January 14, 2009
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Washington, DC - The Legal Services Corporation has awarded a grant to Choctaw Legal Defense to provide civil legal services for the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, a federally recognized tribe with nearly 10,000 members.
Choctaw Legal Defense will receive a one-year grant of $80,718. The program had provided civil legal aid to Native Americans from 2001 through 2006 under a subgrant from the Mississippi Center for Legal Services, which is funded by LSC.
In applying for the grant, Choctaw Legal Defense said it expected to handle family law cases, such as divorces and child support, bankruptcies and debt collection disputes, and issues arising from the unique and specialized legal needs of Native Americans, who are governed by tribal law and complex federal laws.
Rita Jones will serve as executive director of the program. She is a Choctaw Indian and has served as a staff attorney for the Choctaw program. The program, which has been an agency of the tribal government of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, will establish a policy board to oversee program operations and to ensure compliance with LSC regulations.
"We welcome Choctaw Legal Defense as an LSC grantee and believe that the program will be a meaningful provider of civil legal aid to Native Americans," Helaine M. Barnett, the president of LSC, said.
Rita Jones said, "We are very appreciative of this generous grant from the Legal Services Corporation. This grant will allow us to reach more Indian people in Mississippi on civil legal matters and allow us to increase the number of cases we handle. With the economic downturn, we are already seeing an increased need for legal representation in bankruptcy, collection court, domestic relations, housing, and employment."
LSC is a congressionally funded nonprofit organization that provides grants to 137 programs with more than 920 offices across the country. The Corporation has a dual mission: to promote equal access to justice in the nation and to provide high-quality civil legal assistance to low-income persons.