Legal services for the needy

Guam Legal Services Corporation (GLSC) was established on Guam in 1979 to provide civil legal assistance to people with a low-income on Guam. It is a grantee of Legal Services Corporation (LSC), a private nonprofit corporation established by the U.S. Congress in 1974 to fulfill the nation’s goal of securing equal justice for all. LSC currently funds 138 independent programs throughout the United States and its territories, including Micronesia (Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of the Marshall Islands, and Republic of Palau), American Samoa, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

GLSC, located in Hagåtña, was chartered in 1979 and began serving the island in 1981. The first director was Richard G. Opper and the first chairman of the Board of Directors was Ladd Baumann.

GLSC is a non-profit legal assistance corporation run by a board of directors made up of legal professional professionals and the community. It is staffed by part time employees in capacities as attorneys, investigators, social workers and various clerks.

Over the years, GLSC has expanded its programs to provide a number of services to the people of Guam regardless of income. Since 1999, its Disability Law Center has served as the designated Protection and Advocacy (P&A) System on Guam. As an integral part of a national program authorized by the U.S. Congress, GLSC investigates abuse, neglect, and other violations of the civil rights of individuals with physical and/or mental disabilities.

GLSC’s Disability Law Center provides direct representation in legal cases, educates individuals and the community and provides technical assistance regarding the rights of individuals with disabilities through seven distinct programs, all federally funded. Individuals served under these programs need not be low-income, but they must be disabled and encountering a legal problem resulting from that disability. Because not every case can be accepted, selections are based on the degree to which the problem impacts the person’s life, health or safety and the degree to which GLSC has the resources to provide adequate legal representation. GLSC is not likely to represent individuals who can advocate for themselves or who already have recourse through other resources.

PAIMI – Protection and Advocacy for Individual with Mental Illness. This program gives voice to individuals with significant mental or emotional illness in the areas of medical treatment and education. Its priority is to ensure that they are not unduly institutionalized, that treatment is provided in the least restrictive environment free from abuse, neglect and other forms of discrimination.

PADD – Protection and Advocacy for Developmental Disabilities. This program serves individuals with long term disabilities from an early age which substantially limit their ability to care for themselves, to earn a living, or to live independently. Priorities include ensuring that children receive an appropriate education with special education services when needed.

PAIR – Protection and Advocacy for Individual Rights. This program serves individuals with disabilities as defined by the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) to protect and enforce their rights to access public services, public transportation and public benefits and to be free from discrimination in employment.

PAAT – Protection and Advocacy for Assistive Technology. This program advocates for and educates protection and advocacy clients who use assistive technology devices and services. Its priority is to enhance the ability of the individual, their family members and other representatives to influence policies advocating the use of assistive devices and services and to coordinate with other assistive technology programs to that end.

PABSS – Protection and Advocacy for Beneficiaries of Social Security. Serving individuals receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to inform and assist them in obtaining gainful employment through vocational rehabilitation and other support services from employment networks and other service providers. GLSC also investigates complaints against improper or inadequate services by a service provider, employer or other entity involved in an individual’s attempts to return to work.

PATBI – Protection and Advocacy for Traumatic Brain Injury. This program exists to serve those individuals who cannot be assisted through other protection and advocacy programs. Common causes of TBI are automobile and motorcycle accidents, falls by older persons and violent acts including Shaken Baby Syndrome and firearms violence. Funded to begin on Guam in FY 2003, its aim is to help the individual maintain personal decision making power and to enforce their rights to access public benefits and community support services. The program also facilitates meetings of the TBI Advisory Board, a collaborative group of consumers, family, providers and community members who work together to plan and coordinate services. The U.S. Congress established the TBI protection and advocacy program as part of the Children’s Health Act of 2000 as Public Law 106-310.

PAVA – Protection and Advocacy for America to Vote Act. This program provides education, training and assistance to persons covered under ADA to promote their participation in the electoral process.

By Carol Fitch Baulos, JD

For further reading

Guam Legal Services Corporation “About Guam Legal Services Corporation.” (accessed August 12, 2010).

Legal Services Corporation (accessed August 12, 2010).