2012 Pro Bono Awards
Alaska’s legal services providers - Alaska Legal Services, Corporation, Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, and the Alaska Immigration Justice Project - select each year a private practitioner and a firm that has donated extraordinary time, resources and talents to pro bono efforts in Alaska.
Retired Judge Rene Gonzalez
Most pro bono volunteers come to their work in response to a desperate plea from one of the providers but not Rene Gonzalez. After retiring from the bench in 2003 he took the initiative to contact the agencies to volunteer after years of seeing so many unrepresented—many with little to no English speaking skills—litigants trying to navigate the court system. In the last nine years Judge Gonzalez has represented 14 clients in cases involving domestic violence, divorce, custody, and protection orders primarily for Hispanic clients. In addition he helped create the Pro Bono Spanish Committee that launched the Spanish speaking legal hotline through Alaska Legal Services Corporation to help Alaskans understand how to access the legal system.
Judge Gonzalez has not been alone in his efforts: his wife Anne acts as his office manager and legal assistant that assists with each case. The Gonzalez’s have truly made this a labor of love for Alaskans in need.
Atkinson Conway & Gagnon—Firm
2005 was a big year for the firm of Atkinson Conway & Gagnon: their 30 year anniversary and a leap out of their comfort zone to take on an area of law completely new to them. Responding to the great need for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault to have representation at long term protection hearings, they agreed to start a novel project to take on these cases in exchange for mentoring and training by the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. Under the leadership of firm partners Pat Gilmore and Chris Slottee, the firm has represented 26 clients who have obtained long term protective orders and thus, long term safety for their families. The project has served as a reliable source of pro bono work important to the firm, especially as they train new associates and it is not unusual for the dedicated attorneys to drop everything and come at a moment’s notice to help a victim with an upcoming hearing. We are very grateful for their service.
Anchorage Bar Association’s Young Lawyer Section
This award is more than 10 years in the making. During this time the Young Lawyers’ Section has performed countless hours of pro bono service on behalf of Alaskans. Their presence and action is seen everywhere it counts: projects for Alaska Legal Service Corporation’s community legal education clinics, Attorney for the Day devoted to family law issues, the former Tuesday night Bar clinic, and elder law clinics at the Senior Center. They routinely run announcements for pro bono cases within their membership that are often placed. They have been involved with the Bar’s statewide MLK Day project for the last three years assisting with community outreach, intake triage, and client assistance navigating the event. Their contribution this year alone included 20 volunteers, totaling 77 hours of volunteer service equaling $5,500 worth of donated services. They are well known for their generosity in serving meals at Bean’s Café, raising money for Anchorage Youth Court, and most recently beautifying the new office space for the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence.
Good things come in threes. For instance, Andy Harrington is the third person to receive an award in this category. And he’s a triple threat when it comes to doing good work: former Executive Director of Alaska Legal Services Corporation, co-chair of the Robert Hickerson Partners in Justice Campaign, and current pro bono volunteer. In fact, when Andy started his new job at the AG’s office, he also began work on two pro bono cases AND joined the newly formed in-house pro bono committee for the AG work force. His commitment to serving Alaskans is deeply rooted and he shares his talents in many ways; from mentoring new pro bono volunteers, reviewing training materials, providing service at the MLK Day events, and infusing every one of those efforts with humor, intelligence and sometimes even song.