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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Funding lack cripples MLS

The Micronesian Legal Services disclosed that its annual funding has dropped to a point where it now finds it hard to sustain services to indigent residents needing legal assistance.

MLS director attorney Jane Mack said the agency gets only about $66,000 per year these days—a huge drop when compared to what it used get from the local government several years ago.

Mack said the agency used to get at least $200,000 from the local government in the mid-’90s. With no new budget being enacted in the last three years, Mack said they have been stuck with the same amount every year.

The office has been operating in the CNMI since 1971.

On average, the office serves 800 clients per year, comprising poor and needy members of the community, according to Mack.

She said the number of clients they serve increases every year.

The agency serves as the legal servicing arm of the CNMI community members who cannot afford to hire legal counsels to help them in their cases. However, due to the limited budget it receives from the local government, the agency’s services have also been limited.

MLS is one of eight field offices across the Pacific. The Saipan office currently has three resident lawyers, two paralegal officers and two secretaries.

The Micronesian Legal Services has been selected to be this year’s beneficiary of the upcoming Light in the Eve’s Pineapple Ball, which will be held in February.

Mack said the agency is grateful to the event organizer for choosing them as this year’s beneficiary. She said the donation would tremendously help them in assisting the needy in the CNMI.

She said the office needs a lot of improvement and the money they would get would hopefully allow them to purchase necessary materials and equipment.

"Most of our work is still done manually," Mack said, adding that they hope to get a case management system for the office. With the help of the donation, Mack is hoping to update the software that is essential to helping process the cases of poor people in the Commonwealth.

MLS executive director Tured said the office is partly funded by the local government; the rest comes from the generosity of the community.

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