Current Pro Bono Award Recipients
Bryan P. Timbers Pro Bono Award(s)
Each year Alaska’s pro bono service providers select the recipients of the annual Bryan P. Timbers pro bono awards. 2022 marked the 33rd anniversary of this award and recognition of excellence in our community’s access to justice efforts. This year’s award recipients are Dorne Hawxhurst (private practitioner), Alice Curci (public sector), and Stoel Rives, LLP (firm).
PRIVATE PRACTITIONER: DORNE HAWXHURST
When Dorne retired from her position as the court forms attorney at the Court System in 2019, she was pretty sure that she would stay retired. About six months later, however, two women separately came to her for assistance in domestic violence cases and she jumped in to help. Both clients were from small towns without a local legal services office.
Early on in her career, Dorne had become acquainted with the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault (ANDVSA) — her first job in Alaska was working for Alaska Legal Services Corporation under an ANDVSA grant meant to help survivors of domestic violence in rural areas. Dorne also represented three ANDVSA pro bono clients in the early 2000’s. Based on this experience, Dorne knew that she should reach out to ANDVSA about representing these two women as pro bono clients through ANDVSA’s Legal Program. She had some concerns— for one, as a retired attorney she no longer was carrying malpractice insurance, so ANDVSA was able to sponsor that for her.
More than that, the cases were challenging both in terms of the legal problems involved as well as the heinous violence that had been done and Dorne was able to get support from ANDVSA in navigating that.
Using her extensive skills from her extensive experience at ALSC, the court system, and in private practice, Dorne worked diligently to secure favorable outcomes for her pro bono clients in their cases. She ensured that her clients were heard, safe, and ultimately received justice through the courts.
LAW FIRM: STOEL RIVES, LLP
Stoel Rives has been a long-time supporter of Alaska Legal Services Corporation. The attorneys and paralegals have contributed more than 2,000 hours in just the last 10 years. The efforts include a pro bono case full representation, consulting with ALSC staff attorneys, mentoring other ALSC pro bono attorneys, staffing an advise-only office at Eviction Court, volunteering on ALSC’s Landlord/Tenant Helpline, serving as an ALSC Board Member, and being on a fundraising event committee. But tonight we recognize the policy-changing work done by Stoel attorneys Jim Torgerson, Kevin Cuddy, Connor Smith, Whitney Brown, and paralegal Sarah Dronenburg alongside Jim Davis of the Northern Justice Project and Savannah Fletcher of (formerly with) ALSC.
The lawsuit had two aims: to get justice for a young man who was failed by the Alaska foster care system and second, and just as important, to help bring change to the system itself.
Their client entered the foster care system when he was 13 months old. He was separated from his siblings, subjected to improper psychotropic drugging as a toddler, and moved to dozens of different foster homes, facilities, and schools. The friendships, stability, security, and familial relationships that we take for granted were never an option. The Stoel team alleged that, due to the negligence of DHSS, the client was severely harmed. By the time their client left foster care when at 18, he had lost his relationships with his siblings, distrusted authority figures, and struggled to connect with others. The foster care system failed him.
After years of hard-fought litigation, including half a dozen dispositive motions, numerous reports from experts in New York, Fairbanks, and Seattle, and tens of thousands of pages of documents, we were able to secure a significant, life-changing settlement for their client.
In addition, the team was able to work with DHSS and identify concerns and offer suggestions about how the system could be improved. DHSS agreed to take these into consideration as it sought to help ensure that other foster children wouldn’t have to go through what their client did.
PUBLIC SECTOR: ALICE CURCI
By day Alice works as a District Attorney and in her free time for the past two years has represented a journalist who fled his country after repeated attempts on his life due to his opposition to the government. She spent long hours preparing applications for temporary protected status, work authorization, and asylum. She appeared with her client before the asylum office.
Now that her client has been granted political asylum, she is preparing the necessary applications to allow her client’s spouse and children to join him in the United States.
When asked why this type of volunteerism is compelling to her Alice wrote, “What drew me to this type of pro bono work is that I went through the immigration process myself. I moved to the US in 2015, and got to experience firsthand how daunting the immigration process can be, from the information overload to the seemingly endless pile of forms, expensive filing fees, and complete lack of a reliable timeline. Yet, I recognize that my position was one of privilege. I am a military spouse from Western Europe, I am fluent in English and I have an advanced degree. The process was far easier for me to navigate than many. It left me wondering just how taxing it must be for immigrants in less fortunate circumstances. So I thought I could put my law degree to good use!”