Bryan P. Timbers Pro Bono Award(s): These awards recognize the extraordinary pro bono efforts of small/solo practitioners, law firms, and public sector agencies toward closing the justice gap to Alaskans with civil legal needs.
Bonnie is currently an associate with Downes, Tallerico and Schwalm in Fairbanks. She started volunteering for ANDVSA in 2014 and has since taken eight (8) cases representing survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault in divorce, custody and protection order proceedings. 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.” Bonnie has a fierce sense of justice and advocates aggressively for her clients in her volunteer cases. She doesn’t shy away from ANDVSA’s toughest cases. One particularly difficult case that she handled for ANDVSA involved an opposing party who had serially sexually assaulted young women, but was trying to get custody of his minor children. Bonnie’s work in organizing former victims of this person to testify helped her client to achieve her goals in preventing that outcome from happening. Several of the cases that Bonnie has taken have involved complicated situations and many hours which Bonnie graciously takes on. Additionally, she has agreed to take cases for ANDVSA in more rural locations where there are not as many volunteers available.
Bonnie’s work with ANDVSA clients 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 she estimates that she represented about half of her clients at reduced or no cost. She has always believed fiercely that individuals, regardless of their ability to pay, deserve a right to have their voice heard in court. To hone her skills, Bonnie has attending the ANDVSA 2-day CLE in February each year so that she can better advocate for her clients. 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.”
Aisha Tinker Bray
Aisha is an attorney with State of Alaska’s Torts and Worker’s Compensation division but always finds time to do volunteer work that is important to her. Aisha has been an ANDVSA volunteer since 2002 and has since taken eight (8) volunteer cases for survivors. She is regularly available to volunteer in areas where she has expertise including probate, real estate and tort matters. She uses her legal skills to help survivors in myriad ways, including helping a survivor in a divorce case with a property transfer or helping a client defend against a frivolous lawsuit. In the latter case, Aisha helped a client whose abusive ex-husband had used every legal proceeding possible to continue his abuse against her. When he filed a tort lawsuit, Aisha was able to take an enormous burden from the survivor’s shoulders by using her expertise to have the case dismissed. In a case that involved very serious levels of violence, she drafted a will for the survivor, giving that client peace of mind for her children’s future. And not satisfied to only stay in her comfort zone, Aisha has fearlessly ventured into the world of family law when ANDVSA called, desperate for help. This year she spent her three-day President’s Day weekend learning about family law at ANDVSA’s training so that she could better help out in high need areas like domestic relations. In addition to her work doing direct services for ANDVSA, Aisha has given an enormous amount of help to the local domestic violence and sexual assault program in Fairbanks, the Interior Alaska Center for Non-Violent Living, where she is the Board President and has been on the board for the last 14 years. Desperate to never lose Aisha’s expertise and skills, the Board did away with term limits because of Aisha!