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Hammond legal aid clinic relocates

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The legal aid clinic for the city of Hammond has moved just one mile away from its old home into a new space donated by law firm Rubino Ruman Crosmer Smith Sersic & Polen in Dyer.

The clinic moved between Christmas and New Year's.

Lawyers who do work for the city or are on contract with the city are required to give hours to the clinic. The firm had lawyers who could be called on to help, which is how the idea came up for them to donate the space near their Hammond office, rent-free.

While the clinic had been housed in City Hall until the move, there was some controversy when city councilmen voted 5-4 to do away with the city's health department starting in 2008 because there was duplication of services that were offered by Lake County's health department.

They argued if they were voting to shut down the city's health department, why not the city's legal aid, which is also offered to the area by Indiana Legal Services? If this were to pass, the clinic would no longer be a part of the city and therefore need to vacate City Hall. Instead, they were able to move before it came to that.

"Philosophically, if you think a city shouldn't offer this service, we can agree to disagree," said Kris Costa Sakelaris, clinic director. But as far as the argument of a duplication of services, she said that "the need is greater" than the combined services available from the city's legal aid clinic and Indiana Legal Services.

The city's legal aid clinic will continue to be funded by the mayor's discretionary funds from gaming and not taxes, which, Costa Sakelaris said, was another misconception about the clinic, considering the state and the current hot issue of property taxes.

Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. started the clinic when he took office in January 2004. It was even an idea he mentioned as part of his 10-point plan during his campaign, Costa Sakelaris said. While at Notre Dame Law School, McDermott was involved in the school's legal aid clinic and has since continued his passion for providing legal services to the indigent.

The clinic has three lawyers including the director, a paralegal who is also an interpreter, and a few students in externships through Valparaiso University School of Law and Calumet College.

"In four years, almost 1,000 people have come through the door. I would say we were able to help 60 to 70 percent of those people," Costa Sakelaris said.

Client matters range from landlord-tenant issues to living wills for the elderly to custodial parents not receiving child support.

The new address for the legal aid clinic is 5261 Hohman Ave., Hammond, 46320. The clinic can still be reached at (219) 853-6611.
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  1. Ah yes... Echoes of 1963 as a ghostly George Wallace makes his stand at the Schoolhouse door. We now know about the stand of personal belief over service to all constituents at the Carter County Clerk door. The results are the same, bigotry unable to follow the directions of the courts and the courts win. Interesting to watch the personal belief take a back seat rather than resign from a perception of local power to make the statement.

  2. An oath of office, does it override the conscience? That is the defense of overall soldier who violates higher laws, isnt it? "I was just following orders" and "I swore an oath of loyalty to der Fuhrer" etc. So this is an interesting case of swearing a false oath and then knowing that it was wrong and doing the right thing. Maybe they should chop her head off too like the "king's good servant-- but God's first" like St Thomas More. ...... We wont hold our breath waiting for the aclu or other "civil liberterians" to come to her defense since they are all arrayed on the gay side, to a man or should I say to a man and womyn?

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  5. Pence said when he ordered the investigation that Indiana residents should be troubled by the allegations after the video went viral. Planned Parenthood has asked the government s top health scientists at the National Institutes of Health to convene a panel of independent experts to study the issues surrounding the little-known branch of medicine.

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