006, he received the President’s Award from the Mississippi Bar Young Lawyers Division for his legal work on behalf of renters in the immediate aftermath of Katrina. John’s pre-Katrina solo practice in Ocean Springs focused on consumer housing, employment discrimination, and personal injury law. He previously served on the pro bono panel of the Mississippi Volunteer Lawyers Project and was project manager of the Fair Housing Education Outreach Project funded by HUD at South Mississippi Legal Services. During his 10 years with Southeast Mississippi Legal Services in Hattiesburg, he was a housing and consumer law specialist and served as litigation director. From 1994-95, John was a clinical professor in the University of Mississippi School of Law Housing Law Clinic. A graduate of Louisiana State University and the University of Mississippi School of Law, he began his legal career as a law clerk to Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Lenore Prather. He is the author of “Two Years After The Storm: The State Of Katrina Housing Recovery On The Mississippi Gulf Coast,” 77 Miss. L. J. 873 (2008).
Amelia Steadman McGowan serves as director of immigration law. Amelia is also an adjunct professor at Mississippi College School of Law, where she teaches Immigration Law and has directed the school’s Immigration Clinic since its founding in 2015. Amelia comes to MCJ from Catholic Charities of Jackson, where she served as the Program Director of the agency’s immigration legal services program. As an immigration attorney, Amelia has focused her practice on asylum representation (affirmative and defensive claims) and immigration appeals, representing clients before the Board of Immigration Appeals as well as the Fifth, Ninth, and Eleventh Circuits. In addition to her direct client representation, Amelia has also worked to coordinate and mentor pro bono attorneys to represent Mississippi immigrants in removal proceedings as well as organize community outreach and education sessions on immigration-related topics throughout the state. Amelia is a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi Honors College, where she earned her BA in history and Spanish and participated in study abroad/cultural exchange programs in Vietnam and Panama, as well as Tulane University, where she received her JD and MA in Latin American Studies. Amelia is fluent in Spanish and proficient in Brazilian Portuguese.
Max leads the economic justice work as consumer protection director, overseeing MCJ’s work in predatory lending, foreclosure prevention, expungements, and justice court access. Max moved to Mississippi in 2010 and lived in the Delta for five years where he taught fourth and fifth grade in Sunflower County Public Schools and trained new teachers across several Delta counties. Max began at MCJ as a legal fellow after graduating from the UC Davis School of Law. He joined MCJ staff in 2019, first serving as an attorney on the immigration team.
Paloma Wu is the Deputy Director of the George Riley Impact Litigation Initiative. With a focus on systemic reform and class actions, she has litigated civil rights and civil liberties matters challenging racial bias in policing, the indefinite detention of persons with disabilities, racial discrimination in police hiring, conditions of confinement in detention facilities, lifetime voting bans, and matters upholding free speech and LGBT equality. Paloma has served as the Acting Senior Supervising Attorney for Criminal Justice Reform for the Southern Poverty Law Center and as the Legal Director of the ACLU of Mississippi. At Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP, an international law firm, Paloma represented corporate clients in antitrust and securities matters and pro bono clients in civil rights and asylum matters. Prior to becoming an attorney, Paloma was a capital defense investigator in California’s state habeas unit and was a member of the litigation team representing a class of all California prisoners with mental illness. She presents nationally on constitutional law and criminal justice reform.
Alecia Reed-Owens serves as an attorney in the health law and public benefits campaign, overseeing the Center’s medical-legal partnership. She attended Jackson State University where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English and received her Juris Doctorate from the University of Mississippi School of Law. After graduation, Alecia returned to her hometown of Greenwood, Mississippi and served as a law clerk for the Fourth Circuit Court. She later served as the Chief Administrative Officer for the city. Alecia has previously served as prosecutor for the City of Tchula, Mississippi, and staff attorney for the Legal Assistance Clinic at Catholic Charities. She is married to Mark Owens and they have five children.
