Who We Are
Advocating for Equality, Efficiency, and Fairness
in the North Carolina Legal System
The North Carolina Justice for All Project (JFAP) is an advocacy group committed to expanding access to justice across the state. We strive to empower individuals by championing reform in the legal profession and educating the public, legal community and other stakeholders on the pressing issues that greatly impact the lives of North Carolinians.
Our team is made up of individuals from diverse backgrounds, including those with experience in family law and other areas of people law, public sector work, law enforcement, and victim advocacy. We are united by our personal experiences of trying to assist those caught in civil legal disputes with nowhere to turn to. We witness firsthand the failures of the legal system and the ways in which justice is often only attainable for those who can afford it.
To address this crisis, we propose innovative policy alternatives and advocate for the utilization of professionals other than attorneys to serve the public effectively in certain areas of the law. We are committed to fighting for the millions of North Carolinians who cannot afford a lawyer, do not qualify for legal aid or pro bono services, and have nowhere else to turn when they have a legal need. Join us in our mission to ensure that justice is truly for all in North Carolina.
Ensure that all North Carolinians have access to a reliable, fair, efficient, and socially responsible legal system.
Advocate for innovative policy measures that can help close the access to justice gap.
Public Good: Working to enhance the rule of law, public access to the justice system, the efficiency of the judicial system, and the standard of legal representation.
Civic Leadership: Advocating for the right of all North Carolinians, regardless of income, to have access to legal representation.
Empathy: Recognizing that "Equal Justice Under Law" cannot exist until all North Carolinians have fair and equal access to meaningful legal assistance and the judicial system.
Each member of the North Carolina Justice for All Project has a unique story that inspired their involvement in our organization. Some members have worked in public service for many years. Others have experience working in family law or other areas of people law. Still, others have worked or volunteered in victim advocacy or have personal stories of friends, loved ones, and even strangers who were in the midst of a legal crisis with nowhere to turn. Collectively, we looked around and saw a legal system that failed to serve the public. Justice seemed to be for sale for a price higher than most could pay. Who would take a stand against a broken system? If not us, who? If not now, when?
Our flagship project is our pending proposal for limited licensing. That concept is similar to the medical industry's licensing of nurse practitioners nearly fifty years ago. Adopting our proposal would create alternative legal service providers that could assist the public with legal issues that may not require an attorney. Our proposal envisions lowered costs and increased accessibility to legal services for the public.
Although our primary focus at this time is licensing Legal Practitioners, we also advocate for other types of regulatory reform, such as a regulatory sandbox, court navigators, otherwise liberalizing UPL, and a regulatory sandbox to allow for innovative partnerships with the tech, mental health, and other industries that will increase access to justice.
Affordable legal services are in the best interest of North Carolinians, the court system, and the justice system as a whole. It is time for the legal profession to evolve to serve the broader needs of society. Our current system places the interests of lawyers over the public's legal needs to the detriment of millions of North Carolina residents.
Note that a wide range of medical providers and mental health providers can aid the sick and support mental health. In the legal profession, 9 in 10 legal providers are lawyers. In the medical field, 8 in 10 medical providers are not licensed doctors (i.e., nurse practitioners, physician assistants, phlebotomists). To quote Camille Stell of Lawyers Mutual in her article on legal deserts, "Where are all the other resources that our citizens need to deal with problems that impact their lives in no less devasting ways than sickness? Where can they turn?"
Help us create accessible options that will improve legal outcomes for our communities.
Meet the JFAP Team
NCCP, VSP, NCCMC, CA
S. M. Kernodle-Hodges currently works as a Legal Project Manager for Tolliver, Richardson & Kernodle, LLC. She is also the Program Coordinator for the North Carolina Equal Access to Justice Commission's Legal Support Center in Wake County, which opened in January 2023. With an impressive educational background, including an A.S. in Criminal Justice/Law Enforcement Administration from Patrick Henry Community College, a Bachelor of Science in Sociology/Criminal Justice from Averett University, and a graduate certificate from Duke University's Law Studies Paralegal Program, Kernodle brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to her work. Furthermore, she has over a decade of experience as a criminal justice official and holds multiple certifications, including North Carolina Certified Municipal Clerk, Superior and Federal Court Mediator, and Victim Services Practitioner. Committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion, she is a graduate of the University of South Florida's DEI program. In addition, Kernodle is a dedicated court-appointed Guardian ad Litem and serves the legal community as Co-Chair of the Utilization and Pro Bono Committees for the North Carolina Bar Association, Paralegal Division, and Board Member of the North Carolina State Bar Board of Paralegal Certification. For more information about Kernodle-Hodges, please visit her LinkedIn profile.
PMP, CSM, LPP, NCCP, SCCP, ACP, RP
Mitchell-Mercer serves as the Director of Project Management at Lex Project Management Consulting Group and is a dedicated Project Manager for a law firm in Charlotte, North Carolina. Mitchell-Mercer is also an active FINRA Securities Arbitrator. She has received numerous accolades for her work in the legal community, including the NC Judicial Branch Service Award (two-time recipient) and the North Carolina Bar Association's 2021 Distinguished Paralegal Award. She has been an active member of the legal community, including the NCBA Internet and Regulations Task Force (2016), and the Paralegal Division as a former Council Member and Chair of the Communications and Publications committees. She currently Chairs the Technology and Utilization Committees. Additionally, she served on the 2021-2022 NALA Board of Directors and Chaired NALA's Continuing Education Council. Mitchell-Mercer was also a member of the former NC State Bar Subcommittee Studying Regulatory Change (2021-2022) and is now focusing on a doctorate in public policy and administration and increasing access to justice in North Carolina. In 2023 she was appointed as a Special Advisor to the NC Equal Access to Justice Commission by Justice Richard Dietz. To learn more about Mitchell-Mercer, please visit her LinkedIn profile.