Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice Mike Randolph has temporarily appointed Jackson attorney Carlyn M. Hicks as a special judge for the Hinds County Court. The appointment is to the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Melvin V. Priester Sr., who retired from the Hinds County Court on June 3.
Hicks said, “I am honored and humbled by the confidence the Chief Justice has placed in me to assume this role, and I pledge to bring fairness and compassionate competence to the bench. I look forward to serving the residents of Hinds County with integrity, dedication, and diligence.”
The Supreme Court order of appointment is attached:
Hicks, 36, has served as director of the Mission First Legal Aid Office, a pro bono initiative of Mississippi College School of Law, since August 2017. She oversees the operations of staff and volunteers who provide legal services to more than 1,200 low-income clients annually in Hinds, Madison, and Rankin counties. She began work with Mission First as a student volunteer, then became a staff attorney in September 2010. She founded the Mission First Parent Representation Program in October 2012. Through Mission First, for almost five years she represented indigent parents in Rankin County Youth Court in one of the first pilot programs for parent representation. As Parent Representation Program Director, Hicks provided pro bono legal representation to indigent families involved in all stages of litigation in child welfare cases, identified resources to strengthen vulnerable families, directed extensive out-of-court advocacy with the community and child welfare professionals, provided guidance and counseling, and helped improve reunification or family-centered permanency outcomes for children and families.
She has worked to improve child welfare policy at the national and state level. As a member of the Parent Representation Task Force, she has worked to develop and expand parent representation programs to Youth Courts across the state so that parents have legal representation when they face the possibility of losing custody of children due to allegations of abuse or neglect. Hicks has also worked closely on Court Improvement Program initiatives and systems improvement efforts in Mississippi, serving on the state’s multidisciplinary team for the past five years.
Hicks has served since 2015 as a clinical adjunct professor at the Mississippi College School of Law Child Welfare and Family Justice Clinic, where she provides supervision, instruction, and training to second- and third-year law students. She previously taught Constitutional law for a year in the Jackson State University Department of Political Science.
Hicks is one of only three Mississippi attorneys certified as a Child Welfare Law Specialist by the National Association of Counsel for Children, accredited by the American Bar Association. She has earned certifications as a parent representation attorney, as a guardian ad litem representing children in court, and as a juvenile defender. She is a frequent speaker and faculty member in training programs across the country, presenting on topics related to accessing to justice, quality family representation, multidisciplinary legal practice, and policy reform in child welfare. In Mississippi, she has provided training and technical assistance to attorneys, judges, and child welfare professionals.
Hicks has been a member of the American Bar Association National Alliance for Parent Representation Steering Committee and the ABA Family Justice Initiative National Advisory Committee since 2016. She joined the National Child Welfare Workforce Institute Advisory Board in 2019.
Hicks has served as chair of the Mississippi Bar Child Welfare and Child Advocacy Committee since 2016, and as chair of Pro Bono and Community Outreach for the Capital Area Bar Association since 2019. She was on the Board of Directors of the Mississippi Bar Young Lawyers Division 2014-2016 and served as chair of the Young Lawyers Division Homeless Youth Initiative Committee 2014-2016. She has served on the Mississippi Bar Lawyers and Judges Assistance Committee since 2018, and as a member of the Board of Directors of the Mississippi Women Lawyers Association since 2019.
Hicks is a service provider representative on the Mississippi Access to Justice Commission. She has served on the Mississippi Children’s Justice Commission Parent Representation Task Force since 2012. She has been a Mississippi Court Improvement Program Multidisciplinary Team Member and a member of the Board of Directors of CASA, Court Appointed Special Advocates of Mississippi, since 2016. She served on the Rankin County Department of Child Protection Services Multidisciplinary Implementation Team 2013 to 2017. She was on the Strategic Planning and Programs Policy Review Committee for Methodist Children’s Home and the Trauma-Informed Care Committee for Methodist Children’s Home 2014 through 2015.
Hicks’s efforts to assist the poor reach beyond the courts. She has spearheaded community initiatives to address homelessness and food insecurity and serves on many nonprofit boards dedicated to improving the conditions for children and families.
Hicks earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in business administration from Jackson State University in 2006, and a law degree from Mississippi College School of Law in 2010. She was admitted to the Mississippi Bar in September 2010. She earned a Master of Business Administration from Mississippi College in 2012. She is pursuing a Ph.D. in public administration at JSU.
While she was a student, she also worked as a procurement specialist in the Minority and Small Business Development Division of the Mississippi Development Authority from September 2006 through March 2008. She began her legal career as a student intern for the Mississippi Center for Legal Services, where she worked from May through August 2008. She was a legal intern for the Mississippi Volunteer Lawyers Project from August through December 2008. She served as a Law Clerk for the Mississippi Court of Appeals from August through December 2009.
She has received local and national recognition for her work. In 2015, she was honored with the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division National Child Advocacy Award for her many contributions to the improvement of the lives of children. In February 2017, she was elected to The Fellows of the American Bar Foundation, an honorary organization of attorneys, judges, law faculty, and legal scholars whose public and private careers have demonstrated outstanding dedication to the welfare of their communities and to the highest principles of the legal profession. In 2019, she received the Distinguished Service Award from the Mississippi Bar and the Mississippi Commission on Children’s Justice’s Champion for Children award.
Hicks is a lifelong resident of Jackson. She and her husband, Derrick Hicks, have a daughter, Leigh, 8. They attend Mt. Helm Baptist Church.