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Legal services program shutting its doors

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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.

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  1. Please I need help with my class action lawsuits, im currently in pro-se and im having hard time findiNG A LAWYER TO ASSIST ME

  2. Access to the court (judiciary branch of government) is the REAL problem, NOT necessarily lack of access to an attorney. Unfortunately, I've lived in a legal and financial hell for the past six years due to a divorce (where I was, supposedly, represented by an attorney) in which I was defrauded of settlement and the other party (and helpers) enriched through the fraud. When I attempted to introduce evidence and testify (pro se) in a foreclosure/eviction, I was silenced (apparently on procedural grounds, as research I've done since indicates). I was thrown out of a residence which was to be sold, by a judge who refused to allow me to speak in (the supposedly "informal") small claims court where the eviction proceeding (by ex-brother-in-law) was held. Six years and I can't even get back on solid or stable ground ... having bank account seized twice, unlawfully ... and now, for the past year, being dragged into court - again, contrary to law and appellate decisions - by former attorney, who is trying to force payment from exempt funds. Friday will mark fifth appearance. Hopefully, I'll be allowed to speak. The situation I find myself in shouldn't even be possible, much less dragging out with no end in sight, for years. I've done nothing wrong, but am watching a lot of wrong being accomplished under court jurisdiction; only because I was married to someone who wanted and was granted a divorce (but was not willing to assume the responsibilities that come with granting the divorce). In fact, the recalcitrant party was enriched by well over $100k, although it was necessarily split with other actors. Pro bono help? It's a nice dream ... but that's all it is, for too many. Meanwhile, injustice marches on.

  3. Both sites mentioned in the article appear to be nonfunctional to date (March 28, 2017). http://indianalegalanswers.org/ returns a message stating the "server is taking too long to respond" and http://www.abafreelegalasnswers.org/ "can't find the server". Although this does not surprise me, it is disheartening to know that access to the judicial branch of government remains out of reach for too many citizens (for procedural rather than meritorious reasons) of Indiana. Any updates regarding this story?

  4. I've been denied I appeal court date took a year my court date was Nov 9,2016 and have not received a answer yet

  5. Warsaw indiana dcs lying on our case. We already proved that in our first and most recent court appearance i need people to contact me who have evidence of dcs malpractice please email or facebook nathaniel hollett thank you

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