Legal services program shutting its doors

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

A long-standing legal services organization in northeastern Indiana is closing its doors because of a lack of funding.

Legal Services of Maumee Valley has been struggling to stay open for the past six to eight years, but the last two years have been particularly difficult, said business manager Steven Morgan. The clinic has served the community for nearly 50 years. He said the only reason the legal services organization was able to stay open over the past year was because the former executive director, Ralph Adams, volunteered his time to take cases.

The organization ceased having a paid attorney in summer 2007 and funds for the organization went to pay rent, utilities, and Morgan's salary, as he is the only paid staff member.

Legal Services of Maumee Valley began in 1960 and grew to serve 11 counties in northeast Indiana at one point, although typically the organization served seven to nine counties: Adams, Allen, Dekalb, Huntington, LaGrange, Noble, Steuben, Wells, and Whitley.

The group took financial hits in the 1980s and 1990s when Congress voted to slash funding of legal services corporations, leaving legal services groups in the state to vie for the one federally funded program. Indiana Legal Services was chosen to receive the funding, Morgan said.

"The funding was never adequate to do the job completely, and that's still true," he said. The organization has since relied on state funding, but even that money has dwindled over the years as additional legal services groups have entered Allen and surrounding counties and the funds are now divided four ways.

At its peak, Legal Services of Maumee Valley had more than $700,000 to spend in a fiscal year; this year, the organization is operating on a budget of less than $60,000.

"One of the saddest things is I think that we might have been able to remain open had we just another $10,000 or $15,000 a year," Morgan said. "We were doing a lot with very little because we were using the volunteer services of a few attorneys. But it did reach a point where the board said we just don't believe we can adequately and responsibly handle any more work."

The board made the decision in August and Legal Services of Maumee Valley stopped accepting referrals for general work at the end of September. The organization remains open for people seeking information on housing and utility issues until the day before Thanksgiving.

Morgan said the organization is offering to return any documents or files to past or current clients through Oct. 31; after that, they will preserve only the most recent files and destroy the rest. They are also referring people to the Volunteer Lawyer Program of Northeast Indiana, Indiana Legal Services, Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic, and the Allen County Bar Association.

Morgan notes that this time in the U.S. economy, when it appears the country may head into a recession, is the worst time for a legal services organization to cease operations.

"The need for legal assistance by people who don't have funds to hire an attorney is increasing right now, and the ability to deliver services to these people is decreasing because we are going away," he 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. Lori, you must really love wedding cake stories like this one ... happy enuf ending for you?

  2. This new language about a warning has not been discussed at previous meetings. It's not available online. Since it must be made public knowledge before the vote, does anyone know exactly what it says? Further, this proposal was held up for 5 weeks because members Carol and Lucy insisted that all terms used be defined. So now, definitions are unnecessary and have not been inserted? Beyond these requirements, what is the logic behind giving one free pass to discriminators? Is that how laws work - break it once and that's ok? Just don't do it again? Three members of Carmel's council have done just about everything they can think of to prohibit an anti-discrimination ordinance in Carmel, much to Brainard's consternation, I'm told. These three 'want to be so careful' that they have failed to do what at least 13 other communities, including Martinsville, have already done. It's not being careful. It's standing in the way of what 60% of Carmel residents want. It's hurting CArmel in thT businesses have refused to locate because the council has not gotten with the program. And now they want to give discriminatory one free shot to do so. Unacceptable. Once three members leave the council because they lost their races, the Carmel council will have unanimous approval of the ordinance as originally drafted, not with a one free shot to discriminate freebie. That happens in January 2016. Why give a freebie when all we have to do is wait 3 months and get an ordinance with teeth from Day 1? If nothing else, can you please get s copy from Carmel and post it so we can see what else has changed in the proposal?

  3. Here is an interesting 2012 law review article for any who wish to dive deeper into this subject matter: Excerpt: "Judicial interpretation of the ADA has extended public entity liability to licensing agencies in the licensure and certification of attorneys.49 State bar examiners have the authority to conduct fitness investigations for the purpose of determining whether an applicant is a direct threat to the public.50 A “direct threat” is defined as “a significant risk to the health or safety of others that cannot be eliminated by a modification of policies, practices or procedures, or by the provision of auxiliary aids or services as provided by § 35.139.”51 However, bar examiners may not utilize generalizations or stereotypes about the applicant’s disability in concluding that an applicant is a direct threat.52"

  4. We have been on the waiting list since 2009, i was notified almost 4 months ago that we were going to start receiving payments and we still have received nothing. Every time I call I'm told I just have to wait it's in the lawyers hands. Is everyone else still waiting?

  5. I hope you dont mind but to answer my question. What amendment does this case pretain to?