Staff

Reilly Morse
rmorse@mscenterforjustice.org
Reilly serves as President and CEO of the Center. A third-generation Gulf Coast lawyer who began work at the Center just weeks after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast, Morse has served as managing director of the Center starting in 2013 and policy director starting in 2011. As co-director of housing and community development campaigns, Morse led the Center's multi-year campaign to provide essential legal services to hurricane survivors and ensure fairness in the recovery process. He negotiated an agreement between Mississippi and the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to extend $172 million in housing repairs to 6,000 families excluded from previous housing recovery programs. Prior to joining the Center in 2005, Morse spent 11 years in insurance and commercial litigation, followed by nine years as a solo and public interest attorney.

Morse is co-founder of the Steps Coalition and has served on the boards of Gulf Coast Renaissance Corporation, Hope Community Development Agency and Moore Community House. Morse received the 2006 Edwin Wolf public interest lawyer award from the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the 2010 legal award from the Mississippi Conference NAACP. Morse is a magna cum laude graduate of Millsaps College and received his Juris Doctorate from University of Mississippi Law School. Morse is married with two daughters.

Denise Antoine
dantoine@mscenterforjustice.org
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, Miss.

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 youth.

William "Will" Bedwell
wbedwell@mscenterforjustice.org
Will serves as a staff attorney in the Center's Biloxi office. He graduated cum laude from the University of Mississippi School of Law in May 2018 and immediately joined the Center after graduation. Will reports to the Housing Law Director and supports two related projects: (1) A Fair Housing Act Education and outreach project designed to inform Mississippians about their rights under the Fair Housing Act; (2) A Fair Housing Act enforcement project designed to investigate and prosecute claims of housing discrimination in Mississippi.

Will is originally from Hattiesburg, MS. He graduated cum laude from the University of Mississippi with a Bachelor of Arts in Public Policy Leadership in 2015. With help from the McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement at the University of Mississippi and the Gulf Restoration Network, Will first partnered with the Center during the summer of 2016 and drafted a white paper detailing Clean Water Act violations by publicly-owned treatment works in the Mississippi delta. Will had previously provided consultation to the United States Forest Service for the Black Creek Wilderness and Leaf Wilderness area management plans.

During law school, Will served as an advanced student in the Low-Income Housing Clinic. He also interned for Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Dawn H. Beam and the National Sea Grant Law Center.

Martha Bergmark
mbergmark@mscenterforjustice.org
Martha serves as founder/senior counsel at the Center. Prior to founding the Center, she was a national advocate for equal justice under law in Washington DC, serving tenures as president and executive vice president of the Legal Services Corporation, which administers federal funding for legal aid programs, and as senior vice president for programs at the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, where she directed the NLADA/Center for Law and Social Policy's Project for the Future of Equal Justice. For the first 14 years of her legal career, Martha practiced civil rights and poverty law in Hattiesburg, Miss., where she was the founding executive director of Southeast Mississippi Legal Services (now Mississippi Center for Legal Services).

Bergmark is a former Reginald Heber Smith Fellow and the 1990 recipient of the Kutak-Dodds Prize for her civil rights and legal aid work in her home state of Mississippi. In 2003, she was named the Stern Family Fund’s Public Interest Pioneer, an honor which came with a $200,000 grant to launch the Center. She is a magna cum laude graduate of Oberlin College, earned her law degree cum laude at the University of Michigan Law School and holds an honorary doctorate of public service from Millsaps College

Cathryn Costello
ccostello@mscenterforjustice.org
Cathryn serves as office manager in the Jackson headquarters. Costello brings 11 years of nonprofit experience with the Nature Conservancy, where she implemented technology solutions to help sustain healthy communities. At the Nature Conservancy she held multiple positions throughout her tenure, all aimed at building improved relationships with the group’s donors and stakeholders. Costello also served as a missionary to the hearing-impaired in Brazil where she worked as a teacher and translator.

