Volunteer Attorneys of the Month

Each month on our Facebook page, ANDVSA spotlights one of its dedicated volunteer attorneys. We archive the posts here.

Congratulations to Maryann Foley, ANDVSA’s September Volunteer of the Month!

Maryann has a history of 40 plus years working in family law, including time working on ANDVSA and ALSC cases. Maryann is currently mentoring an ANDVSA attorney in a divorce case, which she says is a rewarding way to give back in retirement. “A lot of mentoring is helping with procedural things or explaining how different judges conduct proceedings.” We are grateful to Maryann for sharing her knowledge and expertise as a pro bono mentor!

Maryann decided to become a lawyer in high school and was motivated by a desire to prove wrong the sexist expectations of women at that time. “In high school they told me that I would make a good secretary. I told them I was going to HAVE my own secretary.” She went on to receive a degree in political science and then attend law school at State University of New York at Buffalo. “After three winters in Buffalo, Anchorage was easy,” says Maryann. She moved to Anchorage as a Vista Volunteer after law school, and eventually began working at the Public Defender’s Office as an intern. She switched to private practice and family law two year later and opened her own family law practice in 1985. She retired in 2022.

Because of her extensive experience in family law, Maryann has the perfect skillset to mentor volunteer attorneys on ANDVSA cases, especially those who come from different areas of practice. Despite her experience, Maryann says that “even when you practice 40 plus years of divorce cases, you still encounter new things.” For this, Maryann says, it is useful to be adaptable and to have a sense of humor, even when the work is heavy.

Maryann emphasized the importance of attorneys tending to their health and personal lives in addition to their work, saying that “while you can never learn too much,” it is important to maintain a healthy work-life balance. She also encouraged young attorneys in Alaska to spend time learning from and talking to attorneys outside their own state. “Going outside of our state  for CLE can help you see better ways to do your work, it also helps you recognize a lot of the things that are good about being an attorney in Alaska.”

In her retirement, Maryann has gotten back into baking, has been reading non-legal books, and  volunteering for a women’s professional association.

Maryann Foley, September 2023, September 2023

Congratulations to Gabriel Sassoon, ANDVSA’s June volunteer of the month!

Gabe Sassoon has been practicing family law for a decade and finds it to be a great opportunity to learn.  Gabe started volunteering with ANDVSA earlier this year and observes, “There are so many people who need help, which is unfortunate, but it provides an opportunity for people with skills to make a difference.” When asked what he would say to another attorney thinking about doing pro bono work for ANDVSA, he says to “definitely do it.”

Gabe grew up in Los Angeles and went to Brandeis University for college, where he got a double major in Politics and Philosophy. From there, he went to the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) Law school, where he focused on intellectual property and entertainment law. He worked for various entertainment companies after graduation, from agencies to production companies. While working in LA, he took a trip to Alaska to visit friends, and eventually applied for jobs in Alaska. He got a position at Baxter Bruce & Sullivan in 2014, later becoming a partner and shareholder at the firm..

When Gabe first started working in family law, his first case was a divorce with kids. Gabe remembers having initially a very cursory understanding of the impact divorce can have on kids’ lives. Through that case, he was motivated to learn more and help as much as possible. His first case with ANDVSA was a custodial termination where his client was a survivor of sexual assault. In this case, Gabe and his team were able to functionally extricate the perpetrator from the survivor’s life. He said that finding the case through ANDVSA was “incredible”- not only for the vital service ANDVSA provides, but for the “ripple effects” it has to make the community better. In Gabe’s words, “One of the best parts about Alaska is having much more agency around your community. In LA it’s a drop in the ocean.”

Gabe notes that it “takes a village” to do this work and wants to shout out his family at Baxter Bruce & Sullivan— his law partner Rachel Berngartt, all of the legal assistants, and all of the other amazing attorneys at that firm.

In his free time, Gabe enjoys going outdoors, hiking with his dogs, and competing in races. Gabe has competed in the World’s Toughest Mudder race, which was a 24-hour race, successfully completing 35 miles on the course. He is also a film buff—he worked in the film industry for many years and is currently working on bringing more film production to Alaska.

Thank you Gabe, for the inspiring work you have done for ANDVSA!

Gabe Sassoon, June 2023

Congratulations to Anne Marie Tavella, ANDVSA’s May volunteer of the month!

Anne Marie Tavella has represented two ANDVSA clients since she started volunteering with ANDVSA in 2020. Anne Marie finds the most fulfillment from helping people who may have no one else to help them; she got her start working with survivors when she volunteered at Standing Together Against Rape (STAR) almost 20 years ago.  Doing pro bono divorce and protective order cases with ANDVSA is very different from construction and government contracting law, her usual areas of practice at Davis Wright Tremaine LLP. Luckily, her firm has a long history of encouraging pro bono practice.

Anne Marie was born and raised in Alaska and attended Dimond High School. She went to the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) for a couple of years but transferred to Southern Illinois University and finished her undergraduate studies there. She then went to the University of Illinois to get a master’s degree in journalism and moved back to Alaska to work as a journalist. After working for a couple of years as a journalist, she switched careers and attended Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law. She lived in Seattle for 6 years practicing law until she decided to move back to Alaska. She has now moved back to Alaska a total of 7 times.

Anne Marie’s most memorable ANDVSA case was a couple of years ago when she represented a client who was seeking a long-term protective order. Her client had legitimate fears that her perpetrator might pop up throughout her life, so Anne Marie was able to negotiate a permanent civil no-contact order with the opposing party’s attorney. She felt that it was the best option for both parties and found the process of securing the no-contact order interesting as it involved more negotiation than a standard protective order.

Anne Marie recommends that if any attorneys are thinking about doing pro bono work, they should try it no matter their prior experience level with family law. ANDVSA has amazing resources for attorneys and the staff attorneys are “so responsive”.

Anne Marie would like to shout out Patti Vecera of her firm. She has taken several cases for ANDVSA and has been a big support with Anne Marie’s current pro bono divorce case. Lastly, Anne Marie is a Lego collector whose favorite winter activity is putting together Lego sets. She is currently working on a Lord of the Rings Rivendell set!

Anne Marie Tavella, May 2023

Congratulations to Jahna Lindemuth, ANDVSA’s volunteer of the month!

Jahna Lindemuth has represented three ANDVSA appellate clients since her term as Alaska’s Attorney General ended in 2018, and represented many more before becoming AG. Jahna recommends that if attorneys are thinking about volunteering with ANDVSA, they should consider teaming up with co-counsel, either within your firm or elsewhere. Jahna has done this with the associate at her firm, Samuel Gottstein, who has worked with her on all three of her recent appeals.  Further, she says volunteering is a great opportunity for attorneys to get in court and work on something with more at stake than just money for a corporation. 

Jahna was born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska and went to West High School. She attended Drew University for her undergraduate studies and the UC Berkley School of Law. She moved back to Alaska in 1997 after graduating from law school. Jahna clerked for former Alaska Supreme Court Justice Robert Eastaugh from 1997-1998 and then moved to private practice at Bogle & Gages, where she had previously interned as a summer associate. In 1999, she joined Dorsey & Whitney and was a partner there from 2004 to 2016. Notably, she represented the Fairbanks Four in their 2015 trial after the Innocence Project reached out to her in January of 2015. She then applied for the Alaska Supreme Court, and made the short list but was ultimately asked by Governor Bill Walker to become Alaska’s next Attorney General instead. She served as Attorney General from 2016-2018 and subsequently went back into private practice at her current firm, Cashion Gilmore & Lindemuth, primarily doing commercial litigation.