Ty Pinkins was born and raised in the Mississippi Delta. A veteran of the U.S. Army and a dedicated public servant, after retiring from the Army he co-founded The Pyramid Project, a nonprofit organization serving youth from low-income communities by providing career and academic related resources and mentorship opportunities. Ty is an Equal Justice Works fellow advocating on behalf of individuals in some of Mississippi’s most underserved communities by helping litigants navigate the court system. Mr. Pinkins is the author of 23 Miles & Running: My American Journey from Chopping Cotton in the Mississippi Delta to Sleeping in the White House.He is a graduate of the Georgetown University Law Center where he earned his J.D, as well as his LL.M in National Security Law.
Charity Bruce serves as the staff attorney for MCJ’s consumer protection campaign, overseeing the Center’s expungement matters. She also oversees the Hinds County Justice Court Navigator Program, helping individuals involved in civil cases understand and navigate the Justice Court system. She received her Bachelor of Arts in English from Tougaloo College and her Juris Doctorate from Thurgood Marshall School of Law in Houston, Texas. Upon graduation, she immediately returned to Mississippi and served as a law clerk for the Honorable Denise S. Owens of the Hinds County Chancery Court. Charity is a member of the Magnolia Bar Association, the Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Society, and the Thurgood Marshall Mentorship program.
Andrea’ Barnes is director of the Heirs’ Property Project, which provides legal assistance to families to clear title to their land in heirship situations, establishes current ownership to property, and educates communities around the state explaining what heirs’ property is and what one can do to protect it. Prior to joining the Center, Andrea’ practiced family law, estate and probate administration, and personal injury litigation. Andrea’s background also includes working as a law clerk with the Circuit Court of Hinds County, Mississippi, a prosecutor with the Hinds County Attorney’s Office, and as an attorney with the Mississippi Department of Corrections. Andrea’ has also served as an adjunct professor at Tougaloo College. Previously, she served on the Spencer Perkins Center Board of Directors. Andrea’ earned a Bachelor of Arts from Tougaloo College, a Master of Business Administration from Jackson State University, and received her doctorate of jurisprudence from Thurgood Marshall School of Law.
Chauncey Spears is MCJ’s education policy analyst. Prior to this appointment, Chauncey spent over 16 years with the Mississippi Department of Education in various roles including director of Social Studies, director of Advanced Learning and Gifted Programs, and director of the Office of Textbook Procurement, Adoptions and High Quality Instructional Materials. With a passion for educational equity, specifically helping students in various communities leverage their public education for social mobility, Chauncey has sought opportunities in various professional and volunteer capacities to highlight areas of educational disparity and how to remedy these disparities with resources present in various contexts. He holds a BA in Sociology from the University of Memphis with graduate work in Sociology from the University of Missouri. Currently, he is completing a Master’s in Public Administration and Public Policy from Jackson State University. He is a married father of two and a resident of Byram, MS.
Kim Robinson serves as community engagement and policy coordinator for MCJ’s health law and public benefits campaign. Before joining MCJ, Kim worked as a policy and project management consultant for various organizations throughout the Southeast. Prior to moving into the world of consulting in 2018, Kim worked for over a decade with the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) in their Southern Regional office in various program management, advocacy, and policy roles. While at CDF, Kim worked and lobbied extensively with American Association of School Administrators (AASA) and their school district Superintendent members, the University Of Mississippi School Of Nursing, the American Academy of Pediatrics, health care providers, and Congressional leaders on passage/reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIPRA) and worked to expand CDF’s Freedom Schools programs across the Southeast. Kim has and continues to serve on various state and national steering committees focused on education and access to healthcare while working in coalition with advocacy groups that connect marginalized populations to safety net programs that improve their overall quality of life. She is a former board member of Planned Parenthood Southeast and currently serves on the board of MS Capital City Pride and the City of Jackson Planning & Development Board as a Commissioner. Kim is the proud mother of two adult daughters, Ashlee and Alexa. Kim studied Finance at Louisiana State University.
