2008 Pro Bono Awards
Alaska’s legal services providers - Alaska Pro Bono Program, Alaska Legal Services, Corporation, Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault and the Pro Bono Asylum Project - select each year a private practitioner and a firm that has donated extraordinary time, resources and talents to pro bono efforts in Alaska.
Private Practitioner Award: Phillip Eide
Since 2004, Phillip has been dedicated to providing pro bono services by representing asylum seekers. Initially through the now defunct Pro Bono Asylum Project housed at Catholic Social Services, Phillip continued his commitment to this work by assisting the Alaska Immigration Justice Project when it was formed in 2006.
Phillip’s asylum cases have been extraordinarily complicated because all of the asylum seekers have been from a remote part of Mexico and speak an indigenous language. He has search the United States looking for and then paying for an interpreter capable of interpreting Triqui, his clients’ first language, into Spanish and then into English.
Each case has involved complex areas of immigration law and Phillip continues to rise to each challenge. His current case is pending in the 9th Circuit where he is seeking an en banc decision and working with the American Immigration Lawyer’s Association.
Firm award: Davis Wright and Tremaine
True to its mission, the law firm of Davis Wright and Tremaine remains one of the top pro bono service providers in Alaska. In fact, it would be an anomaly if one of their attorneys did not participate in pro bono and that’s the kind of business culture that we love to see.
Their involvement is too lengthy to fully detail in our time here tonight but I want to share some highlights with you:
- Robert K. Stewart, Jr. of Davis Wright Tremaine has served as the Chair of the Alaska Bar Association’s Pro Bono Service Committee since 2005. During his tenure the committee strived to ripen the culture of law firms’ pro bono involvement. Much to the Alaska Bar’s Pro Bono Director’s delight and amusement, Bob Stewart coined the term "lightening rod" to describe and encourage law firms to assign a firm contact that legal services providers could contact to help them place cases. Saving them precious time from making numerous phone calls allows them to do more direct service work.
- The firm’s involvement with the vision, founding, and leadership of the Alaska Immigration Justice Project has included firm members assisting with bylaw development, corporate structure strategizing, corporate counsel, and Board of Director service. Their work, especially that of Bob Stewart, has ensured that the organization is a sustainable, innovative and extraordinarily successful non-profit serving Alaskans.
- The firm routinely steps up to assist in cases involving domestic violence. A common partner with the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, two cases within the last year proved to be extremely difficult. The firm assisted a shelter program avoid an enormous tax liability and another case found an associate helping a client regain custody from an abusive father and his family.
That’s how the folks at Davis Wright Tremaine are: responsive, compassionate and always ready to help.
Lifetime Achievement: Ashburn and Mason
In 20 years only one other law firm has earned this distinguished title as the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement award for their pro bono service. The firm of Ashburn and Mason are clearly no strangers to the world of giving back to their community by using their legal skills.
Collectively they have donated countless - easily in the hundreds - hours to the clients with immigration issues. They are a signature law firm in Alaska that represents abused and neglected immigrant children who have no immigration documents and must navigate the complex intersection of immigration and juvenile dependency law. Several of the children they have represented proved themselves to be stellar students and have gone on to college.
In addition to immigrant children, firm member Bill Saupe has represented asylum seekers from El Salvador, Gambia and Liberia. The firm has been 100% successful in their representation of immigrants and was also closely involved with the formation of the Alaska Immigration Justice Project.