Jahna started taking cases with ANDVSA during her time at Dorsey & Whitney and loves that she is able to genuinely help clients in a legal system where it is often prohibitively expensive to hire an attorney. She concentrates on appellate work in her cases with ANDVSA, and finds it fulfilling to establish precedent that makes future favorable outcomes for survivors more easy to achieve. Her most recent ANDVSA appeal to the Alaska Supreme Court was her most memorable, where she helped a client battling against an opposing party who was trying to re-litigate findings of sexual abuse of a minor; Jahna’s client prevailed.

In her spare time, Jahna enjoys yoga, downhill skiing, and traveling.

Thank you, Jahna, for all that you have done on behalf of survivors!

Jahna Lindemuth, April 2023

Congratulations to Andre Nembhard, ANDVSA’s March Volunteer of the Month!

Andre Nembhard has represented several ANDVSA clients, both pro bono and low bono, since he started volunteering with ANDVSA in 2022 right after graduating from law school and moving to Alaska. Andre is interested in the law because it’s his goal to ultimately “create a kinder, fairer, better, more equitable system.” Andre recommends that all attorneys try to volunteer with ANDVSA to do their part to ensure access to justice.

Andre grew up in Beaumont, Texas, a town on the border of Texas and Louisiana. He attended Baylor University for undergrad and received his J.D. from the University of Texas School of Law. He was hired by the North Star Law Group and moved to Alaska in early 2022.

He started taking cases with ANDVSA when his supervisor at the North Star Law Group mentioned it to him as a way to get more experience in court. Andre was also interested in taking cases with ANDVSA to get “in the swing” of doing pro bono work. Since taking ANDVSA cases, his firm has played a huge role in supporting him. He is able to keep his ANDVSA cases within the regular workflow at the North Star Law Group, and is incredibly appreciative for that.  Indeed, Andre has found himself unexpectedly comfortable in the work.

The fulfillment he gets from working with clients keeps Andre going in family law.  He says that they are always appreciative, and it always means the world to them. Also, when he started his work in the law he found himself worrying a lot about the massive problems that face our world at large. He found that by taking cases with ANDVSA, it gave him a bit of peace of mind because it reassured him that he was doing something to help. In other words, it’s a way of thinking globally and acting locally.

Currently, Andre is looking to become even more active in the outdoors. He also wanted to shout out his dog Koda, who has been a great companion in Alaska.

Andre Nembhard, March 2023

Congratulations to Brianna Beswick, ANDVSA’s February Volunteer of the Month!

Brianna Beswick has represented 2 ANDVSA clients – both on her own and as part of a team – since she started volunteering with ANDVSA in 2020. Brianna recommends that if attorneys are thinking of volunteering with ANDVSA even as a solo practitioner with no experience in family law, they should go ahead and try it! Having access to Basecamp, corresponding with ANDVSA attorneys, and being matched with a pro bono mentor all really helped her.

Brianna grew up in Bozeman, Montana and attended Harvard College. She went straight into law school after graduation, attending Harvard Law School but taking a couple of years off between her 2L and 3L years to be a “ski bum” and hike the Pacific Crest Trail. Directly after law school, she came to Alaska where she clerked for Chief Judge Marjorie Allard on the Alaska Court of Appeals. After that, she worked in a variety of legal positions including at the family law firm Mendel Colbert & Associates, Inc., at the Alaska Public Defender Agency, and at a small animal rights startup that a law school classmate founded called Legal Impact for Chickens. She was able to volunteer for ANDVSA during her stints at Mendel Colbert and Legal Impact for Chickens, and when “funemployed” between jobs. Currently, she is back at the Public Defender Agency and unable to take on more pro bono work with ANDVSA, but looks forward to taking on more if her situation changes in the future. Through all of her legal experience thus far she has learned that, while legal research is interesting, “working with clients directly is the most rewarding.”

Brianna volunteered for her most recent ANDVSA case in 2022 because it was a way to stay connected with the Alaska legal community and to appear in court on behalf of people who really needed it. This felt especially needed while she was working remotely on an impact litigation case for Legal Impact for Chickens. Although some people might shy away from family law cases because of the high amount of emotion, she “really enjoys helping people with their very emotional situations.” Further, she likes sharing information. “What I like about being an attorney is being able to help answer questions,” she said. “People go into law school thinking about the legal issues, but a lot of law is just answering questions and helping people through overwhelming situations.”

Brianna’s most frequent hobby is taking her dog on all the walks. She also backcountry skis, fat bikes, and packrafts, and hopes to take up Nordic skating next season. Lastly, she maintains an active meditation practice and especially enjoys attending meditation retreats with the Pathless Way, based in Cordova.

Thank you, Brianna, for all that you have done on behalf of survivors!

Brianna Beswick, February 2023

Congratulations to Ben Farkash, ANDVSA’s January Volunteer of the Month!

Ben Farkash has represented two pro bono clients since he started volunteering with ANDVSA in October 2021. Currently, he’s working on a complex divorce and protective order case. Ben recommends that all attorneys who can volunteer with ANDVSA. “You can make a whole lot of change in peoples’ lives without as much work as one might think,” said Ben. “These are real on the ground things that really help.”

Ben Farkash grew up in Florida and went to college at the University of Chicago where he studied Middle Eastern History. After graduation, he spent a decade doing a variety of things, including woodworking, cabinetry, working on an organic farm, and waiting tables. Eventually, he went to law school at the University of Oregon where he met his partner, Maggie. Ben ended up in Alaska when he got a clerkship with Judge Crosby on the Anchorage Superior Court and his partner got a job with the Native American Rights Fund (NARF).

Ben has always been interested in helping people within the legal system.  During his clerkship, he volunteered with the small claims mediation program.  And when he moved from working at the court system to working at Ashburn & Mason P.C., a general civil litigation firm, he prioritized a robust pro bono practice and sought out volunteer opportunities with ANDVSA.  Understandably, Ben finds the work incredibly fulfilling. “I like helping people through difficult situations that they would have a difficult time managing themselves,” said Ben. “Just being in their corner when there aren’t too many other people in their corner.”

One particularly memorable moment while volunteering with ANDVSA came when he was called by a magistrate judge and asked to participate in an ex parte protective order hearing on behalf of his client. Ben had never litigated a protective order before, and said it was a nerve wracking but exciting start to his family law work.

Ben’s perpetual dream is to keep his woodworking going as a hobby now that he is a lawyer; he is currently working on a floating top table and an earring rack for Maggie. Good luck with your woodworking and thank you so much for the pro bono work that you do, Ben!

Ben Farkash, January 2023

Congratulations to Leslie Need, ANDVSA’s December Volunteer of the Month!

Leslie Need began volunteering with ANDVSA two years ago when ANDVSA came to her with a case involving the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). Because of Leslie’s expertise in ICWA, ANDVSA’s Legal Director Christine Pate saw her as the perfect person for the case. Since then, Leslie has taken on another case for ANDVSA and says: “I always appreciate ANDVSA cases because of the excellent support that attorneys receive— Christine and Katy [Soden] are always available and willing to help.”

Leslie Need grew up in Kansas and went to Kansas State University originally planning to be a teacher. On a whim, she decided to take the LSAT and ended up going to law school at the University of Tulsa, where she focused on federal Indian Law. During one of her summers in law school, she heard about a  summer program in Anchorage for law students to learn Alaska Native Law. While considering the program, she went on a first date with her now husband in which he too said that he was planning on doing the program in Anchorage. They took the class together, eventually got married, moved to Alaska together, and have been here ever since.

