- Associated Press - Friday, August 18, 2017

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) - A law firm that for years has provided free legal services to low-income people in the Southwest and won groundbreaking cases for Native Americans is closing three of its nine offices.

The firm called DNA is closing New Mexico offices in Crownpoint and Shiprock, and a Utah office in Monument Valley, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported (https://bit.ly/2whxJ0l ).

Santa Fe attorney Richard Hughes, who once worked for the firm, called the loss of the offices huge because DNA has “provided Native people with a way to have their voices heard on important legal issues.”

“To lose access to legal advice and representation is tragic,” Hughes said.

The firm provides Navajo Nation and other native populations that suffer from significant poverty with hope, Santa Fe City Councilor Peter Ives said.

“They have a host of needs, and DNA is there to try to make sure their needs are met if they involved legal issues,” Ives said.

The organization, established in 1967, provides legal assistance to nearly 4,000 people annually in northwest New Mexico, northeast Arizona and southeast Utah. It already has had to turn away one of every two people seeking help because of limited funds.

“We have been spending a little more than we have coming in, in grants,” Ives said.

Ives said DNA is waiting to see the budget for the federal Legal Services Corporation, from which it receives major funding. The Trump administration has been trying to zero out the corporation’s budget.

DNA also has been exploring the possibility of securing other grants and “upping the game of private fundraising,” but that has proven difficult, he said.

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