Martha Bergmark is the founding president/CEO of the Mississippi Center for Justice, a nonprofit, public interest law firm created in 2002 to advance racial and economic justice. The Center scored early litigation and policy wins to reform the state’s juvenile justice system and to restore Medicaid benefits to 50,000 poverty-level aged and disabled Mississippians. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the Center mobilized unprecedented volunteer resources to meet the daunting legal needs of low-income survivors and to ensure an equitable recovery. In 2010, a landmark settlement of Center litigation restored $132 million to housing recovery for hurricane survivors previously excluded from Mississippi’s recovery programs. The Center currently leads a five-state, 12-program consortium of legal aid providers representing victims of the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling disaster. Today, with a $3 million budget and 30 staff members at offices in Jackson, Biloxi and Indianola, the Center leverages thousands of attorney and law student volunteer hours and advances advocacy campaigns to promote educational opportunity, financial security and foreclosure prevention, access to health care and child care, affordable housing and disaster recovery.
Martha previously served tenures as president and executive vice president of the Legal Services Corporation, which administers federal funding for legal aid programs nationwide. While senior vice president for programs at the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, she directed the Project for the Future of Equal Justice. Martha began her career as a civil rights lawyer in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, where she was founding executive director of Southeast Mississippi Legal Services, now a part of Mississippi Center for Legal Services. She is a 2010 recipient of the ABA Section of Litigation’s John Minor Wisdom Public Service and Professionalism Award. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan Law School and Oberlin College and holds an honorary doctorate of public service from Millsaps College.