A Mississippi native, she holds a Belhaven University Bachelors of Arts Psychology degree with a Biblical and Family Studies minor. In her spare time, she serves the community as a master naturalist by promoting conservation and management of Mississippi’s natural resources through education and outreach. Costello has three dogs, three cats, an African grey parrot named Chico, and is a member of Brandon Presbyterian Church.

Phylicia Cotten
pcotten@mscenterforjustice.org
Phylicia serves as the Center’s accountant. She is a native of Madison, Mississippi, recently graduated with a bachelors degree in accounting from Jackson State University and plans to return to school to obtain a masters in business administration. Prior to working at the Center, Cotten worked as a teller at Regions Bank and at Physicians Hospice Care. In her spare time, she umpires softball and officiates football. She is the mother of one daughter, Jamyiyah.


Jeremy Eisler
jeisler@mscenterforjustice.org
Jeremy serves as the Center’s Education campaign director. He is a graduate of Swarthmore College and the University of Pennsylvania Law School. After graduating law school Eisler worked in Georgia for the Brown Lung Association, organizing textile workers around occupational health issues, which resulted in Georgia's listing of Byssinosis as an occupational disease. He was admitted to the Mississippi Bar in 1982, and worked for Southeast Mississippi Legal Services in Hattiesburg until 1987. During this time, he was also an Adjunct Professor with the Social Work Department at University of Southern Mississippi and a member of Health Systems Advisory Board.

In 1985, he was named to the Governor's Commission on Child Support and assisted in drafting Mississippi's Paternity Testing statute. Beginning in 1989, he worked with South Mississippi Legal Services in Biloxi and in 1998 was named Legal Services Lawyer of the Year by the Mississippi Bar Association. From 2004 to 2012, he worked as Statewide Director of Litigation for both Mississippi Legal Services programs, Mississippi Center For Legal Services and North Mississippi Rural Legal Services Corporation.

Monica Galloway
mgalloway@mscenterforjustice.org
Monica serves as operations director for the Mississippi Center for Justice, a position she has held since the Center’s founding in 2002. Monica oversees the Center’s financial, administrative and operations functions. Monica is a native of Jackson and graduate of Jackson State University’s School of Business. Following graduation, Monica was hired by Atlantic Richfield Corporation's Dallas-based oil and gas division. During her career with ARCO she lived in Texas, Colorado, and California working in various corporate divisions in the areas finance, business process engineering and system implementations. She also worked on various projects in Australia and Mexico. Monica is the proud mother of one daughter, Paige.

 

Amelia Huckins

ahuckins@mscenterforjustice.org

Amelia serves as an Equal Justice Works Fellow sponsored by the Friends and Family of Philip M. Stern in the Center’s Biloxi office. In that role, Amelia supports     the Educational Opportunities Campaign and focuses on assisting students who have been suspended and expelled from schools.

Amelia is a magna cum laude graduate of Pepperdine University and received her law degree from the University of Michigan Law School. At Michigan Law, Amelia was an Executive Online Editor of the Michigan Law Review and served as a student attorney in the Pediatric Advocacy Clinic. She interned for the Honorable Neal B. Biggers, Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi in Oxford, Mississippi, the U.S. Department of Justice in the Disability Rights Section of the Civil Rights Division in Washington, D.C., and the Federal Defender Office in Detroit, Michigan.

Prior to law school, Amelia was a third grade teacher and Teach For America Corps Member in Clarksdale, Mississippi. Amelia was Clarksdale Municipal School District’s 2015 Teacher of the Year.

