ALSC pro bono volunteer Sam Fortier helped ALSC secure a favorable Alaska Supreme Court opinion recently, clarifying that the Flores right to counsel applies to opposing parties in cases where a client is represented by ALSC’s pro bono attorneys, not just its staff attorneys.
Sam agreed to represent a wife in a divorce case that was referred by ALSC’s Pro Bono Program. The opposing party asked the trial judge to appoint him a Flores attorney, Sam’s client joined the request, and the judge appointed Alaska’s Office of Public Advocacy (OPA). OPA appealed the appointment, arguing that Flores should not apply to ALSC’s Pro Bono Program. ALSC appeared in the case as amicus.
On August 12th, the Alaska Supreme Court issued a decision in the case holding that the Flores rule does apply to ALSC’s Pro Bono Program. Thank you for your hard work on this case and for your years of support, Sam!
Why did you choose to volunteer with ALSC?
I chose to volunteer with ALSC back in 1984 and have been doing it ever since. Volunteering means that you don’t have to send out bills but still get to practice law. Since I truly enjoy the practice of law and viscerally dislike billing for it, volunteering is an ideal solution. Plus, I get to meet people, to help solve problems and maybe, every once in a while, to make a positive change in someone’s life.
What are some of your experiences at ALSC that have made a positive difference in the lives of others and/or the community?
I have helped people get out of abusive relationships, secure benefits, litigate Native allotment issues, assist Alaska Native veterans with ANVA applications and in one case (my very first one), assisted a disabled father to obtain custody of his baby daughter.
How do you think your experiences with ALSC will benefit you in the future?
I have learned an enormous amount about how people survive in the face of enormous adversity, and that knowledge has helped me develop empathy for others. Empathy is a key factor in being a human being. So, I think that my experiences have helped me in the goal (not yet achieved) of being a better human being.
What do you do when you are not volunteering with ALSC?
I practice law, mainly. If I get a break, I like to hang out with my granddaughter and my wife. And if I am lucky, I get invited to a village and work, visit and fly fish.