U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan will be in Anchorage Tuesday speaking at the Alaska Bar Association’s 2019 Federal Bar Conference to promote the POWER Act which was signed into law last year.
The Pro Bono Work to Empower and Represent Act mandates that every year for four years, the Chief Judge of every Judicial District in the country hold at least one event promoting pro bono legal services for victims of domestic and sexual violence.
“The POWER act requires every Chief Judge in the country has to put on one of these summits for encouraging pro-bono legal services with the goal of literally having an army of lawyers who can go do this work,” Sullivan said in an interview with the Empire Monday.
“In Alaska over the course of a couple years we had over a hundred lawyers sign up to do this,” he said. “Think about that, that’s hundreds of legal hours.”
This kind of legal aid was different, Sullivan said, from pre-existing legal services in that it provides victims with a personal lawyer for their particular case.
“This is your lawyer, you get a lawyer, the lawyer takes the case, it’s much more comprehensive and involved,” he said.
“Studies show that the best way to get a victim out of the cycle of violence that she often finds herself in is to get that person a lawyer. Then they can get protective orders and they can use the law as a kind of a shield and a sword,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan also talked about a bill he introduced with U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-California, called the “Ensuring Representation for Survivors Act.” That bill, if passed into law, would ensure that victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or other similar crimes would be guaranteed access to an attorney in the same way the Sixth Amendment guarantees a lawyer to the accused.
“Think about this,” Sullivan said, “if you have somebody who is accused of rape and he’s indicted, that guy gets a right to counsel. But what does the victim get in that situation? Nothing.”
The senator’s bill, through a combination of additional funding and pro bono work, would provide an attorney for the victim.
What Sullivan described as the first POWER Act event will take place Tuesday at the Captain Cook Hotel in Anchorage from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
As state Attorney General, Sullivan hosted a similar event in Juneau which he described as a huge success. He hopes that Tuesday’s event will be similarly well-received and encourage area attorneys to volunteer for pro bono work.
• Contact reporter Peter Segall at 523-2228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.