Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

December 27, 2013

Legal firm now has nonprofit status

TAHLEQUAH — Cherokee County Legal Services, Inc. provides advice, representation, education and advocacy for those who are too poor to obtain them anywhere else.

Founded May 1, 2012 by Gayle McNamara, the organization recently received their 501c3 nonprofit status.

“We want to be Cherokee County’s community law office:  Affordable, approachable, friendly, and down-to-earth, be responsive to community needs, and address local issues,” said McNamara.

They serve Cherokee County residents who make less than 150 percent of the federal poverty rate. Clients pay an initial consultation fee of $25. If the matter can’t be resolved during the initial consultation, further legal fees are based on income and family size. There is a four-tier fee structure, from $25 per hour to $40 per hour. Fees are paid in advance, and can be spread out over a period of weeks or months, as the case progresses.

“To do what we do, we are always going to have to rely on the community for at least a small part of our support, which is why we are a nonprofit, McNamara said. “Connors State College has blessed us with an intern through their FOCUS program. Lorissa Austin is in the paralegal program. We need a computer so she can do Internet research and word processing. We hope someone who got a new computer for Christmas might be willing to give us a gently-used laptop.”

A walk-in clinic on Saturdays welcomes people without an appointment, and she hopes to open one in Hulbert soon.

McNamara recognizes legal needsin Oklahoma

McNamara said family law is what most people she sees need help with, including. uncontested and contested divorces, paternity cases, modifications of child support, child custody and guardianships.

The second greatest need is provide defense in criminal cases. The remaining cases usually involve small estate planning, wills and trusts, advanced directives for health care, powers of attorney, name changes, property disputes, and consumer issues such as foreclosure and collections. Bankruptcy services will be offered in the near future.

“The situation regarding criminal cases is extremely disturbing. Many people do not know that in Oklahoma a person accused of a crime is no longer automatically eligible for appointed counsel if they bond out of jail,” she said.

“There is a process to request re-consideration, but the application costs money and the applications are frequently denied. Consequently, many people facing serious felony charges face them without representation, leaving them to accept the State’s offer or attempt to conduct a trial by themselves.”

Oklahoma has the highest number of women in prison in the country, and I believe it is because women are the most likely to bond out of jail, and the least likely to have the funds to hire an attorney, she said.

“Oklahoma doesn’t have any more criminals than any other state – they just have fewer people who are accused of crime who have access to representation,” said McNamara.

She also believes there is a need to educate young people about the consequences of having children when they are too young to provide for them.

“Young men are ignorant of the issues surrounding paternity and their responsibility to support their children, even if they are not married. Young women don’t understand the consequences of relying on the government to support their children. This results in needless heartache and misery, for the parents, the children, and the community,” she said.

The issue of legal representation for the poor is a serious one.

“People lose their freedom, their children, their livelihoods and their possessions because they don’t have the money to hire legal counsel,” she said.  

To really do what we are designed to do, we need another attorney, she said, but attorneys who are committed to practicing poverty law are difficult to find.

“I would like to see Oklahoma lead the country, and prove Oklahomans really understand the Pledge of Allegiance and are committed to making “liberty and justice for all” a reality in their communities,” McNamara said

 “If we had all the money in the world, it would be great to be able to outfit a mobile law office that could travel to some of the outlying communities, since many clients do not have transportation. We could provide research and communications options for clients, especially the elderly, who do not have access to a computer, the Internet, or even reliable telephone service.”

Cherokee County Legal Services Inc. is located in the Habitat for Humanity building at 816 S. College Avenue.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • jn-WEB-truck-fire.jpg Up in flames

    Truck fire could impact city’s trash services

    Operations at Tahlequah’s solid waste transfer station will be impacted by the loss of a 2008 Freightliner destroyed by fire Wednesday night.

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • svw-gasoline.jpg Ethanol or regular gasoline? Dealers, mechanics disagree over what’s best

    Oklahoma is one of the few states with refineries producing pure gasoline and E10.

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • NSU-fountain.jpg University heads in Oklahoma average $216,000 per year

    First in a three-part series about higher education compensation and how it compares with pay for rest of the state

    For years, area legislators, administrators of state agencies and state employees have been critical of cuts to programs and flat budgets. But while programs may be shaved and salaries for higher education professors may be stagnant, administrative costs seem to be exploding on many campuses.

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • ishcomer-elizabeth.jpg Woman picked up for child endangerment

    A 41-year-old woman was released from jail this week after Tahlequah officers arrested her on child endangerment and drug charges.

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • mcgregor-michael.jpg Two jailed after false 911 report made

    Two people were jailed Wednesday after a woman allegedly made a false report to 911 dispatchers.

    August 1, 2014 2 Photos

  • TPS looking to fill several positions before school starts

    The Tahlequah I-35 Board of Education held a special meeting last night, to bring more certified personnel and support staff on board before school starts.

    August 1, 2014

  • svw-beagles-MAIN.jpg Going to the dogs

    Hounds at center stage for more than just Red Fern Festival

    Larry Blackman and Titus Blanket have always loved dogs, especially beagles. In their respective roles as president and vice president of the Cherokee County Beagle Club, they’ve turned that love into a passion.

    July 31, 2014 2 Photos

  • sanders-jeri.jpg Murder charge against mother of dead boy, 3, dismissed

    A first-degree murder charge has been dropped against a 37-year-old mother accused in the death of her 3-year-old son.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • supersalary.jpg Okla. superintendents paid comparatively well; teachers 46th lowest

    Administrators say they work year-round, have other duties

    As public education in Oklahoma continues to feel the pinch of a shrinking state budget, watchdog groups and district patrons across the state are asking whether superintendents are getting a disproportionate piece of the financial pie.

    July 31, 2014 2 Photos

  • Boards keep city, county afloat

    City and county officials rely on a variety of boards to oversee diverse and complex issues, and many of their members work behind the scenes to keep the wheels of government oiled and turning.
    The city of Tahlequah currently has 10 boards and three trust authorities. Cherokee County has two county-specific boards.

    July 31, 2014

Poll

Do you think "blue laws" related to Sunday alcohol sales in Oklahoma should be relaxed? Choose the option that most closely reflects your opinion.

Alcoholic drinks should be sold Sundays in restaurants and bars, and liquor stores should be open.
Alcoholic drinks should be sold Sundays in restaurants and bars only; liquor stores should stay closed.
Liquor stores should be open Sundays, but drinks should not be served anywhere on Sundays.
The law should remain as it is now; liquor stores should be closed, and drinks should be served on Sundays according to county option.
No alcohol should be sold or served publicly on Sundays.
Undecided.
     View Results
Tahlequah Daily Press Twitter
Follow us on twitter
AP Video
Renewed Violence Taking Toll on Gaza Residents 2 Americans Detained in North Korea Seek Help US Employers Add 209K Jobs, Rate 6.2 Pct House GOP Optimistic About New Border Bill Gaza Truce Unravels; Israel, Hamas Trade Blame Raw: Tunisia Closes Borders With Libya Four Rescued From Crashed Plane Couple Channel Grief Into Soldiers' Retreat WWI Aviation Still Alive at Aerodrome in NY Raw: Rescuers at Taiwan Explosion Scene Raw: Woman Who Faced Death Over Faith in N.H. Clinton Before 9-11: Could Have Killed Bin Laden Netanyahu Vows to Destroy Hamas Tunnels Obama Slams Republicans Over Lawsuit House Leaders Trade Blame for Inaction
Stocks