Leslie says that she enjoys volunteering with ANDVSA because it is so different from the work she regularly does at her general practice firm, Landye Bennett Blumstein LLP. “Some of the work I do is fairly removed from people’s daily lives,” said Leslie. “It’s not the same as helping someone who’s nervous about what to do with custody.” She enjoys helping people worry less and de-mystifying the court system for non-lawyers.

Leslie appreciates and thanks all of the ANDVSA staff and attorneys for doing this hugely important work. She also applauds the Alaska Bar Association Pro Bono Director Krista Scully for making sure that volunteer opportunities are hitting attorneys’ inboxes. Leslie also wants to highlight that is the gift giving season so consider a gift to your local organization that serves survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault!

Kudos, Leslie! Thank you for everything that you do!

Leslie Need, December 2022

Congratulations to Zoe Danner, ANDVSA’s April Volunteer of the Month!

Zoe grew up in Anchorage but moved to New York to attend Columbia University. She says she has been interested in working on domestic violence cases ever since law school, where she worked for a pro bono domestic violence law clinic at the University of California Irvine. However, Zoe says she would encourage all attorneys, including those who don’t necessarily have experience in family law, to consider volunteering with ANDVSA. “Family law may not appeal to some people, but there’s a huge need for it. You’re helping people with the biggest and most pressing problems in their lives, and that is incredibly rewarding…It is a deeply special and rewarding experience.”

Zoe has been volunteering with ANDVSA since November of 2021. She has taken three pro bono cases since then—one divorce/custody case and two civil cases. Zoe says that many attorneys don’t realize that survivors of domestic violence often need support on legal matters besides just divorce and custody cases. “Right now, I’m working on a civil case that is maybe a less typical case. What people don’t realize is that domestic violence affects all parts of people’s lives. It’s been cool to be able to be more creative and help clients come up with solutions to the challenges they are facing.”

After she graduated from law school, Zoe moved back to Alaska to clerk for the Superior Court. She now does general civil litigation and municipal law at Birch Horton Bittner & Cherot, and says she has been lucky to work at a firm and have a mentor that encourages attorneys to be active in their community.

Zoe says a powerful part of her experience volunteering at ANDVSA has been getting to know the women she works with. “All of my clients are hugely articulate and intelligent women who have happened to have found themselves in bad situations. The most rewarding part of this experience has been empowering them and helping them use their voice.”

Outside of work, Zoe enjoys getting outside through activities like skiing, biking, and motorcycling.

Thank you, Zoe, for your hard work and determination to support survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault!

Zoe Danner, April 2022

Congratulations to Barbara Dunham, ANDVSA’s March Volunteer of the Month!

Barbara first started volunteering with ANDVSA this year. She took her first case—a case involving a divorce and a protective order—this January. Barbara says she “really appreciates the support ANDVSA provides for newbies,” and that “it has been really helpful” as she “learns how things work on the civil side.”

Barbara’s experience is mostly in criminal law. She is originally from Minnesota, and attended college at Wellesley College in Massachusetts. After she graduated from law school at the University of Washington, she moved up to Alaska to clerk for the Alaska Court of Appeals, and she has been here ever since. She has worked for the Alaska Office of Public Advocacy, and the Alaska Judicial Council. Her work primarily involves representing defendants on appeal and post-conviction relief cases. She is currently working as a solo practitioner in Anchorage.

“I am grateful that I can help my client, provide her with some support, and reduce her stress levels,” says Barbara. “I have also really enjoyed getting to practice in a new area of the law.”

Outside of work, Barbara says she likes “all of the typical Alaska things,” such as getting outside as often as she can, cross country skiing in the winter, and hiking in the summer.

Thank you, Barbara, for taking the time to lend your legal skills to supporting survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.

Barbara Dunham March 2022, March 2022

Congratulations Kate Demarest, for being selected as ANDVSA’s February Volunteer of the Month!

Kate is currently helping a client with a divorce and custody case. She worked on an ANDVSA appellate case regarding a protective order several years ago, and took her first family law ANDVSA case last year after attending the ANDVSA hosted Introduction to Family Law CLE.

Kate says that the most rewarding part of her time volunteering with ANDVSA has been redressing her client’s experience with the legal system. Her client tried multiple times in the past to use the legal system to protect her family, but became too frustrated and overwhelmed by the process to continue. By providing representation to this client, “I can take a huge weight off her shoulders, and it feels really good to be able to use my skills to support someone that way.”

Kate grew up in Wisconsin, and attended the University of Wisconsin College of Engineering. After college, she spent two years serving as a Peace Corps volunteer before attending law school at the University of Minnesota. Following law school, she did two judicial clerkships–one in St. Paul and one in Memphis. In 2010, she moved to Anchorage to work for Dorsey and Whitney, LLP. She was there for seven years, doing general litigation appellate work until 2017, when she made the move to the Attorney General’s Office. Kate currently works for the Opinions, Appeals, and Ethics section.

Outside of work, Kate spends time supporting her kids’ hobbies of hockey and soccer, as well as skiing, hiking, camping, and taking out her family’s raft for trips with her husband and three children.

Thank you Kate, for the time and energy you have invested in helping survivors of domestic violence!

Kate Demarest February 2022, February 2022

Congratulations Ali Wykis, for being selected as ANDVSA’s January Volunteer of the Month!

Ali got her start volunteering with ANDVSA in late 2020 after attending the annual Continuing Legal Education (CLE) Conference. Since then, Ali has provided assistance with a protective order case and is now working on a custody case. Says Ali, “Not only does ANDVSA provide critical assistance to survivors, it offers its pro bono attorneys mentorship from experienced attorneys from around the state. I’m proud of the work I’ve done through ANDVSA and appreciate the opportunity to assist some Alaskans in need.”

Ali was born and raised in Soldotna, Alaska. She attended Purdue University and Penn State Law School, and her areas of specialty are child welfare law and tribal law. After graduating law school, she worked at Columbia University’s Global Freedom of Expression Project as an Editor and Legal Researcher. In 2015, Ali moved back to Alaska and began her career in public advocacy, working first at the State of Alaska Office of Public Advocacy, and then as the Indian Child Welfare Act Specialist at Nome Eskimo Community. She currently works as a Child Welfare Attorney for Kawerak, Inc., where she has been since January of 2020. Ali remarks, “I’m happy to be living and working in my home state of Alaska, which is a very special place.”

Ali says she has enjoyed the opportunity to work with survivors around Alaska as a volunteer attorney with ANDVSA. “It’s rewarding to assist and support survivors who are seeking legal recourse against the abusers who harmed them and their loved ones. Venturing into new areas of the law and augmenting my advocacy skills have also been rewarding byproducts of volunteering with ANDVSA.”

Outside of work, Ali likes to spend time outside on Denaʼina land. She can be found participating in activities like skiing, hiking, running, berry-picking, and kayaking. She also enjoys doing triathlons, gardening, and traveling.

Thank you, Ali, for your dedication to this work!

Ali Wykis January 2022, January 2022

Congratulations Ben Hofmeister, for being selected as ANDVSA’s December Volunteer of the Month!

Ben started volunteering at ANDVSA in 2011, when he was encouraged by a colleague at the Attorney General’s office to take on a divorce case. Currently, Ben mostly works the Legal Information and Referral Hotline for ANDVSA, which runs every two weeks and provides information and referral advice about the legal system to survivors.

