Alaska Digest

Posted: Friday, January 30, 2004

Concert to raise money for stabbing victim

JUNEAU - Nine solo artists and a duo are slated to perform from 7-10 p.m. Saturday night at Centennial Hall in a concert to benefit Eric Drake, a local cab driver who was severely injured during a Jan. 7 armed robbery.

Organizer John Palmes said a donation of at least $10 will be recommended.

Drake underwent about eight hours of surgery after he was stabbed and cut numerous times by a man he picked up in his cab. More than six hours of surgery was devoted to his hands.

Drake's fiancé, Maria Miller, said Thursday she and Drake plan to make an appearance at the benefit, although Drake will not be up to staying long. She said she still must help him with hourly therapy on his hands.

"We are very appreciative," she said. Neither she nor Drake can work, and the bills have started to come in, she said, adding that she has had difficulty getting support from community agencies.

Palmes said that while raising money for Drake, the event will include groups working to make Juneau a safer place to live.

"It's a time for the community to reflect on the violent crime situation in Juneau and Alaska," he said. "If they can rob a cab driver, they can rob me too."

Along with Palmes, performers are scheduled to include John Sanchez, Karen Finn, Buddy Tabor, Stewart Ely, Dave Stancliff, Teri Tibbett, Cy Peck Jr., Michael Truax and Martha and Jim Scott-Stey.

An anti-violence proclamation from the city also is scheduled to be presented at the event.

Palmes said that he is hoping people attending the Juneau Symphony concert at 8 p.m. Saturday will be able to drop by the benefit first.

AkCLU to present award at Silverbow

The Alaska Civil Liberties Union is recognizing a Juneau group as 2003 citizen activists of the year at the Liberty Awards Ceremony at 6:30 p.m. Friday at the Silverbow Inn. AkCLU Executive Director Jennifer Rudinger will make the award presentation to the Juneau citizen for the protection of the U.S. Constitution and bylaws.

An August video presentation of nationally syndicated columnist Molly Ivins' address from Anchorage will follow.

Tickets to the annual gourmet dinner and fund-raiser are $50. Call Paul Grant at 586-2701.

Plaintiffs wonder when Exxon case will end

ANCHORAGE - Roland Maw might be excused for being a bit skeptical about a federal judge's order that Exxon Mobil Corp. pay nearly $7 billion in punitive damages and interest for the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill.

Maw, a fisherman whose livelihood was hurt by the spill, and thousands of other Alaskans have waited so long for resolution that this week's ruling seems like just another chapter in a convoluted case, particularly with Exxon planning to appeal.

Plaintiffs, like legal experts, said Thursday that it's long past time to make some real progress although no one expects that to happen soon.

"The mood among fishermen is let's get this thing to the U.S. Supreme Court and get it settled. People need to have some sense of closure," said Maw, executive director of the United Cook Inlet Drift Association, which represents 550 salmon fishing outfits.

In the ruling issued Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Russel Holland ordered Exxon to pay $4.5 billion in punitive damages to 32,000 fishermen, Alaska Natives and others affected by the nearly 11 million gallon spill in Prince William Sound. The judge also imposed interest estimated at about $2.25 billion.

Holland's resulting order sparked hope and frustration among plaintiffs and incredulity among lawyers who specialize in punitive damages litigation.

Many in legal circles, however, criticized Holland, saying he blatantly ignored directives made clear by the higher courts. They were more surprised by the amount of the ruling than the delay in resolving the case - uncommon but not unheard of in matters of this magnitude.

"It's preposterous. The judge is obviously thumbing his nose at the Court of Appeals," said Andrew Frey, a New York attorney who filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the State Farm case.

"It's become harder to justify these large awards," Frey said. "I can't imagine that the 9th Circuit will let this stand. I wouldn't be surprised if the 9th decides the amount itself. This ruling doesn't count for anything. It's just one man's opinion."

State announces fund conference delegates

ANCHORAGE - The chairman of Gov. Frank Murkowski's Conference of Alaskans says the 48 new members announced Thursday are a combination of "refreshing and reassuring."

Mike Burns said the list is a combination of new faces and people who have been involved over the years with making public policy.

Murkowski wants the panel of 55 to advise him on four questions, including whether income from the Alaska Permanent Fund should be used to pay for state services.

A list of more than 1,000 nominees was whittled down by the seven conveners appointed by Murkowski after 25 hours of deliberations, Burns said. They were picked to represent a cross-section of Alaskans based on geography, gender, political partisanship, urban and rural, age and experience, Burns said.

The convention is Feb. 10-12 at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Prominent among the new names are Alaskans connected to the permanent fund, including former director Byron Mallott of Juneau, current or former trustees Tom Williams and Carl Brady of Anchorage, and Clif Groh Jr. of Sitka, who as a legislative aide worked on permanent fund legislation and later wrote a history of dividends.

Former legislators Al Adams of Kotzebue, Mike Navarre of Kenai, Clem Tillion of Halibut Cove, Glenn Hackney of Fairbanks and Steve Reiger of Anchorage also were named to the panel.

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