Debra Giles

dgiles@mscenterforjustice.org

Debra Giles, Managing Attorney / Education Attorney for Mississippi Center for JusticeDebra serves as the managing attorney/education attorney for the Delta Office of the Mississippi Center for Justice, Debra is a native of Greenville, Mississippi and considers Indianola her second home considering she spent a significant part of her childhood in Indianola with her grandparents. She is a graduate of Tulane University majoring in Cellular and Molecular Biology (BS), the University of Alabama School of Public Health, majoring in Toxicology (MSPH), and the University of Alabama School of Health Related Professions, majoring in Nutritional Biochemistry (MS). After serving as a biomedical researcher and instructor at Talladega College for several years, Debra completed all her coursework toward her Ph.D. in Health Services Research and Policy with emphasis on children’s mental health and inmate’s mental health at the University of Iowa. Upon graduating law school from the University of Mississippi School of Law, Debra clerked with the Mississippi Court of Appeals for the Honorable Justice Leslie D. King (Mississippi Supreme Court). Thereafter she established her law practice, Giles Law Office, PLLC where she fed her passion serving as a Public Defender in Sunflower County, mediator with the Mississippi Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Guardian Ad Litem, among other things.

When not dedicating time to her passion, Debra loves to spend time with her family and serving the community.

Yumekia Jones
yjones@mscenterforjustice.org
Yumekia serves as a legal assistant in the Center’s Indianola office. Prior to joining us, Jones 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 persons back in the workforce. Jones 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.

Jones gained experience in office management through years of implementing administrative operations for various organizations. Jones 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. Jones spends her spare time with her children, Sakita, V’Deshion, and Yujaira, and volunteers for several Delta area organizations whose aim is to foster healthier communities.

John Jopling
jjopling@mscenterforjustice.org
John serves as the managing attorney for the Mississippi Center for Justice office in Biloxi, Miss. and also serves as housing law director. John is a 1983 graduate of the University of Mississippi School of Law. 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. John 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, John 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. John began his legal career as a law clerk to Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Lenore Prather. John 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). John is a graduate of Louisiana State University and the University of Mississippi School of Law.

Charles O. Lee
clee@mscenterforjustice.org

Charles leads the economic justice work as consumer protection director. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Rust College in 1995, and received his Juris Doctorate in 1998 from the University of Mississippi School of Law. Prior to joining the Center, Charles practiced commercial litigation, insurance defense and personal injury litigation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and in Georgia.

Charles was the founding board president of the Gulf Coast Fair Housing Center in Gulfport, Miss. and also served as interim executive director immediately following Hurricane Katrina. Charles lives in Jackson and is an active member of Epiphany Lutheran Church

Amelia McGowan

amcgowan@mscenterforjustice.org

Amelia Steadman McGowan is a Senior Attorney/Testing Coordinator in the Biloxi and Jackson offices, where she works in both housing and 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 proud graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi Honors College, where she earned her B.A. 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 J.D. and M.A. in Latin American Studies.  Amelia is fluent in Spanish and proficient in Brazilian Portuguese.

LaShay Melton
lmelton@mscenterforjustice.org
LaShay serves a community organizer in the Center’s Jackson office. Melton is a native of Okolona, Mississippi, and holds a Bachelors of Arts in Political Science from Tougaloo College and an Associates of Science in Paralegal Technology from Holmes Community College. Prior to joining the Center, she was employed at Hinds County Chancery Court as a deputy clerk. Following Hurricane Katrina, she worked for the Federal Emergency Management Agency as a grants specialist, conducting the review and compliance of approved grant projects. Melton is a member of the Holmes Association of Legal Students and resides in Madison, Miss. with her two children and spouse.

 

 

Madeline Morcelle

mmorcelle@mscenterforjustice.org

Madeline Morcelle is a staff attorney at the Mississippi Center for Justice. She works to build healthier and more equitable communities for all through public benefits and anti-hunger advocacy.
Before joining the Center, Madeline was a staff attorney at the Network for Public Health Law, where she provided public health legal technical assistance, resources, and training to stakeholders across the Western United States. Concurrently, she was a research scholar at Arizona State University’s Center for Public Health Law and Policy, where she focused her research and teaching on legal opportunities for population health improvement. Prior, she engaged in legal analysis and policy development on prevention and population health initiatives at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services; HIV advocacy at the Southern AIDS Coalition; and research and advocacy related to health reform implementation at the Harvard Law School Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation.
Madeline received her MPH in Health Policy from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, JD from the Washington and Lee University School of Law, and BA in English from the University at Buffalo. She is licensed to practice law in Arizona and eligible to sit for the February 2019 Mississippi Bar Examination.

