Areas of Focus
Jacob Howard joined the MacArthur Justice Center at the University of Mississippi School of Law in 2015. He serves as Legal Director and works out of the organizations’ office in Jackson, Mississippi. Jake has litigated civil rights and criminal cases at the trial, appellate, and post-conviction stages in state and federal court.
Since joining the MacArthur Justice Center, Jake has co-counseled several class action lawsuits addressing the intersection of poverty and the criminal justice system. These cases include Thompson v. Moss Point, Mississippi, 1:15-cv-182-LG-RHW (S.D. Miss. 2015), which successfully challenged Moss Point’s use of a fixed money bail schedule in misdemeanor cases, and Bell v. City of Jackson, Mississippi, 3:15-cv-732-TSL-RHW (S.D. Miss. 2016), which ended the City of Jackson’s practice of incarcerating people who lacked the financial resources to pay fines, fees, and court costs arising from municipal court convictions.
Jake has also litigated numerous cases at the trial and appellate level to enforce the Mississippi legislature’s 2014 comprehensive criminal justice reform bill, House Bill 585. These cases include Atwood v. State, 183 So.3d 843 (Miss. 2016), in which the Mississippi Supreme Court unanimously reversed a trial court’s decision striking down a key section of the new law pursuant to the separation of powers doctrine.
Since 2013, Jake has been the co-coordinator of an effort to ensure that all juvenile offenders serving life sentences in Mississippi’s prisons receive an opportunity for release on parole pursuant to the United States Supreme Court’s decisions in Graham v. Florida and Miller v. Alabama. Jake’s representation in post-conviction and re-sentencing proceedings has resulted in parole eligibility for numerous juvenile homicide offenders, including three of the six Mississippi prisoners who were previously sentenced to death for crimes they committed as children. Jake continues to provide direct representation in post-conviction, re-sentencing, and parole proceedings. He also serves, and has served, as resource counsel in dozens of post-conviction and appellate cases challenging life-without-parole sentences imposed on juveniles.
Jake graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, where he served as executive director of the Harvard Prison Legal Assistance Project and represented indigent clients in Boston-area criminal courts through the Criminal Justice Institute. In 2009, he was selected by a vote of the student body to receive the Gary Bellow Public Service Award in recognition of his commitment to social justice and public interest work while a student at Harvard Law School. In 2012, he received a master of laws degree in advocacy from the Georgetown University Law Center.
Prior to law school, Jake earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, with highest distinction, from the University of Michigan and a master’s in teaching from the University of Washington. From 2003 to 2006, he was a social studies teacher at a public high school in Covington, Wash.
Jake is admitted to practice in all Mississippi state and federal courts and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.