In Maine, the legal needs of low-income Mainers who face criminal charges, or are involved in child protective proceedings, are handled by court-appointed lawyers and overseen by the Maine Commission on Indigent Legal Services.

A different group of nonprofit organizations handles civil legal needs, including common problems such as divorce, eviction, protection from abuse, debt collection, foreclosure, government benefits, employment issues and the like. This group includes Pine Tree Legal Assistance, Legal Services for the Elderly, Maine Volunteer Lawyers Project, Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project and Maine Equal Justice.

We worry that recent headlines suggesting mismanagement of “legal services for the poor” are confusing your readers. The plain truth is that no one is suggesting that civil legal services for the poor are being mismanaged.

Our group has a long history of working together to maximize access to high-quality civil legal services throughout Maine, despite perennial funding challenges. We are proud of our ability to stretch limited dollars as far as possible to help Mainers realize the pledge of “justice for all” in legal matters before a court or administrative agency. Three of our nonprofits (Pine Tree Legal Assistance, Legal Services for the Elderly and Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project) have even achieved a Platinum rating from the charity watchdog GuideStar.

We invite readers to learn more about our important responsibilities by visiting our websites and talking with our staff and boards of directors.

Nan Heald


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