He says he finds this work fulfilling as it is a simple way to help people find focus and control in a legal system that sometimes seems incomprehensible. “The people that call, they often have a lot of problems—more than just legal problems. What I have found rewarding is being able to use my time with them to help them focus on what is important, and to help them feel less overwhelmed.” Thank you, Ben, for supporting survivors at such a challenging point in their lives!

Ben was born and raised in Spokane, Washington. He attended college at University of Portland and worked as an Americorp volunteer before attending Law School at the University of Notre Dame. He then went on to work at the Attorney General’s office in Anchorage. He has been a prosecutor in Dillingham, an Assistant Attorney General in Anchorage and Juneau, and a district attorney in Ketchikan. He currently works at the Attorney General’s office, doing public corporations and government services work.

Ben encourages every attorney to volunteer their legal services at some point in their career, whether it is at ANDVSA or another organization. “We can all put our talents toward helping people through pro bono service. There’s a lot of people out there who are doing more than me, and there’s a lot of people who could be doing more.”

Outside of work, Ben greatly enjoys downhill skiing, and “getting up in the mountains in whatever way I can.”

Thank you, Ben, for everything you have done to support survivors!

Ben Hofmeister December 2021, December 2021

Congratulations Dorne Hawxhurst, for being selected as ANDVSA’s November Volunteer of the Month!

Dorne has had two recent cases with ANDVSA. But Dorne’s experience working with survivors spans more than two decades. Her first job after becoming a lawyer was providing civil legal services to survivors of domestic violence in rural Alaska at Alaska Legal Services Corporation (ALSC). There, Dorne worked under an ANDVSA grant, and she served clients in Valdez, Cordova, Kodiak, Juneau, Kenai, Bethel, and Dutch Harbor. Says Dorne, “I credit a team of attorneys from ANDVSA and ALSC for first developing my trial skills–skills that I would later use in a decade of private practice.” Thank you, Dorne, for your years of dedication and pro-bono work!

Prior to becoming a lawyer, Dorne was a management consultant for two different international accounting firms. She then attended law school and graduated from the University of Wisconsin with honors.

After working at ALSC for a year, Dorne worked for a decade doing private practice. She then became a member of the senior legal staff at the Alaska Court System. There, she oversaw court forms, including the development of domestic violence smart forms, and served as a healthcare advocate for employees and their dependents whose health claims were improperly denied.

Dorne left the Court System in 2019 and returned to private practice on a part-time basis. She reached out to ANDVSA about working on two recent DV cases in rural Alaska, and ANDVSA was happy to offer her legal resources and support, including sample pleadings and legal research tools. Most importantly, Dorne says she found a mentor in ANDVSA’s Senior Staff Attorney.

Dorne says that coming back to working with ANDVSA feels like “coming full circle.” Of her time working as a volunteer attorney, she says that she has found the most value in the people she works with and the people she serves. “ANDVSA is composed of very dedicated people who are devoted to these issues. I find the work I do most rewarding when I am helping people at their most vulnerable.”

In addition to her professional work, Dorne is an avid berry picker, hiker, classical pianist, and devoted wife. She and her husband divide their time between Cordova and Anchorage.

Thank you, Dorne, for everything you have done to support survivors!

Dorne Hawxhurst November 2021, November 2021

Congratulations Tracy Hillhouse Price, for being selected as ANDVSA’s September Volunteer of the Month!

Tracy’s experience with ANDVSA has been a family affair. Tracy’s mother has been volunteering with ANDVSA for almost 20 years! “I grew up watching my mom taking cases and working on the Legal Hotline when she couldn’t take cases,” says Tracy, “so when I graduated from law school, I knew I was interested in volunteering.” For Tracy, the most valuable part of volunteering with ANDVSA has been seeing the impact her work has on her clients. “Seeing how empowered my client felt after being able to tell a judge what happened, to have a judge listen to her and protect her—that is what is most rewarding for me.” Thank you, Tracy, for your commitment to helping survivors!

Tracy was born in Juneau but has spent time living in many different places across the state, including Anchorage, Sitka, and Kenai. After graduating from the University of the District of Columbia – David A. Clarke School of Law, she moved back to Kenai to clerk for an Alaskan Superior Court Judge. While she was attending school, Tracy worked at two University of the District of Columbia law clinics—the Low Income Taxpayer Clinic and the General Practice Clinic.

Tracy now works for Farley & Graves, P.C., specializing in insurance defense, and she says the firm was incredibly supportive of her pro bono service. In 2020, Tracy took her first case with ANDVSA, a case concerning a protective order and custody. Excitingly, Tracy was able to take the case with her mom, Theresa Hillhouse, who is still working as an attorney in Alaska. Tracy says she is grateful for the training and support she received from ANDVSA.

Tracy says she was also incredibly grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with her mother. “My mom and I never would have been able to work together, so that was a great experience to work with her as colleagues.” Outside of work, Tracy is also an avid scrapbooker, and says “My grandmother was an artist, but I don’t have an artistic bone in my body, so scrapbooking is my creative outlet.”

Thank you, Tracy, for your compassion and incredible pro bono service!

Tracy Hillhouse September 2021, September 2021

Congratulations Katy M. Brautigam, for being selected as ANDVSA’s May Volunteer of the Month!

Katy started volunteering with ANDVSA in October of 2019, when a supervising attorney at her firm, Holland & Hart LLP, asked her to assist him on an ANDVSA case. She eagerly accepted the opportunity to help and jumped into a custody matter for a survivor.  ANDVSA has been so grateful for her assistance!

Katy was born in Anchorage and attended Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California and then the University of Montana Law School in Missoula, Montana.   She chose Montana for law school because she wanted to return to Alaska afterwards and so she “picked the state that was most similar to Alaska.” After graduating from law school, Katy clerked for the Supreme Court of Montana, and was able to finally return to Alaska as an associate with Holland & Hart. An avid hiker and outdoor person, she is enjoying the opportunity to again hike Flattop Mountain and walk her two dogs on the Coastal Trail, in addition to fishing on the peninsula.

Katy’s area of practice at Holland & Hart is natural resource law so she has leaned on ANDVSA’s mentoring and materials to litigate the case.  She finds her ANDVSA case work to be particularly fulfilling because she enjoys seeing the direct impact of the work that she is doing on client’s lives.  “Through volunteering with ANDVSA, you can see the immediate impact that your legal skills have in the lives of others.”

Thank you, Katy, for jumping into a new area of the law so that you can use your legal skills to help survivors.  We are so appreciative!

Katy M. Brautigam May 2021, May 2021

Congratulations Meghan (Sigvanna) Topkok, for being selected as ANDVSA’s April Volunteer of the Month!

Sigvanna started volunteering with ANDVSA at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, after she attended ANDVSA’s February 2020 full day training on the basics of family law. While Sigvanna has only recently started volunteering at ANDVSA, she said that she has “been aware of ANDVSA for many years and has been a fan.” She has enjoyed working a few cases in the last year and has appreciated ANDVSA’s mentorship program; she has also been allowed the opportunity to litigate cases easily through ANDVSA in locations both remote and distant because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Thank you, Sigvanna, for your commitment to helping victims of domestic and sexual violence.

Sigvanna was born near Portland Oregon and attended Dartmouth College. After completing her undergraduate degree, she worked at the Kawerak, Inc. as a Wellness  Coordinator. At Kawerak, she worked in the villages and on the ground and realized there was a gap between her community and the western legal system. She wanted to help bridge this gap and decided to go to law school. After graduating from the University of Oregon Law School, she decided to return to Alaska as a staff attorney for the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC).

