Excerpt from ALSC President's Report
ALSC . . . and justice for all
By Loni Levy
THE NEW PRO BONO PROGRAM FAQ
Q. What is the new pro bono program?
A. The Alaska Pro Bono Program, Inc. (APBP) was incorporated in March of this year with the assistance of Sue Mason of Dorsey & Whitney. Its current Board of Directors is co-equal with the ALSC Board, but we anticipate expanding the board of the new organization to include representatives of the bench, bar and stakeholder groups.
Q. Why was APBP created?
A. In years past, the pro bono program was operated and administered by ALSC, using funds provided by the Alaska Bar Foundation and others. In 1996, Congress imposed restrictions on entities receiving federal funds including ALSC which effectively restricted the use of virtually all other funds received by ALSC, regardless of the source of funding. Thus funds supporting the ALSC pro bono program were suddenly encumbered by these federal restrictions which included, but were not limited to, a flat prohibition on claiming and receiving attorneys fees, on representing prisoners and most aliens, on handling class actions, redistricting and welfare reform cases, and legislative and administrative advocacy.1
ALSC?s challenge to these restrictions, reported in earlier columns, resulted in adoption of regulations permitting LSC entities to establish separate and distinct pro bono programs. After many months of study and dialogue, and with the guidance provided by the American Bar Association?s Committee on Pro Bono, the ALSC Board and staff decided it was necessary to ?liberate? the pro bono program.
Q. So what is really ?new??
A. The new APBP can accept a much wider variety of cases than could the old pro bono program, and therefore meet the substantial needs of those who depend upon pro bono legal services but were not being served.
The office and phone and fax numbers are also new; APBP is located at 3300 Arctic Blvd., Suite 103 B, Anchorage Alaska 99503. The new phone is: 565-4300; toll free: 1-888-831-1531.The fax is: 565-4317.
An open house will be held on Thursday, September 28th from 4:30 to 6:30 and we cordially invite all bar members and other friends and supporters of pro bono to attend.
Even the furnishings are new, thanks to the generous donations of furniture and equipment from the Disability Law Center, Rhonda Fehlen, Hughes Thorsness Powell Huddlestone, & Bauman, Southcentral Foundation and Shelaine Thompson. APBP is still looking for a donation of a conference table and eight chairs, so if you have one, let us know.
Maria Elena Walsh, former ALSC pro bono co-ordinator, is the new APBP Executive Director and Christina Borge is the new APBP operations director.
Q. Have any other changes been made in the delivery of pro bono services?
A. Yes. John Treptow, who is in charge of pro bono assignments at Dorsey & Whitney has graciously committed to providing an ?attorney of the day? every week for six months to help APBP with intake and referral. John intends to be active in the stakeholders committee which will consist of private social services agencies along with public agencies whose constituencies often require pro bono services.
Q. How can I help?
A. You can join the APBP panel and become one of the many attorneys who are making big differences in the lives of low income Alaskans. Like Frank Nosek who helped two sets of elderly clients about to lose their homes in municipal tax deficiency sales by negotiating settlements in their favor. And Robert J. Bredesen who fought an unlawful eviction notice served on an 82 year old client with multiple disabilities. And Joseph Pollock who handled a landlord/tenant referral and engaged the help of his friends and relatives to physically relocate his clients to a new, safe home. Or Michael Grisham of Patton Boggs LLP who not only has been conducting a bi-lingual Spanish English general law clinic for the pro bono program, but has also assisted a young mother of two small children in defeating unmeritorious claims for repairs to her trailer home. Or you can join the other attorneys and firms who have been conducting free legal clinics throughout the summer months, despite the sunny evenings, including Marcia Davis, Sally Hinkley, James M. Shine, Mendel & Associates, Ken Kirk, Delaney, Wiles, Hayes, Gerety, Ellis & Young, Michael Shaeffer and Sean Maltbie/Assistant Staff Judge Advocate (EAFB).
Q. How else can I help?
A. You can petition the Alaska Bar Association to adopt the approach of the New York state judiciary which has recently allowed attorneys to accumulate CLE credits by performing pro bono work.2
Or you can you can promote the practice of Manuel Newburger, an Austin, Texas attorney who has made pro bono fund raising a firm project by generating charitable contributions as part of settlements in civil litigation. His firm waives contingent fees for the charitable component of a settlement.
Or your firm can make a commitment to provide lawyer of the day assistance to APBP, like Dorsey & Whitney.
Q. What if I can?t help right now?
A. You can make a pledge of future assistance to the program or you can plan to attend the Barrister?s Ball which will be held in the winter of 2001 as the first annual APBP fund raiser. Call Maria Elena for details.
There is no limit to the kind of support you can and should provide to the new pro bono program.
1See 45 CFR Part 1610.
2See New York Law Journal March 6,2000 at 1.