"An Act relating to the creation of a civil legal services fund. "
"Family law, health, will and probate issues know no socio-economic boundaries."
- Rep. McGuire
HB 175 is designed to provide a financial mechanism whereby the legislature may make appropriations to organizations that provide civil legal services to low-income Alaskans. This would be accomplished through the creation of a civil legal services account funded by provisions required under AS 09.17.020(j). This section of Alaska law requires that 50% of all punitive damage awards be turned over to the state and deposited into the general fund.
The civil legal needs of economically disadvantaged Alaskans are generally no different than anyone else's. Family law, health, will and probate issues know no socio-economic boundaries. Yet when these needs arise, self-represented litigants quite often find themselves unable to effectively represent their interests. Furthermore, these situations often place the judge in the inappropriate position of offering legal advice or even mediating between parties.
Since 1966, the Alaska Legal Services Corporation (ALSC) has assisted low-income Alaskans with their civil legal needs. The ALSC is not a state agency but rather a non-profit entity. The ALSC has been funded by a combination of state, federal and private sources. However, over the last several years these funds have been on the decline.
The inherent logic of HB 175 lies in the fact that the funds utilized to assist the disadvantaged in civil legal matters flow out of the civil legal system itself. So, high-stakes civil cases provide the funding mechanism for smaller, but no less important cases impacting low-income Alaskans. Furthermore, necessary efficiencies are achieved throughout the entire process by working these cases through a non-profit entity such as ALSC.
HB 175 identifies an ongoing source of funding designed to aid the ALSC in its efforts to provide civil legal assistance to low-income Alaskans. This is accomplished through use of the state's 50% share of civil damage awards deposited to the general fund. It is important to note that HB 175 does not create a mandatory expenditure. Each legislature possesses an option to appropriate these monies to a civil legal services fund.