 

 

 

Beth L. Orlansky
borlansky@mscenterforjustice.org
Beth serves as advocacy director with the Mississippi Center for Justice. In this capacity, Beth manages the Center’s policy campaigns and oversees the work of the staff attorneys. Beth also assists families in cleaning up title to family property in heirship situations. She holds a bachelor's degree in Anthropology from Stanford University and a law degree from the University of Tennessee.Prior to joining the Center, Beth practiced law with Butler Snow, Ott & Purdy, and McGlinchey Stafford law firms in Jackson, and she has been involved as a volunteer with a wide variety of organizations. She and her husband Steve, also an attorney, have raised three sons, Abram, Jonathan, and Benjamin.

 

Alecia Reed-Owens
aowens@mscenterforjustice.org

Alecia Reed-Owens serves as a staff attorney in the Health Law Division. She attended Jackson State University where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and received her Juris Doctor degree in 2006 from the University of Mississippi School of Law. After graduation, Alecia returned to her hometown of Greenwood, Mississippi and served as a law clerk under the guidance of Fourth Circuit Court Judge Betty W. Sanders and later serving 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 three children.

Kathryn Rehner

krehner@mscenterforjustice.org

Kathryn serves as a public benefits policy associate advocating for food justice across Mississippi. A Hattiesburg, MS native, Kathryn received her undergraduate degree from The University of Southern Mississippi and a Masters in Social Work from The University of Alabama. Previously, she was the Project Director for the Mississippi Health Access Collaborative (MHAC) at the University of Southern Mississippi. This project aimed to create sustainable access to health coverage in the 24 southernmost counties of the State. She developed a nationally recognized health access model implemented through MHAC as the Coordinator for the City of Hattiesburg’s E3 Health Initiative in 2014. This model has brought nearly 2.5 million dollars in grant funding for health access to south Mississippi. In the fall of 2017, Kathryn ran to break the supermajority in the Mississippi legislature as a candidate for MS House District 102. Making it to a run off, although she lost, she gained valuable experience as a social worker and as a public servant. Kathryn is a pragmatic optimist who believes that change that change can happen for people and within systems—even in Mississippi.  Kathryn is on the board of directors for Forward365 Mississippi.
 

Linda Dixon Rigsby
lrigsby@mscenterforjustice.org

Linda 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.  is a member of the Mississippi Bar and the Magnolia Bar Association. She serves on the Southern AIDS Coalition Board of Directors, the steering committee of the Southern HIV/AIDS Strategy Initiative, Board of Common Cause Mississippi and Mississippi Sickle Cell Foundation Board.

Theodora Rowan
trowan@mscenterforjustice.org
Theodora serves as the financial manager for the Mississippi Center for Justice. She is a licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and a Certified Internal Auditor (CIA). She holds an undergraduate degree in accounting from Florida A&M University, and a master’s degree in business administration from Alcorn State University. Theodora is a member of the American Institute of CPA’s, the Mississippi Society of CPA’s, the National Association of Black Accountants, the Institute of Internal Auditors, and the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners.

Theodora has more than 20 years of accounting experience. She has been employed in the areas of state government, public accounting, nonprofit and higher education.  Prior to coming to the Center she was employed as the Comptroller of Alcorn State University.

