A regional non-profit organization that provides legal services to the poor says demand is growing, just as its budget is shrinking. The economy is blamed for a spike in the number of civil lawsuits, including bankruptcies and foreclosures but there's a companion issue as well - people who are in financial straights often can't afford lawyers, forcing them to turn to places like Community Legal Aid.
Board President Richard Kuhn, a Canton attorney, says they received 90,000 phone calls last year, processed 27,000 applications for assistance and actually completed 10,700 cases. Self-representation often slows the process, making court dockets even more crowded. Judges in some states are asking attorneys to do more free work.
"We just don't have the attorneys that are needed to cover all the case," said Kuhn.
Kuhn says the demand for services is high, but money to pay for them is not. Funding to Community Legal Aid has been cut 31% to $5.1 million since 2007.
"And we're looking for another hit next year," said Kuhn.
Community Legal Aid covers several counties stretching from Wayne to Meigs.
There are calls from some judges in other parts of the country to lawyers to offer more free work. Kuhn says most attorneys already donate services, so it can be difficult to determine when they've done their share.