After working for SEARHC, she returned to the Kawerak as a staff attorney and immersed herself in tribal law.  Her journey to working with survivors of domestic violence and sexual abuse is personal. As a survivor, she understands the overwhelming barriers that exist to getting help and hopes to help others overcome those barriers. “I was sexually assaulted and chose not to report it, nor did I feel comfortable going to the police or the hospital.  The whole process felt very overwhelming.”  Thank you, Sigvanna, for using your experiences, skills, and voice to advocate for survivors of domestic and sexual violence.

Meghan Sigvanna Topkok, April 2021, April 2021

Moira Smith

Moira started volunteering with ANDVSA over a decade ago while she was still an associate with Ashburn & Mason P.C. Her motivation for assisting victims of domestic abuse was both practical and altruistic. “As a young associate, I wanted to get exposure to other areas of the law and gain the experience of managing my own cases. As such, I took on pro bono cases that I could have full control over which ANDVSA offered me.” Moira also wanted to be part of the solution to ending violence in her home state.  “Having grown up in Alaska, I observed the unacceptable rates of domestic violence and sexual assault and the negative effects that these have on women, and I believed that I had an obligation to help fix it. By volunteering with ANDVSA, I felt like I was helping in a small way.”

Moira was born in Anchorage and moved to Juneau when she was nine years old. She attended Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service as an undergrad, and later completed her JD degree from UC Berkeley. She returned to Alaska to clerk for Justice Dana Fabe of the Alaska Supreme Court. She currently works as Vice President and General Counsel at ENSTAR Natural Gas.

One of Moira’s most memorable cases involved representing a survivor of domestic abuse in a motion hearing. The case was complicated and Moira had to wade through the plethora of evidence surrounding the abuse that her client had suffered. Although the case was demanding, she felt that the time spent on it was important and satisfying. “A law degree is hard earned, but it confers privilege and obligation unto those who have earned it.  The obligation that having a law degree entails is to assist those who need our help.  While it may still be an obligation, fulfilling it is incredibly rewarding.”

Thank you, Moira, for your dedication to helping those who have been affected by domestic and sexual abuse!

Moira Smith, February 2021, February 2021

Karla F. Huntington

Karla started volunteering with ANDVSA at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and has volunteered almost every Wednesday since, helping survivors prepare pleadings for court. Karla credits her upbringing as what motivated her to pursue a career in public service.“I am a kid of the 60s. I grew up in a house that believed in public service and I went to law school to get the tools to change the world.”

Karla was born in New Jersey and attended Saint Lawrence University in upstate New York. After completing her undergraduate degree she went to Albany Law School where she participated in the Prisoner’s Legal Service Clinic, helping inmates imprisoned at Attica Correctional Facility. “My main duties were to perform jail time calculations and support attorneys in litigation.” After graduating from law school Karla was determined to travel the U.S.A, and that is exactly what she did.

Karla’s first job after law school was as a VISTA volunteer attorney with Abused Women’s Aid in Crisis (AWAIC), the largest domestic violence shelter in Alaska. After working with AWAIC, Karla was committed to staying in Alaska and took a job at Alaska Legal Services (ALS). After completing her tenure at ALS she started her own private practice where she practiced mostly family law, which she finds to be very fulfilling.

Karla has been working with domestic violence and sexual assault victims for the last 40 years but the pandemic has affected her ability to serve her clients. To make sure that she was still supporting and helping victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, she turned to ANDVSA. She recommends doing volunteer work through ANDVSA because “they have a very good mentoring and training program.”

Thank you, Karla, for your compassion and dedication to helping survivors!

Karla F. Huntington, January 2021

Mary Geddes

Mary is a new ANDVSA volunteer and has answered our Information and Referral Hotline and is currently working on a family law case for a domestic violence survivor. After a career in criminal defense, Mary pivoted to learn a new area of the law so that she could help survivors of domestic and sexual violence.  She says that she was enticed by ANDVSA’s compelling mission, and was fully convinced to help after attending the volunteer training and learning about the resources available to volunteers. Thank you Mary, for using your retirement years to help survivors!

Mary was born in Rhode Island and attended Northeastern School of Law. Prior to law school, she worked as a Vista volunteer, a national service program dedicated to ending poverty by building the capacity of nonprofit organizations and public agencies. Mary says that the jobs that she held before law school were instrumental in shaping her desire to practice public interest/criminal defense work.

After law school, Mary came to Alaska to clerk for the Alaska Court of Appeals and was eventually hired as a staff attorney for the Court of Appeals. After she left that position, she continued to focus on criminal law, as a defense attorney, working for the Office of Public Advocacy and the Public Defender Agency, before she began working as a federal public defender.

“For the last 20 years of my active practice, I worked exclusively in the federal courts. And, for more than 30 years, I have practiced only criminal defense. I have not practiced as a lawyer since 2016, so there has been a steep learning curve getting back into state court, into civil practice, and learning about family law. However, the learning curve has been tremendously eased by the phenomenal professional support provided by ANDVSA’s legal team.”

Thank you, Mary, for your commitment not only to survivors of domestic and sexual violence, but for helping to facilitate access to justice throughout your career!

Mary Geddes, December 2020

Brooke Lima

Although Brooke only starting volunteering for ANDVSA in February 2020, she has taken three pro bono cases in that short time. Brooke says that her motivation is very personal. “By doing this work I hope to help individuals break the inter-generational bonds of dysfunction.” She finds pro bono work fulfilling because she can help a person “change the trajectory of their future, mitigating the trauma they have experienced and setting them on a path to healing.” To other attorneys thinking of helping out, she advocates that “by simply being there as attorneys, we give those we represent a better chance that their rights will be protected.”

Brooke was born in rural Alabama and has lived in Alaska since 2002. The reason she moved to Alaska “was because it something that I have always wanted to do since the age of 3.” She completed her undergraduate degree at Marshal University in West Virginia and majored in Philosophy and Classics and minored in German. After graduation, she matriculated to law school at the University of Washington in Saint Louis. While at law school, Brooke participated in the public defender clinic and was on the mock trial team, competing at the national level. Since coming to Alaska, she has worked for the Alaska Public Defender Agency and the Alaska Court System. She currently operates her own private practice.

Brooke grew up in a household that was affected by domestic violence. “What goes on behind closed doors is a factor that impacts our society in very drastic ways. I wanted to address the problems that go unseen by most of the public.”

Brooke urges other members of the Alaska Bar to take on pro bono work. “It is important for people that are not represented to have an equal chance for access to justice. We can ensure that an individual’s case is being given the thorough attention that it deserves by simply placing a body there with a bar license next to them in court. As lawyers, we have an obligation to our communities and fellow humans.”

Thank you, Brooke, for all the work you do for survivors in Alaska! We appreciate your commitment and dedication to justice.

Brooke Lima, November 2020

Andrea Hattan

Andrea is a new volunteer for ANDVSA and has answered our Information and Referral Hotline several times since the beginning of the COVID pandemic.  She says that she has enjoys answering the Hotline because she enjoys helping callers and she feels supported by ANDVSA, “I did not have any previous family law experience, so having ANDVSA’s Legal Staff guide me through the process has been extremely helpful.”   It is because of that support from ANDVSA that she has also agreed to help on a family law case, co-counseling with an ANDVSA attorney.  A former prosecutor, she says that she is, “looking forward to working directly with crime victims again.”  We appreciate your support Andrea!

Andrea grew up in Fairbanks and attended Middlebury College and then Seton Hall Law School in New Jersey.  She credits her time at Seton Hall Law School as instrumental in shaping her interest in public service and public interest law. One of the most memorable parts of her law school experience involved participating in the Impact Litigation Clinic where she worked on a lawsuit brought against the City of Newark seeking compliance with the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB).

