Friday, July 19, 2013

Prof. Fortson authors Anchorage Daily News Compass piece on unmet civil legal needs in Alaska

Prof. Ryan Fortson, J.D., Justice faculty, authored a Compass piece in the Anchorage Daily News on July 17, titled "Alaska's poor need legal help in civil cases." In this article, Prof. Fortson notes that while attorneys are provided by the state for individuals with even minor criminal offenses, "[a]pproximately one half of low-income households will be faced with the need for civil legal assistance each year ... around 85,000 Alaskans."

Alaska Legal Services Corporation, the state's largest non-profit legal service provider, has offices statewide, but is able to help in civil cases for only about 6,300 low-income families annually. Many of the remaining individuals and families who need representation in cases such as domestic violence, custody, eviction, and foreclosure will face the court alone.  Prof. Fortson stresses that "a strong sense of justice means pushing for access to legal representation for all."

Prior to his appointment to the Justice Center, Prof. Fortson worked for the Alaska Legal Services Corporation as a staff attorney dealing primarily with family law, landlord/tenant relations, and public benefits cases. Prof. Fortson volunteers his time with Alaska Legal Services Corporation to advise clients on family matters.  He was also a partner at the Northern Justice Project, the only private civil rights law firm in Alaska.