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PNS Daily Newscast - December 14, 2018 


The Senate votes to withdraw funding for the Saudi war in Yemen. Also on the Friday rundown: the Global Climate Conference reinforces the need for grassroots movements; and could this be the most wasteful time of year?

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One Year In, Legal Services for Low-Income Folks Soar in Northeast ND

Legal Services of North Dakota's Grand Forks office is helping low-income clients in cases ranging from custody to potential eviction. (University of North Dakota)
Legal Services of North Dakota's Grand Forks office is helping low-income clients in cases ranging from custody to potential eviction. (University of North Dakota)
October 1, 2018

GRAND FORKS, N.D. – Legal services for low-income and older North Dakotans expanded to the northeastern part of the state a year ago.

In that time, the Grand Forks office of Legal Services of North Dakota has seen a huge increase in cases, from 2 to about 130 – a sign that affordable legal aid is greatly needed in this part of the state.

The office helps with many issues, including assistance getting disability benefits and custody cases.

Breezy Schmidt, managing attorney of the Grand Forks office, says housing also is becoming a big issue and the stakes can be high if people can't defend themselves.

"Basically, they're just at a loss,” she states. “They don't have any ability to defend themselves, they don't know anything about the law, and so they end up being evicted, they end up becoming homeless, they end up having huge money judgments entered against them because they have no one to say, 'Hey, wait a minute. The landlord is wrong because of X, Y, Z.'"

The legal aid program is the main source of help for people who can't afford an attorney in North Dakota. It receives funding through the federal government, private grants and occasionally donations and state grants.

The Grand Forks office moved onto the University of North Dakota campus last August.

Schmidt says the connection with the University of North Dakota is important. The office has taken on law students, exposing them to work with low-income clients – a side of the law they may not typically see.

"I have received very positive feedback, and so we hope to continue helping future law students to gain that hands-on experience and also to provide us that extra helping hand that we need to serve more low-income and disadvantaged individuals," she states.

Legal Services of North Dakota also has offices in Bismarck, Fargo and Minot. And there are offices in Belcourt and New Town serving Native American clients.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ND