Kiara Taite
ktaite@mscenterforjustice.org

Kiara serves as the Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Legal Fellow, working to remove re-entry barriers to employment and housing through expungements, pardons, and license reinstatements throughout the state. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and a Master of Science in Sociology from Mississippi State University. While working as a graduate research assistant under Dr. Melvin Ray at the MSU Office of Research and Economic Development, Kiara’s research was heavily focused on the socio-economic issues affecting poor and minority children and families in Mississippi, which caused her to realize the need for lawyers committed to social and economic justice in her home state. She received her Juris Doctorate and Graduate Degree of Comparative Law from Paul M. Hebert Law Center at Louisiana State University. While in law school, she devoted her spare time to public interest law, serving as the Pro Bono Co-Chair of the school’s Public Interest Law Society and volunteering at the Baton Rouge Family Court Pro Se Help Desk. During her summer and winter breaks, she interned at the Mississippi Center for Justice, conducting legal research and helping with the Fair Housing Campaign. Kiara was also selected to participate in a first-of-its-kind law school clinic, where she and three other students were trained to assess the special legal needs of and authorized to provide legal representation for survivors of sexual assault under the supervision of Baton Rouge STAR Legal Director, Morgan Lamandre. Kiara plans to focus most of her career on civil rights and social/economic justice in the South.    

Tanya Talley-Chorba
ttalley-chorba@mscenterforjustice.org
Tanya serves as a paralegal in the Center’s Biloxi office. Talley-Chorba has a background in disaster recovery as an oversight analyst and paralegal at the Mississippi Recovery Office where she provided document management services for the Hurricane Katrina public assistance program. Talley-Chorba also worked for Baird Holm LLP as a litigation paralegal on cases involving educational funding. She obtained her Bachelor of Arts degree in Paralegal Studies at Tulane University and, subsequently, an MBA from American InterContinental University.

Talley-Chorba also served in the U.S. Navy for over 8 years, performing administrative and security operations as a second-class petty officer and served in Operation Desert Storm and Desert Shield. Now that she is back at home in Mississippi, she spends her time with her family and their dog.

Dana Thomas
dthomas@mscenterforjustice.org
Dana serves as the communications director for the Mississippi Center for Justice, where she is primarily responsible for developing communications goals and strategies, and overseeing the implementation of comprehensive communications plans for advocacy, development and visibility of the Center. Dana has 11 years of experience in communications, marketing and public relations. She holds a B.A. in Mass Communications from Dillard University in New Orleans and a masters degree in communications from Mississippi College. Dana is a member of the Junior League of Jackson and the Public Relations Association of Mississippi. She is also a graduate of the Greater Jackson Chamber Partnership’s Leadership Greater Jackson Program and was recognized as one of the Mississippi Business Journal’s Top 40 under 40.

Olger Twyner
otwyner@mscenterforjustice.org

Olger Twyner serves as development director in the Center’s Jackson office, managing fund development activities and implementing initiatives to broaden MCJ’s nationwide presence and to cultivate existing and new donor relationships. Twyner also works closely with staff to execute annual fundraising events. He holds a B.A. in History from Jackson State University, a J.D. from Ohio State University College of Law, and an MBA in Public and Non-Profit Management from Columbia University. Twyner served as a judicial clerk with the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Mississippi, and practiced public interest law for six years with Southeast Mississippi Legal Services. Twyner resided in New York for twenty years, serving as a Ford Foundation consultant and founding coordinator of the New York University Public Interest Law Center, managing a variety of initiatives for NYU Law School students and alumni interested in public service careers. Additionally, at Columbia Business School, Twyner served as Community Collaboration Project director and later as executive director of Double Discovery Center at Columbia College. In those roles, he developed projects created to stimulate economic and educational progress in Harlem and managed a variety of programs designed to promote post-secondary school enrollment for more than 1,000 low-income and first-generation college-bound students annually.

A native of Laurel, Mississippi, Twyner moved to New Orleans in 2008 to serve as Xavier University of Louisiana’s associate vice president for sponsored programs. Twyner has served on several boards and has volunteered with a variety of organizations whose goals include increasing educational attainment for youth and promoting community engagement.

Lauren Welford Childers
lchilders@mscenterforjustice.org

Lauren serves as the donor relations manager for the Mississippi Center for Justice. Lauren holds a B.A. in International Studies from the University of Mississippi and is a graduate of the Croft Institute for International Studies where she completed a thesis concerning gender and contemporary slavery. In 2006, Lauren interned with the special events department at The Carter Center, former President Jimmy Carter's nongovernmental organization.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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