Indiana Legal Services weathers budget cuts

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

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.•


Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. Especially I would like to see all the republican voting patriotic good ole boys to stop and understand that the wars they have been volunteering for all along (especially the past decade at least) have not been for God & Jesus etc no far from it unless you think George Washington's face on the US dollar is god (and we know many do). When I saw the movie about Chris Kyle, I thought wow how many Hoosiers are just like this guy, out there taking orders to do the nasty on the designated bad guys, sometimes bleeding and dying, sometimes just serving and coming home to defend a system that really just views them as reliable cannon fodder. Maybe if the Christians of the red states would stop volunteering for the imperial legions and begin collecting welfare instead of working their butts off, there would be a change in attitude from the haughty professorial overlords that tell us when democracy is allowed and when it isn't. To come home from guarding the borders of the sandbox just to hear if they want the government to protect this country's borders then they are racists and bigots. Well maybe the professorial overlords should gird their own loins for war and fight their own battles in the sandbox. We can see what kind of system this really is from lawsuits like this and we can understand who it really serves. NOT US.... I mean what are all you Hoosiers waving the flag for, the right of the president to start wars of aggression to benefit the Saudis, the right of gay marriage, the right for illegal immigrants to invade our country, and the right of the ACLU to sue over displays of Baby Jesus? The right of the 1 percenters to get richer, the right of zombie banks to use taxpayer money to stay out of bankruptcy? The right of Congress to start a pissing match that could end in WWIII in Ukraine? None of that crud benefits us. We should be like the Amish. You don't have to go far from this farcical lawsuit to find the wise ones, they're in the buggies in the streets not far away....

  2. Moreover, we all know that the well heeled ACLU has a litigation strategy of outspending their adversaries. And, with the help of the legal system well trained in secularism, on top of the genuinely and admittedly secular 1st amendment, they have the strategic high ground. Maybe Christians should begin like the Amish to withdraw their services from the state and the public and become themselves a "people who shall dwell alone" and foster their own kind and let the other individuals and money interests fight it out endlessly in court. I mean, if "the people" don't see how little the state serves their interests, putting Mammon first at nearly every turn, then maybe it is time they wake up and smell the coffee. Maybe all the displays of religiosity by American poohbahs on down the decades have been a mask of piety that concealed their own materialistic inclinations. I know a lot of patriotic Christians don't like that notion but I entertain it more and more all the time.

  3. If I were a judge (and I am not just a humble citizen) I would be inclined to make a finding that there was no real controversy and dismiss them. Do we allow a lawsuit every time someone's feelings are hurt now? It's preposterous. The 1st amendment has become a sword in the hands of those who actually want to suppress religious liberty according to their own backers' conception of how it will serve their own private interests. The state has a duty of impartiality to all citizens to spend its judicial resources wisely and flush these idiotic suits over Nativity Scenes down the toilet where they belong... however as Christians we should welcome them as they are the very sort of persecution that separates the sheep from the wolves.

  4. What about the single mothers trying to protect their children from mentally abusive grandparents who hide who they truly are behind mounds and years of medication and have mentally abused their own children to the point of one being in jail and the other was on drugs. What about trying to keep those children from being subjected to the same abuse they were as a child? I can understand in the instance about the parent losing their right and the grandparent having raised the child previously! But not all circumstances grant this being OKAY! some of us parents are trying to protect our children and yes it is our God given right to make those decisions for our children as adults!! This is not just black and white and I will fight every ounce of this to get denied

  5. Mr Smith the theory of Christian persecution in Indiana has been run by the Indiana Supreme Court and soundly rejected there is no such thing according to those who rule over us. it is a thought crime to think otherwise.