Free legal services offered for Martin Luther King Jr. Law Day
FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - On Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day was widely celebrated across the nation for the civil rights leader’s many achievements.
Some included his activism for equality - including taking part in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 among others.
King’s legacy lives on with a day of remembrance on the 16th of January, and each year on this day free legal services are offered around the state of Alaska with private attorneys offering free advice to residents.
The Alaska Bar Association, Alaska Court System, Alaska Legal Services Corporation, and local bar associations all took part in the 14th annual Martin Luther King Law Day.
Rachael Delehanty is a Senior Attorney with Alaska Legal Services Corp. She said even before the doors opened at the JP Jones Community Center, there were those waiting to take advantage of the one-day event. “Today is a day of service,” said Delehanty. “A day-on, if you will, instead of a day off.”
Delehanty has been coordinating the event in Fairbanks since 2017, and this year is the first in-person event since the COVID-19 pandemic. For the last few years, the event was held virtually over Zoom.
Delehanty said it is nice to be able to service people face-to-face. “You know, it is so much nicer to meet someone in person that you can put a name to the face, you can give a handshake, you know have that personal connection with. “
“2020 kind of made us all into ‘Zoom people,’” she laughed. “It was jarring. As someone who is kind of in the business of working with people all the time, and meeting new clients every other day, having to do it all virtual was an upset to the regular course of business.”
Although the attorneys were not able to help those with criminal matters, they were able to assist with civil legal questions, offering four legal practice areas including family law. “So if you have divorce, custody, child support issues, those are questions that would be for family law,” Delehanty said.
Another is housing. “Landlord-tenant issues, having your landlord fix something, those are housing issues,” she explained.
Public Benefits were another area, including but not limited to food benefits, SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), Food Stamps, Medicaid or Medicare, etc.
Lastly, a category Delehanty named “other” pertained to someone’s will or estates, or probates. “Maybe some employment law as well,” she said.
She said the majority of clients on Monday were looking for advice surrounding family matters.
“We had three Family Law Attorneys from 10 a.m. when we started until about noon,” Delehanty explained. “I was one of those attorneys, and we were kept busy all morning - just one client after another, with anything from divorces to custody, to modify custody... so yeah, we get lots of those.”
The in-person event is only held once a year, but for those who qualify some free legal services can be accessed year-round virtually by visiting - alaska.freelegalanswers.org. This confidential service is hosted by the Alaska Bar Association and licensed Alaskan Lawyers.
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