A fund to provide legal services to the indigent and elderly has largely gone untouched, so Lyon County Commissioners will consider an ordinance designed to disburse the funds to nonprofit groups that can provide those services.
A public hearing on the ordinance will be held during the regular commissioner's meeting at 9 a.m. Thursday in Yerington.
According to Lyon County District Attorney Leon Aberasturi, the Legislature created a filing fee on district court actions to help fund assistance programs.
"We were collecting the money and have about $80,000 to $100,000 in a fund, and no one applied for it," Aberasturi said.
He added that there were several nonprofit groups that provide those kinds of services to qualifying Lyon County residents, including as Nevada Legal Services and Volunteer Attorneys for Rural Nevada.
Valerie Cooney, project attorney for Volunteer Attorneys for Rural Nevada, said members of her organization will be at the hearing and plan to request funds.
"We service the rural areas," she said. "Most of our services in the rurals are legal services to domestic violence. We are the only organization in the state that does that in the rural counties."
VARN serves several hundred people a year, Cooney said. She added the group will follow whatever procedure the county puts in place.
Lora Myles, an attorney with Carson City's Retired Senior Volunteer Program and Rural Elder Law Program, said she had requested these funds about three years ago and was rebuffed.
"I have asked for it in the past, but was told it was all being paid to Nevada legal services and I would be unable to access it." she said.
Myles said she spoke with someone in the Lyon County Clerk Treasurer's office, but couldn't remember whom.
"I serve 300 seniors in Lyon County, all on a pro bono basis," Myles said. "I do house calls and everything."
Aberasturi said the proposed ordinance will require that any group obtaining funds must be nonprofit, must apply to the county and stipulate what kinds of services will be offered, before they receive the funds.
The statute allows for funding groups that give aid to the elderly and indigent with any legal issues, including landlord-tenant issues, property disputes and divorce.
The proposed ordinance also will stipulate that each time a nonprofit organization providing those services goes to the county with a request for additional funds, they have to detail how any previous disbursement was spent, Aberasturi said.
The amount disbursed will be based on the number of hours spent serving Lyon County residents.
Organizations will be able to appeal disbursement decisions by the commissioners.
He added that the proposed ordinance does not require a means test, but that the individual groups that provide the services do have means requirements.
Cooney said that VARN has means testing for people who participate in the group's pro bono project, matching up needy individuals with lawyers who work for free; and those who receive assistance at VARN's free legal clinics.
But for domestic violence victims there is no financial qualification, she said.
Cooney estimated that in the past two years VARN has served about 130 Lyon County residents, including ongoing cases.
n Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at email@example.com or 882-2111 ext. 351.
If you go
WHAT: Lyon County Commission meeting
WHEN: 9 a.m.
WHERE: 27 S. Main St.,