Andrea clerked with the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico and then with the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. After clerking she worked for the Department of Justice in three different judicial districts (New Mexico, Hawaii, and Alaska).  She currently works for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Office of General Counsel, where she handles violations of fisheries and protected resources laws.

Andrea learned about ANDVSA’s volunteer opportunities through a close friend and came to the Legal Programs annual training for new volunteers on the basics of a family law case.  After this training in February 2020, she felt ready to volunteer.

Thank you Andrea for all the work you do with ANDVSA!  Your altruism and your commitment to volunteer allows us to help the greatest possible number of people that we can.

Andrea W. Hattan, September 2020

Megan Rowe

We are so grateful for the work and care that she has put into her cases. When asked about the most rewarding aspects of being a volunteer, Megan reflected that it comes down to being on the righteous side and seeing the strength of the survivors with whom she gets to work.

Megan attended law school because she wanted to pursue social justice issues, and focused on civil rights in her studies. She made her way to Alaska initially to do environmental work during law school and was hooked on the 49th state shortly thereafter. She has worked in the Public Defender’s Office in Palmer and for the State Legislature.  She now spends most of her time on appellate work.

For Megan, volunteering for ANDVSA turned out to be a good fit for several reasons. “I was really interested in learning more about divorce and custody cases. I knew about ANDVSA and CDVSA through my work in the legislature, and I’ve been interested in ANDVSA and supported its work for many years,” Megan said. “The most rewarding aspect [of being a volunteer attorney for ANDVSA] is being on the righteous side. I’m always surprised by how much strength women have. And we’re winning [these cases], which is really amazing.”

In her spare time, Megan has been foraging morel mushrooms and walking the trails around Anchorage.

Megan Rowe, June 2020

Chris Slottee

Chris has been a long-time volunteer with ANDVSA, helping clients achieve positive protective order outcomes. When asked about the work, Chris reflected, “you get to help someone with some of the biggest needs they will ever have. They’re in an emergency situation and you can get in and help them. You can really change their lives and give them some assurance.” ANDVSA is so grateful that Chris chose to take on these cases—we couldn’t help survivors across Alaska without volunteers like him!

Chris graduated from law school and made his way up north via the Alaska Marine Highway. Fortunately, 19 years later he’s still here. He clerked for Judge Rene Gonzalez, worked at Atkinson, Conway & Gagnon, served as vice president and general counsel to Old Harbor Native Corporation and is now a partner at Holland & Knight, LLP. He originally got involved with ANDVSA by doing protective order work, which he saw as both an opportunity to help people who really needed it and to gain trial experience. “I started helping out [with ANDVSA] on a couple protective orders. I found it really rewarding; I liked helping people and I liked my clients. I believed them, and I wanted them to win. I was also glad to have the opportunity to do the actual litigation aspect of it in front of a judge,” Chris said.

Chris enjoys the cross-examination aspect of the pro bono cases he takes on. “ANDVSA does such a good job of identifying the people that really need help and gives us everything we need to go in really well prepared to advocate for good clients and good claims. When you have a good case, you can do a precise cross-examination and really get the point across.”

One of the more challenging aspects of doing this work, according to Chris, is that “the protective order is not the end of the road, and it’s not going to solve all [the client’s] problems. You have to explain that we’re going to do our best, but that’s only one step.” Still, it makes a significant difference in clients’ safety and well-being, and it a vital first step nonetheless.

Chris cites his wife as the reason he has been able to stay grounded during the last few months. A teacher by trade, she has undertaken the schooling of their four children, which allows Chris to continue to work from home. “I stay sane because of my wife, so she gets all the credit for that.”

Chris Slottee, May 2020

Charlotte Rand

Charlotte is a volunteer for ANDVSA’s Information and Referral Hotline. As a Hotline volunteer, she provides legal information to survivors who are looking for some brief legal help. With the strain the COVID-19 virus has put on families in Alaska, the Hotline is a particularly important resource that could not exist without volunteers like Charlotte!

After attending law school on the East Coast, Charlotte made her way to Alaska for a clerkship in Palmer. Shortly thereafter, she began working for the Attorney General’s office as an associate and special assistant, where she continued to expand her understanding of domestic violence. She dove into the work once the opportunity to volunteer with ANDVSA became tangible. “I had heard of ANDVSA as a law clerk because some of the parties coming into court were represented by ANDVSA attorneys. But then when I started working for the Attorney General, I could count pro bono hours spent on the ANDVSA legal help hotline as working hours. I thought that was really exciting, so I did it.” And we are so glad she did!

Charlotte says the most rewarding part of volunteering with ANDVSA has been connecting with people on the other end of the phone. “You know, I didn’t necessarily have that experience as a law clerk or as an attorney. Right now I work more on the policy side of things and I don’t have a lot of client interactions. It’s really rewarding to help people out. I always wondered as a law clerk, ‘how does someone find out about [ANDVSA]?’ Getting involved in the referral process has been really wonderful.”

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Charlotte is staying grounded by doing puzzles, getting outside and cross-country skiing.

Charlotte Rand, April 2020

Brett Watts

Congratulations to Brett Watts, ANDVSA’s March Volunteer Attorney of the Month! Amidst the uncertainty of the COVID-19 public health crisis, we want to thank ANDVSA’s volunteer attorneys for continuing to work on the front lines with survivors. Without their support, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do and survivors would not be able to pursue justice and peace through Alaska courts.

This month, we are highlighting Brett Watts, one of our low bono attorneys! Brett’s ANDVSA client recently had a big win which enabled the survivor to feel validated and heard through the civil justice system. Brett reflected that “[b]eing able to provide assistance to victims of violence has been incredibly rewarding, and it’s been gratifying to actually see the results of that work.”

Brett grew up in Virginia and attended law school in Ohio prior to practicing criminal, immigration and family law. He chose to pursue the law because he wanted to be in a profession in which he could use his practical and people skills to help others. Brett attended ANDVSA’s CLE several years ago and credits his positive experience with ANDVSA mentorship as an influential factor for broadening his interest in family law. “They always had an answer for me,” he said of ANDVSA’s staff attorneys.

Brett highlights how important building trust with your client is to practicing family law. Brett sees this as one of the most fulfilling aspects of the work, remarking that “it’s hard to trust anyone when you’ve been victimized, so being able through hard work to show your client that they can trust you is very rewarding. Even if you don’t get all the results you wanted or hoped for, at least you can say ‘hey we went in there and gave it our best and provided quality legal representation.’” However, there are certainly challenges within family law, especially in the low and pro bono sphere, including the lack of resources. “We try to do the best we can do, but the lack of funding can be a challenge when seeking justice for victims of violence. That’s the reality of the situation, whether it’s family law, working for nonprofits, practicing immigration law—you’re always kind of limited with funding.”

In his spare time, Brett enjoys weightlifting, trail running and traveling when there isn’t a global pandemic.

Brett Watts, March 2020

Allen Bailey

Congratulations to Allen Bailey, ANDVSA’s February Volunteer Attorney of the Month! Allen has volunteered with ANDVSA for more than 20 years, taking on cases and mentoring other pro bono attorneys.  Over this time, Mr. Bailey has seen many changes in the way cases are handled throughout the state. “The judicial system in Alaska is better educated than it ever has been about intimate partner violence,” he says. His work as an experienced volunteer attorney, mentor, and advocate for victims’ rights has had a ripple effect on Alaskan society.

