Linda (not her real name), a member of one of Montana’s Tribal Nations, gave temporary guardianship of her young child to a relative, but later tried to revoke it when the guardian wanted permanent guardianship. The District Court refused to appoint an attorney for Linda. MLSA attorney Mike Eakin helped Linda to file papers with the Montana Supreme Court, asking that a pro bono attorney be appointed in the guardianship case in District Court, since her parental rights were as much as stake as in a termination case, where an attorney would be appointed.
Eventually the Montana Supreme Court ordered the District Court to appoint a pro bono lawyer for Linda, finding that district courts have inherent authority to do so in appropriate cases. Thus, Linda was provided a pro bono attorney who would help protect her parental rights in court.
MLSA’s advocates provide legal aid to Native Americans on and off reservations, in both tribal and state courts.
Advocates help with:
- Civil legal services for issues such as housing, consumer, domestic violence, public benefits, and more.
- Public defender services at the Crow and Fort Belknap reservations.
- Civil advocate services on the Blackfeet and Rocky Boy's reservations.
MLSA advocates collaborate with tribal courts and others to provide on-reservation intake and services that best fit the needs of Native Montanans. MLSA advocates closed 709 cases for tribal members in 2012. Of these, approximately 214 were cases filed in tribal court (many of them criminal cases), 129 involved drafting wills for trust lands, 73 involved custody/visitation, 40 involved collections /repossession /garnishment, 24 were domestic abuse cases, and 22 involved SSI. The remainder involved issues related to consumer, family, housing, public benefits, employment, and more.