Cyuan Lutzenberger is a paralegal for the Consumer Protection Campaign, handling foreclosure prevention, expungements, predatory lending, as well as community outreach. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Xavier University of Louisiana and is currently in her second year of completing her Juris Doctorate degree from Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles (she is transferring to Mississippi College School of Law). Cyuan has served as a law clerk for the Innocence Project of New Orleans and Los Angeles Children’s Center. She is a member of Phi Alpha Delta Law Fraternity, International and the Black Law Student Association.
Clarence serves as the Fair Housing Test Coordinator for the Mississippi Center for Justice. In this capacity, he recruits, trains, and assigns Fair Housing testers. Clarence has a B.A. from Dillard University in New Orleans. Prior to joining MCJ, Clarence was the Community Development Manager for the City of Hattiesburg. In that capacity he administered all HUD grants, including CDBG and HOME Program grants. Clarence has served in similar capacities for cities in California and Alabama. He also served four years as the Director of Human Capital Development for the Hinds County Board of Supervisors. He has extensive experience in Fair Housing advocacy and involvement. He served eight years as a board member with the Long Beach Fair Housing Foundation in Long Beach, California. From 2004-07, he was the Fair Housing Test Coordinator for the Mississippi Legal Services.
Denise serves as a legal assistant with the Mississippi Center for Justice, a position she has held since August 2006. In her capacity with the Center, Denise provides critical organizational support for clinic outreach, client in-take and processing, and general case management. Denise has a long history of providing support to non-profit organizations, including experience with Back Bay Mission, South Mississippi Legal Services Corp., the South Mississippi AIDS Task Force, and Moore Community House in Biloxi, MS. Prior to joining the Center, Denise also gained valuable legal experience working with Gillespie & Blessey Law Firm on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Denise is also an active volunteer with numerous organizations that promote healthy choices for teens and youths.
Yumekia serves as a legal assistant in the Center’s Indianola office. Prior to joining the Center, she worked as an employment interviewer and MS STEPS representative with the Mississippi Department of Employment Security at the Indianola WIN Job Center. In this role, she negotiated contracts with businesses to place unemployed people back into the workforce. Yumekia also worked as the fiscal officer for the Delta Housing Development Corporation, an organization dedicated to providing safe and affordable housing to low-income families. She gained experience in office management through years of implementing administrative operations for various organizations. Yumekia obtained a bachelor of arts in general business administration from Delta State University on scholarship from Phi Theta Kappa and recently obtained a master of business administration at Delta State University. She spends her spare time with her children, Sakita, V’Deshion, and Yujaira, and volunteers for several Delta area organizations working to foster healthier communities.
Francis Vaughn serves in the Jackson office as administrative assistant to the president and CEO and paralegal for the Housing Campaign’s heirs’ property initiative. Prior to joining MCJ, Francis served as office manager and paralegal for The Wade Law Firm. Francis was born and raised in the Mississippi Delta and holds an associate of arts degree in pre-med from Coahoma Community College and a bachelor of arts degree in biology/pre-med from the University of Mississippi. Francis has a history of serving the community through nonprofit organizations, having done so in Indiana and North Carolina before returning to her home state of Mississippi. Francis is married and the mother of four children.
Monica Spires serves as the donor relations coordinator for the Center. She joined the Center in February of 2020 as the administrative assistant to the President and CEO and the office coordinator of the Jackson office. Before joining MCJ, Monica served as a legal assistant and special programs coordinator for The Wade Law Firm. Monica is a junior at Jackson State University, where she is studying at the School of Business for a bachelor’s degree in business administration. Monica holds an associate of arts degree in health care administration and a certificate in health and wellness from the University of Phoenix. Monica has served as a member specialist for Humana, office lead and customer service representative for Lineage Logistics, and customer retention specialist for Comcast. Monica has over 10 years of administrative, customer service, and office experience and is a member of the American Society for Administrative Professionals.