Mr. Bailey’s practice has focused primarily on child custody matters and on representing domestic violence survivors in divorce, child custody, CINA and protective order cases.  He has been counsel in more than 50 appeals before the Alaska Supreme Court and Alaska Court of Appeals.  A long-time advocate for survivors, he co-authored Alaska’s statute establishing a presumption against awarding custody of a child to a batterer. He has authored several articles on domestic violence issues for the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Family Law Quarterly, the Intimate Partner Violence Quarterly, the ABA Family Advocate and the Domestic Violence Report.

He is also a former long-time member and past president of the Abused Women’s Aid in Crisis (AWAIC) Board of Directors and a member of the Anchorage Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Caucus. Mr. Bailey received a 20/20 Vision Award from the ABA Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence at its 20th Anniversary at the ABA Annual Meeting in Chicago in 2015.

Mr. Bailey worked in journalism prior to deciding to pursue the law. As a prosecutor in Anchorage for 10 years, he was drawn to cases relating to domestic violence and drunk driving due to personal connections to those issues. Mr. Bailey then opened a private family law practice. Mr. Bailey saw the landscape of legal advocacy for survivors change over several decades, remarking, “the Supreme Court has become increasingly aware of the dynamics of interpersonal violence and the harm that exposure to violence can do to children.” At one time, there weren’t any books on the psychopathology of intimate partner violence and how that violence affects children in the Anchorage judicial library. Mr. Bailey understood the consequences of this deficit and procured nine copies for the library. “In order to change the system, you have to make waves. You have to shake the tree they’re sitting in,” Mr. Bailey remarked.

Mr. Bailey’s involvement with ANDVSA over the past two decades has been immensely beneficial to the survivors whose lives he has touched, and the other attorneys he has helped guide in family law matters. On the mentor role he has taken with ANDVSA Mr. Bailey reflected, “it’s a pleasure to help people learn about domestic violence and how it affects children and survivors.” ANDVSA celebrates Mr. Bailey for the time and energy he has invested in helping Alaska’s survivors and their families.

Mr. Bailey is retiring soon and intends to continue working in the domestic violence legal field. He will continue in the ABA Family Law section and writing journal articles. However, his first plan is to take an across-country train trip with his wife to visit family, heading from Seattle to Los Angeles and then heading east toward New Orleans.

Allen Bailey, February 2020

Christine Oberholtzer

Congratulations to our January Volunteer Attorney of the Month, Christine Oberholtzer of Puffin Legal Services! Christine’s steadfastness, hard work and thoughtfulness have enabled her to provide trauma-informed legal services and secure safe outcomes for survivors across Alaska. “It’s really rewarding when you get a win, when you find someone who is in a very bad situation or you’re working with someone who has a very complex case, or a very difficult circumstance who has really had a hard go of it for a number of years and you get to the end,” Christine noted. “You’re really helping someone start their life over again.”

Christine came to Alaska to visit family after being stationed in Germany in the military for several years. She had a sense that it was where she wanted to be. When she finished law school, she moved up to Alaska, took the bar, and was eager to get her career started. Having previously done volunteer work with victims of domestic violence in shelters, Christine remarked, “it was serendipitous that I ended up working in family law with survivors.”

While this work can be challenging, the outcomes make the work meaningful, according to Christine. “You’re kind of seeing some of the worst of humanity, but it’s rewarding to see people move beyond that and move to a better phase of their life.” Christine is well equipped to take on these challenges, having worked as an ANDVSA staff attorney for more than two years. To successfully do this work, “you need to be able to let go, to be able to come back the next day and represent people and truly be a good advocate. You need to celebrate the little victories on a regular basis,” Christine said.

As someone who knows the resources that ANDVSA provides to volunteer attorneys well, Christine encourages those who may be hesitant to volunteer to embrace the challenge. “You’re never just going to be stranded out there. I think the challenge is worth it, to really help people get out of their situation involving of domestic violence and sexual assault.”

When she’s not working for her own family law practice or volunteering with ANDVSA, the vast majority of Christine’s time is taken up by a tiny new human running around her house! She enjoys reading and playing video games, along with spending time with her family.

Christine Oberholtzer, January 2020

Jessica Winzinger

Congratulations to December’s Volunteer Attorney of the Month, Jessica Winzinger of Nyquist Law Group! This holiday season, we are grateful for Jessica’s dedication to making Alaska a more peaceful and trauma-informed place to live. On the nature of this work, Jessica reflected that “it’s really rewarding. I get to see people grow. Even though it’s a rough experience, a lot of times when their case is done, I see a lot of empowerment, especially with DV victims. That’s really rewarding.”

Originally from New Jersey, Jessica moved to Alaska six years ago, right after she graduated from law school. What she thought was a two-week trip to visit friends turned into a career supporting families in Alaska. Her first job up here was with the Office of Children’s Services as a caseworker, and the transition to trauma-informed family law was natural.

Family law cases, Jessica knows, come with their own challenges. “All the emotions are really high—sometimes helping people understand emotionally what’s going on is tough.” Justice can be hard for survivors to seek when they are uncertain about whether they want to go through with legal action, she says. “Working with victims can be difficult because once their problems enter the legal realm, sometimes victims want to back out. Sometimes you can’t always help survivors because they’re the ones who need to make the decision.” Yet the empowerment and growth that Jessica sees in her clients, and in herself, makes all the difference. “You definitely grow from the work. If attorneys are worried about not knowing what to do, or aren’t familiar with family law, ANDVSA is really good at guiding you if you need it,” Jessica says.

ANDVSA could not serve the survivors it does without attorneys like Jessica, who lends her hands, mind and heart to this work. Thank you for everything you do, Jessica!

Jessica Winzinger, December 2019

Judith Conte

Judith Conte arrived in Alaska in 1997 and has practice family law since that time. Through Judith’s work for ANDVSA clients she has seen how “abuse can continue in the litigation process,” and how by volunteering attorneys have an “opportunity to seek justice for economically vulnerable victims.” For victims, seeking justice requires bravery—they have to escape abusers, often with little or no economic means—get set up on their own, and then they have to fight again in court, Judith remarked.

“Throughout the course of my professional life, I’ve always done family law, and I’ve represented numerous victims of domestic violence and sexual assault in the past,” Judith noted. “But domestic violence is still going on, victims are still not being listened to in court.  Here we are in 2019, and judges still need to be educated. It’s an opportunity.”

Judith credited members of the ANDVSA Legal Team for their availability and support through waves of emergency motions and a looming trial. “I said yes because I was inspired to say yes, and I’m sure glad I did.” To other attorneys considering volunteering with ANDVSA, Judith said that in addition to positive affirmation and the opportunity to get good at civil procedure, this work gives you a reality check. “It puts life in perspective.”

When she’s not seeking justice for victims as an ANDVSA volunteer or maintaining her private family law practice, Judith has the great honor and pleasure of living with a beautiful golden retriever. She enjoys a good cup of coffee, navigates Anchorage on foot, and is finishing a book about a how a boy, against all odds, navigates what it means to live your best life.

Thank you, Judith!

Judith Conte, November 2019

Tali Birch Kindred and Jon Katchen

Congratulations to our October Volunteer Attorneys of the Month, Tali Birch Kindred of Oil Search Limited and Holland & Hart LLP, and Jon Katchen of Hollard & Hart! Their extraordinary teamwork has led to powerful results for their clients, the impact of which they are well aware of. “It’s something tangible, that does work, that can change the trajectory of people’s lives,” Jon says. Tali agrees, “the most rewarding part [of volunteering with ANDVSA] is the interactions with the clients, and the ability to get them across the finish line of something that has made a huge difference in their life.”

