Lawyers raise funds for legal aid

Money will stabilize office that provides low-income Alaskans help on legal cases

Posted: Monday, January 03, 2000

Leaders of Alaska's legal community have formed the Partners In Justice Campaign to raise awareness of and support for Alaska Legal Services Corp.

The legal aid program for low-income Alaskans maintains an office in Juneau and a part-time office in Ketchikan staffed by a paralegal, said Jim Minnery, development director with ALSC's Anchorage office.

Minnery said the fund-raising goal is $30,000 for the First Judicial District, which includes Juneau and most of the rest of Southeast Alaska.

``We have a committee of 15 to 20 attorneys in the Juneau-Douglas area raising money and awareness,'' Minnery said. ``We will make our pitch to the general philanthropic community after we make the pitch to the legal community.''

Funds raised will stabilize the ALSC office, Minnery said, while it recovers from severe budget cuts on the state and federal level. There are no firm deadlines for the campaign.

ALSC was founded in 1966 to provide access to the legal process and judicial system for low-income Alaskans. Its philosophy was that the legal system should work for all - despite ability to pay. In 1999, ALSC closed more than 4,000 cases statewide.

Despite the track record, Minnery said many applicants cannot be helped because demand exceeds services available.

``We are still turning down the majority of cases coming through our doors,'' he said.

Numbers for 1998 show the Juneau office was very active, Minnery said. Clients helped totaled 495 and the majority, 286, had family law issues such as custody disputes, domestic violence, spousal abuse, paternity disputes or adoptions.

The next largest category was housing, Minnery said. These cases included illegal evictions, landlord and tenant disputes and unsafe or unsanitary living conditions.

The Juneau office was opened in the mid 1960s by attorney Dickerson Regan, assisted by two paralegals, Bob Lozier and Bob Willard, said Regan's son, Mark.

``We could aid more people if we raised more money,'' said Mark Regan. ``There is an overwhelming demand for legal representation here, particularly in divorce and custody cases. The plan is to get us a little further ahead in meeting legal needs.''

ALSC also functions as a clearinghouse that asks attorneys to take cases on a pro bono, or no fee, basis, Regan said.

To donate funds or to get further information, contact Mark Regan at ALSC's Juneau office, 586-6425.



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