VIDEO: Less Legal Representation for the Poor as a Result of 26% Sequestration Cut at Guam Legal Services

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Guam – Guam Legal Services Corporation will have to cut its case load, as well as its work hours, to be able to continue operating due to cuts caused by sequestration.

Executive Director Hank Parker says this means that they will have to reprioritize their case loads including those needing protective orders.

The Guam Legal Services Corporation’s budget has been cut by about 26%  because of  the billions of dollars in automatic budget cuts that took effect on March 1st. 

Executive Director Hank Parker explains that the 26% cut was determined, based on Guam’s poverty levels.

“It is based on poverty guidelines and although Guam went up slightly in poverty, it didn’t go up as much as most of the states. So as a result we have a cut from our legal services grant of 26.53 percent,” said Parker.

In addition, Parker says non discretionary funding was already cut by as much as 8.4 percent in the Fiscal Year 2012 budget for the entire Legal Services Corporation.

“Across the board everyboidy in the country or everybody in the non discretionary funding was cut 5.1 percent. However that 5.1 percent was for the entire fiscal year of 2012 and that began last November, last October, so we’re really goinna have to spread that across six months, so now it’s gonna become 8.4 percent,” says Parker.

So what does this mean for Guam’s indigent population needing legal services? Parker says, some may be forced to seek private counsel, which would normally require out-of-pocket expenses.

“The clientele intake will be taking place, normally, we try to do four new intakes a day. It’ll be reduced to three because we won’t have as many people here to cover,” says Parker. “We’ll be reprioritizing to reduce the case load because we are in such a psotion that we will not be able to continue to provide this full [array] of services we were in the past and one of the things we are facing is that our domestic violence grant runs out in August,” notes Parker.

“We have other grants that we can do. Some of it can be done under the GLSC grant and some can be done under disabilities grant. For instance, if a person with disabilities who’s being in need of a protective order may be able to get one under one of those grants,” he adds.

As a last resort, Parker says, some individuals needing protective order services will have to seek legal assistance elsewhere.

“So there will be fewer people who can qualify for those. An end result would be that we don’t anticipate… we would anticipate that we won’t be able to take near as many cases for protective orders,” he says.

“We have emphasized that to the national and asked them to process us as fast as they can. We may even be denied. You never know, you’re not guaranteed a grant,” he states.

Beginning May 20th, GLS new hours will be from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm Monday through Friday. Parker mentions that the Guam Bar Association has encouraged private attorneys to assist by offering pro bono services.