Tali, a lifelong Alaskan, chose to pursue the practice of law because of her interest in the management of natural resources and how they shape the Alaskan economy. That path led to a job as a District Attorney for the State of Alaska for four years, during which she most enjoyed the cases in which she was working with survivors. “Powerful connections emerged from talking to people about the worst days of their life. I had a lot of passion to be able to do what I could to be able to do what I could to help those people who had gone through something terrible.”

Jon moved up to Alaska after college to work in a domestic violence prevention program, a move that would change the trajectory of his life. He pursued the law due to his interest in criminal justice, began working as the intergovernmental coordinator for the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, and then in the Attorney General’s office. On the importance of pro bono work, Jon noted “DV and SA are the most pressing social issues in Alaska. It’s embarrassing, it’s shameful, what’s happening to victims in this state… There’s such an underserved population that needs help, and lawyers should step up to the plate.”

Fortunately for Tali’s and Jon’s clients, they have stepped up to help tackle the crisis that Alaska faces. ANDVSA is grateful for their continued hard work. When they’re not balancing a full plate, Jon likes to hike, Tali enjoys running and skiing in the mountains, and both enjoy spending time with their families.

Tali Birch and Jon Katchen, October 2019

Cam Leonard

Congratulations to Cam Leonard, ANDVSA’s September Volunteer Attorney of the Month!

Cam has worked with ANDVSA as a pro bono attorney since 2017, taking on cases involving divorce, sexual assault and custody and getting results that positively impact lives. Recently reflecting on the experience, Cam noted “If I can say anything, I would encourage other attorneys to just take a chance on it, take a case. I guarantee their client will be better off with them helping her than trying to do something on her own. They will learn as they go, and I bet it will be a satisfying experience for them. I’m hoping others take the plunge that I finally took.”

Cam Leonard grew up in Massachusetts and attended Deep Springs College in California, which changed the trajectory of his life. He followed the advice of a classmate to check out Alaska after graduating from law school at University of California Berkeley and moved up to Fairbanks in 1983 where he has spent his legal career since.

After clerking for Alaska Supreme Court Judge Jay Rabinowitz, Cam started out as a public defender for a year and a half, accumulating trial experience as a young attorney. Post-Exxon Valdez, the State of Alaska expanded its environmental protection enforcement across the board and a new position opened at the Alaska Department of Law in the Environmental and Natural Resources sections. Twenty-four years later, Cam left the Alaska Department of Law after serving as Senior Assistant Attorney General. For the past six years, Cam has been working at Perkins Coie representing clients appearing before the agencies he used to represent, noting “it’s a pretty special place and there’s a strong commitment to pro bono. It’s a progressive firm and I’m lucky to have ended up there.”

Cam’s experience in the legal system and his openness to learning has made him an invaluable asset to the individuals and families to whom he has provided pro bono services. But he didn’t always know how much of a difference he could make because of perceptions about expertise. “For years, I had a theoretical commitment to pro bono, but I felt like I didn’t have the expertise to help where it was most needed, which seems to be in the family law arena.” Through his own tenacity and ANDVSA support, Cam was able to challenge previously held notions about who belongs in the pro bono family law practice sphere. According to Cam, “It certainly seems to me that there are a lot of folks out there who would benefit from any attorney stepping up to help them, whether that attorney has any expertise in family law or not. Some of these folks, they’ve maybe never been in a court room, they don’t know what an exhibit is. You know, I think attorneys who are hesitant to sign up and handle some of these cases are maybe undervaluing the assistance they can give as an attorney and a person comfortable with the court system. It’s been really rewarding, the two clients I helped have been really appreciative, you can see how much it means to them to get custody over their kids, or a restraining order against an abusive husband. That’s a different feeling, a more personal connection.”

Cam is in the process of slowly retiring. He tries to get out on some of the many rivers in and outside of the state in between gardening and learning to playing the guitar. Over the next few weeks, Cam will spend time far from his home in Fairbanks, exploring the Okavango Delta and Zambezi River. When he gets back, he hopes to keep doing pro bono work into retirement.

Cam Leonard, September 2019

Ben Brown

Ben Brown is our December Volunteer Attorney of the Month! Ben is a star of our Information and Referral Hotline; almost every month he helps field calls from domestic violence victims across the state. He has also previously represented individual clients for ANDVSA.

A lifelong Alaskan, Ben began practicing law in 2001. “I had a few clients placed through the Network at which point I came to realize how serious the need for legal assistance was among victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. The work has such a tremendous effect to help victims and their children break the cycle.”

In his current position as a commissioner on the Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission, Ben is unable to represent individual clients and so dedicates his time to the hotline. “The hotline is a little bit like what Forrest Gump said about a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get,” he says. When asked about what advice he has for other attorneys thinking about volunteering for ANDVSA, Ben says: “It’s really rewarding, and being afraid of the unknown is not a good reason not to do it. ANDVSA is very good at helping attorneys take on volunteer work.”

Ben lives in Juneau with his spouse Nicholas, and is a company member at Perseverance Theater. He also serves as Chairman of the Alaska State Council on the Arts. Thank you Ben for your dedicated service!

Ben Brown, December 2016

Bonnie Coghlan

Bonnie Coghlan of Downes, Tallerico, & Schwalm is our November Volunteer Attorney of the Month! Bonnie has taken five cases for ANDVSA since starting to work with us in 2015, but that only begins to demonstrate her commitment to providing free legal services to victims of domestic violence. From 1978 to 1998, Bonnie ran her own family law practice, where nearly she estimates that she represented about half of her clients at reduced or no cost.
She says she is drawn to domestic violence work in part because of her own upbringing. Bonnie grew up in Wasilla and she says that addiction struggles and emotional abuse within her own family “gave me a lot of insight and empathy for people suffering from this cycle of violence.”
To other attorneys thinking about volunteering in domestic violence cases, Bonnie says “there can be a lot of cynicism in cases when both parties seem problematic. Regardless of that, if you can make the cycle stop, you can protect not only your client but also the other party, and any children involved. These can be rather simple filings that some people just don’t have the tools to do on their own, but these simple things can do a lot.”
Bonnie lives in Fairbanks, enjoys hiking and bicycling, and sings in choruses four days each week. Thank you Bonnie for your continued service!

Bonnie Coghlan, November 2016

Jon Katcher

ANDVSA congratulates Jon Katcher on receiving the Attorney General’s Award for Pro Bono Service!
Since 2000, Jon has been one of our most dedicated volunteer attorneys, taking on eleven of our cases and eleven cases for the Alaska Legal Services Corporation, both by personally representing clients and by mentoring other attorneys through the process.
Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth presented Katcher the award at a ceremony at Anchorage’s AWAIC Shelter proclaiming October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Jon has helped many clients through custody cases. Survivors often stay in their abusive relationship because they have been told they would lose their children in a custody battle if they leave or because they don’t have the economic means to leave. Jon’s work helping clients to get full custody of their children and solid child support awards has meant the difference between leaving and staying for many survivors.
In one particular case, Jon represented a woman whose husband was physically abusive and refusing to return their young son. Jon persuaded the court to award custody of the boy to his mother. The boy went on to become an exemplary student and athlete, and he is now studying aeronautical engineering in college.
“It’s hard work and it’s easy work,” Jon says. “The law itself is fairly easy to understand, but it’s hard work because you are dealing with people in crisis. Nevertheless, because you are making a difference in their lives and the lives of their children, it’s continually fulfilling.”
Thank you Jon for your years of service!
Jonothan Katcher, October 2016