Monday, October 18, 2010

Rota and Tinian Outreach Project

The Marianas Office of Micronesian Legal Services has started a one-year project of increased service to Rota and Tinian. “We’re happy to announce that we will be visiting Rota and Tinian much more frequently,” said Jane Mack, Directing Attorney. MLSC provides free legal services in civil cases to low-income people in the CNMI. The outreach project was made possible by federal earmark funding obtained for MLSC by Congressman Gregorio (Kilili) Sablan.

New office space in Tinian: photo by Janet King

“We have always provided service to Rota and Tinian,” Mack said. “We take telephone intakes and exchange documents by fax and e-mail, but our on-island visits have been limited to once a month.” With the new federal earmark, MLSC will increase visits to 3 or 4 times each month during the one-year project term.

It was a long process to get this special funding for MLSC. “The work to obtain this funding began in April 2009 when I submitted a proposal on behalf of Micronesian Legal Services Corporation to the Approriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies,” Congressman Sablan said in a letter to MLSC. “There are literally tens of thousands of these requests from the 441 members of the House of Representatives, so it was a very competitive process.”

The Marianas Office receives most of its funding from the federal government through the Legal Services Corporation, and it has also received some local government support. “We’ve been fortunate that the local CNMI government has helped us,” Mack said. “Even in the years when the CNMI local government has not been able to provide us direct funding, it has allowed us the use of office space convenient to the people in our community.” When this one year project ends, the Marianas Office will continue to provide legal representation to the residents of Rota and Tinian in the usual way with its LSC funding and local support.

Under the outreach project, MLSC attorney Dimitri Varmazis will provide service to Rota, while attorney Linda Wingenbach visits Tinian. Paralegal Polly Anne Sablan will visit both islands to work on US citizenship and immigration status issues.

Mr. Varmazis has scheduled visits to Rota at the Courthouse for Friday October 22; Friday, November 5 (with Polly Anne); Tuesday, November 9; and Thursday, November 18. “We’ll be looking for office space in Rota to make our services conveniently available to everyone,” Varmazis said.

The Marianas Office has already obtained office space in Tinian at the first floor of the PM Building (about halfway between JC Café and the courthouse). Ms. Wingenbach has scheduled visits to Tinian for Wednesday, October 20 (with Polly Anne); Thursday, October 28; Wednesday, November 3; Wednesday, November 10; and Friday, November 19, 2010. “It’s fantastic that the people of Tinian can now have increased access to justice,” said Wingenbach.

Linda Wingenbach at her desk in Tinian: photo by Janet King.

Clients and applicants can set appointments for Rota or Tinian by calling the Marianas Office in Saipan. Walk-in clients and applicants are also permitted, although people may have to wait if they don’t have an appointment.

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