ILNews

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.

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
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

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Indiana State Bar Association

Indianapolis Bar Association

Evansville Bar Association

Allen County Bar Association

Indiana Lawyer on Facebook

facebook
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

ADVERTISEMENT