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Indiana Legal Services weathers budget cuts

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Indiana Legal Services has opted not to renew the contracts for three of its employees. The cutback is due to a significant decrease in funding, according to Norman Metzger, ILS executive director.

“I want to emphasize here that what we’re doing is going to stabilize the organization, there won’t be a lot of pain connected to what we’re doing … right now we feel like we’ve taken all the necessary steps we need to take, but there are some uncertainties out there and we may need to take further action,” Metzger said.

The three positions to be eliminated – effective June 30, July 4, and July 7 – are in the Indianapolis service office and the administration office.

Earlier this year, Legal Services Corp. cut $237,000 in funding to ILS. Along with other reductions in funding, ILS is about $300,000 short of the budget approved by the board of directors in March.
 

Norm Metzger mug Metzger

The ILS board authorized the creation of a retrenchment committee to come up with ways to cut spending and make recommendations to the board. Bill Enslen, of Enslen Enslen & Matthews, in Hammond, was appointed as chair of the committee, reprising the role he served during a 2003 retrenchment. That year, ILS trimmed $1 million from its budget.

On June 10, the ILS board voted to adopt some of the committee’s recommendations, and it tabled others.

“The committee agreed that if you can freeze a vacant a position without hindering the delivery of legal services, then we should at least do it on an interim basis,” Metzger said.

“We’ve had a paralegal leave in our South Bend office and for the moment at least, that position is frozen.”

An attorney who left the Bloomington office to accept another job, however, will be replaced by a part-time contract attorney who understands how to work on tax-related matters.

The retrenchment committee asked ILS offices around the state to look for areas where money could be saved. Already on a tight budget, there is little room for savings, although there has been discussion of eliminating cleaning services.

“Should we terminate janitorial services and ask staff to clean the offices?” Metzger asked. He said he thought that it might be an unreasonable request, because ILS pay isn’t ideal anyway. “We pay peanuts to start with,” he said.

Metzger said he asked staff around the state to volunteer to switch from full-time to part-time status. A paralegal in the Evansville office will be part-time as of Aug. 1, an attorney in the New Albany office will go part-time later this year, and some people may move to part-time on Jan. 1, 2012.

Tabled for now but still under consideration are proposals that would reduce the mileage reimbursement rate to less than the federal level, authorize furlough days statewide, and strike the employer contribution to 401K plans.

Metzger said he would not be in favor of furlough days.

“At some point you have to pull back, look at your organization and say, you just can’t keep asking employees to make sacrifices when it almost certainly is better to lay off some people – let them go out and find maybe even better jobs – and let’s preserve the core mission of the organization,” he said.

Despite overall reductions in funding, ILS has seen some additional revenue this year. Several of its Area Agency on Aging grants increased, for a total of $4,000. Two cy pres awards – one from Indiana and one from a firm in Chicago – have amounted to about $8,380 in funds for ILS, and ILS has received $12,500 in attorney fees.

The ILS board meets four times annually – twice in-person and twice via conference call. In an emotionally charged meeting on June 10, board members discussed the possibility of cancelling the December in-person board meeting and training and instead meeting by conference call, Metzger said.

“How do you govern if you can’t see one another? But the reality is that between the board training and board meeting, $17,000 is involved, and one of the board members said, ‘If we don’t do this, we’re gonna have to eliminate jobs.’”

Enslen said that the ILS board members are a dedicated group – of the 51 members, an average of 40 attend the meetings. And some of the members, he said, would qualify for ILS services, due to their income levels.

“It’s not just a lawyer-run organization, and I can honestly tell you that our organization would not be as good as it is if we didn’t have those client-citizen members,” Enslen said.

He said that after the June 10 board meeting, many members – some who are client-eligible – offered to make donations so that ILS could hold its December meeting and training. “I think we’re going to be able to put it together, hopefully,” Enslen said.

ILS still doesn’t know what will happen in July, Enslen added, when Indiana’s Division of State Court Administration is expected to announce how the Civil Legal Aid Fund will be distributed. For the time being, Metzger said that the ILS board and retrenchment committee will wait to see how the cost-cutting steps they’ve taken pan out, and whether more budget cuts are on the horizon next year.

“You’d have to be living under a rock if you think 2012 is not going to be worse than this year,” Metzger said.•

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  1. I have been on this program while on parole from 2011-2013. No person should be forced mentally to share private details of their personal life with total strangers. Also giving permission for a mental therapist to report to your parole agent that your not participating in group therapy because you don't have the financial mean to be in the group therapy. I was personally singled out and sent back three times for not having money and also sent back within the six month when you aren't to be sent according to state law. I will work to het this INSOMM's removed from this state. I also had twelve or thirteen parole agents with a fifteen month period. Thanks for your time.

  2. Our nation produces very few jurists of the caliber of Justice DOUGLAS and his peers these days. Here is that great civil libertarian, who recognized government as both a blessing and, when corrupted by ideological interests, a curse: "Once the investigator has only the conscience of government as a guide, the conscience can become ‘ravenous,’ as Cromwell, bent on destroying Thomas More, said in Bolt, A Man For All Seasons (1960), p. 120. The First Amendment mirrors many episodes where men, harried and harassed by government, sought refuge in their conscience, as these lines of Thomas More show: ‘MORE: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, *575 and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship? ‘CRANMER: So those of us whose names are there are damned, Sir Thomas? ‘MORE: I don't know, Your Grace. I have no window to look into another man's conscience. I condemn no one. ‘CRANMER: Then the matter is capable of question? ‘MORE: Certainly. ‘CRANMER: But that you owe obedience to your King is not capable of question. So weigh a doubt against a certainty—and sign. ‘MORE: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign.’ Id., pp. 132—133. DOUGLAS THEN WROTE: Where government is the Big Brother,11 privacy gives way to surveillance. **909 But our commitment is otherwise. *576 By the First Amendment we have staked our security on freedom to promote a multiplicity of ideas, to associate at will with kindred spirits, and to defy governmental intrusion into these precincts" Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., 372 U.S. 539, 574-76, 83 S. Ct. 889, 908-09, 9 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1963) Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring. I write: Happy Memorial Day to all -- God please bless our fallen who lived and died to preserve constitutional governance in our wonderful series of Republics. And God open the eyes of those government officials who denounce the constitutions of these Republics by arbitrary actions arising out capricious motives.

  3. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  4. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  5. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

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