Tonisha serves as MCJ’s accounting clerk. She moved to Mississippi from Milwaukee, WI, in 2004 to pursue her college education, earning her Bachelor’s in Accounting from Millsaps College. After working in the automotive industry as an accountant, she received her MBA from Belhaven University in 2015. She then worked in the field of public education as a grants accountant for Hinds Community College. Tonisha has a passion for math and making sure things add up. She lives in Jackson with her husband, daughter, and two dogs.
Shakyra serves as the administrative assistant to the President and CEO. Prior to joining MCJ, Shakyra served as a deputy city clerk for the City of Yazoo City. She holds an associate of arts degree in pre-radiologic sciences from Holmes Community College and a bachelor of science degree in healthcare administration from Jackson State University. Shakyra resides in Clinton, MS.
Jackson, MS – Balch & Bingham
Oakland, CA – Kazan, McClain, Satterley & Greenwood
Seattle, WA – Bergman Draper Oslund Udo
Washington, DC – Voices for Civil Justice
Jackson, MS – Mike Espy, PLLC, and AE Agritrade, Inc.
Washington, DC – National Partnership for Women & Families
Miami, FL – The Lipman Law Firm
Edmond, OK – The Southwestern Companies
Jackson, MS – BankPlus
Pittsburgh, PA – McKnight Realty Partners
Greenville, MS – Delta State University
Washington, DC – Munger, Tolles & Olson
The Mississippi Center for Justice seeks a talented professional to lead our finance and accounting functions, including overseeing internal controls, preparing budgets, and monitoring MCJ cash flows.
The Director of Finance and Accounting will be responsible for setting financial targets, implementing fund-raising strategies, engaging with investors, conducting feasibility studies, monitoring expenditure, supervising accounting staff, overseeing annual insurance, evaluating investments, and managing tax compliance. Your skills in sound financial planning coupled with your ability to direct financial assets will assist our organization in implementing effective financial strategies, managing debt, improving revenue, maintaining a healthy financial position, and enhancing stakeholder confidence.
The Mississippi Center for Justice seeks an experienced Grants Manager to support MCJ’s robust legal advocacy and direct services programs. The Grants Manager’s duties will include developing, writing, administering, and monitoring financial activities of grant-funding opportunities to derive additional sources of income from local, state, and federal agencies or from private/philanthropic resources in support of MCJ’s legal and policy advocacy.
The Mississippi Center for Justice seeks to hire an experienced housing attorney for our Gulf Coast office in Biloxi. The Center seeks an individual whose substantive experience includes, but is not limited to, a working knowledge of the Fair Housing Act of 1968 and the Mississippi Residential Landlord-Tenant Act.
The Mississippi Center for Justice (MCJ) seeks to hire an experienced paralegal for its George Riley Impact Litigation Initiative. The position will entail the full range of paralegal skills as well as investigative work to support various federal and state civil and criminal cases. This is a full-time position. The position will be based in Jackson, Mississippi.
The Mississippi Center for Justice seeks an experienced project manager whose substantive focus will be upholding the rights of Black gay, bisexual, queer, transgender, and other men who are same gender loving through education and the creation of safe spaces to eradicate HIV stigma and discrimination.
The Mississippi Center for Justice seeks a community organizer. The community organizer will collaborate with attorneys, communications personnel, and other community organizers to work across the Center’s campaigns to advance racial and economic justice. The Center seeks an experienced organizer whose substantive organizing focus will address HIV stigma.
Mississippi Center for Justice seeks current 3L law students or recent graduates interested in working with us to develop fellowship applications such as those offered by Skadden, Equal Justice Works, New Voices, and other law school-based fellowship opportunities. The Center is especially interested in developing projects having to do with community economic development and/or housing on the Gulf Coast; consumer protection, public benefits, immigration and health issues in Jackson; and/or educational advocacy anywhere.