Who we are
Micronesian Legal Services Corporation (MLSC) is a non-profit corporation established in 1970 to provide low income persons in Micronesia with free legal assistance in civil matters. Our service area covers islands scattered through an area that is approximately three thousand miles from east to west and one thousand miles from north to south, which is larger than the continental United States geographic area! MLSC is governed by a nine member board of directors and has offices in four countries: the Republic of Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
MLSC staff have been working for over 40 years to improve the lives of people throughout Micronesia by helping people solve important legal problems.
At MLSC, we believe in a Micronesia where all people are treated fairly and with respect; where government and institutions are accountable even to the most vulnerable among us; where those who need legal services the most get the highest quality assistance to better their lives; where justice and fairness for all, even the poor, is the standard not only in our courts but in every community; and where communities thrive under democratic principles.
Our mission is to promote equal access to justice and to provide high quality civil legal assistance to low income people. MLSC improves the lives of the people of Micronesia by helping them solve important legal problems; and strengthens communities through advocacy.
MLSC has offices throughout Micronesia, including Palau, Commonwealth of Northern Marianas (Saipan) in each of the four states of the Federated States of Micronesia (Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei, and Kosrae), and in the Marshall Islands (Majuro and Ebeye). Our central administrative office is located in Saipan.
We have a total staff of 42, including secretaries, trial counselors, paralegals, attorneys, and our administrative staff.
MLSC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, governed by a 9-member board of directors, with at least one director representing each of the regions in which we have offices.
MLSC never charges for our services to the community. All our services are always free. MLSC is supported by by several sources, including each of the governments in which we have offices, the U.S. Legal Services Corporation, other institutional and government grants, and by individual donations.
Our Board sets priorities for use of MLSC resources each year. For 2016, MLSC has adopted the following priorities:
• Support for Families
• Preserving the Home
• Maintaining Economic Stability
• Safety, Stability, and Health
• Populations with Special Vulnerabilities
• Delivery of Legal Services (including outreach, community education, and collaboration.
The primary strategies MLSC uses for implementing these priorities include provision of direct legal services to low income persons, free of charge; collaboration with agencies and institutions; and outreach and community education.
Persons are eligible for free legal assistance from MLSC if their household income is below 125% of the U.S. Federal Poverty Guidelines for Hawaii and whose assets do not exceed specified amounts.
However, due to limited resources, MLSC is not able to help all persons who are eligible and need free legal assistance in civil matters; MLSC has adopted the following case acceptance considerations to guide us in deciding which cases we should accept.
o Is the case within organization and local office priorities? If so, what is the degree of importance given to a case of this type within an office's priorities?
o The merits of the case—do we think we can we resolve the case to the client’s satisfaction?
o Availability of other resources to assist—can we refer?
o Capacity to handle this case—do we have the skills and knowledge to provide quality services in this case?
o How much resource (staff time) will be required of us?
o Impact of the case for the client: what will our services mean for this client?
o Impact of the case for the community: will working on this case positively affect others besides the client?
o The potential consequences to individuals with that type of legal problem if only limited representation or non-representational assistance is offered?
o Are attorney’s fees available?
o Does this case provide an opportunity for professional development of staff?
In 2015, we closed a total number of 6,091 cases, and so doing MLSC staff provided legal assistance to persons in households that included 14,203 adults and 13,006 children, for a total number of all persons served of 27,209--over 10% of the entire population of Micronesia.