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Nonprofit legal service closes Shiprock office

Organization's Farmington office will absorb more cases

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times
The office for DNA People's Legal Services Inc. in Shiprock has been closed, as well as other offices for the organization in Crownpoint and Monument Valley, Utah.
  • A DNA board member says a decrease in funding led to the decision to close the offices.
  • DNA helps approximately 4,000 people each year in New Mexico, Arizona and Utah.
  • DNA received $3.3 million from the federal Legal Services Corporation in fiscal year 2016.

FARMINGTON — A nonprofit law firm that provides free civil legal services to low-income people has closed three locations on the Navajo reservation.

DNA People's Legal Services closed its offices in Shiprock and Crownpoint, and in Monument Valley, Utah, on Aug. 18, according to a press release.

Peter Ives, a board member for DNA, said in a telephone interview today the nonprofit law firm has seen a decrease in funds and grants in recent years, and the closures are part of an effort to maintain services for clients.

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As part of the process, the Farmington office at 709 N. Butler Ave. is now handling cases and services from the Shiprock location.

DNA is a 501 (c)(3) legal aid organization that was established in 1967 and provides direct legal assistance, advice and legal representation to people in northwest New Mexico, northern Arizona and southeast Utah.

It helps approximately 4,000 people each year, according to its website.

A sign explaining the closure of a DNA People's Legal Services, Inc. office in Shiprock is posted for visitors.

Ives said DNA receives funding from various agencies, including the U.S. Department of Justice, the Indian Land Tenure Foundation and the Native American Rights Fund, but the majority of its support comes from the Legal Services Corporation. The Legal Services Corporation is a federal agency that provides funding to 133 independent nonprofit legal aid programs in the United States.

DNA received $3.3 million from the federal agency in fiscal year 2016, according to the Legal Services Corporation website.

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Kathryn Fanlund, communications manager for the federal agency, wrote in an email today that DNA received $3.1 million in fiscal year 2017.

Ives said board members are also concerned about a budget proposal submitted by the Trump administration that eliminates financial support for the program.

In July, the appropriations committees in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate approved funding for the Legal Services Corporation for fiscal year 2018, Fanlund wrote.

The offices for DNA People's Legal Services, Inc., is pictured on Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2017 in Shiprock.

She added the amounts, $300 million proposed by the House and $385 million presented by the Senate, have yet to be finalized, but the federal agency has been keeping grantees updated.

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Other sources of funding for DNA come from the Arizona Department of Public Safety, the New Mexico Crime Victims Reparation Commission and the Hopi Tribe, and from legal aid societies in New Mexico, Arizona and Utah, Ives said.

He added the Farmington office receives assistance from the San Juan United Way.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.