Fairbanks hosts Alaska Bar Association Annual Convention

Learn about the 2023 Alaska Bar Association Convention.
Published: Sep. 27, 2023 at 5:47 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Last week, the Westmark Hotel and Conference Center saw a statewide gathering of attorneys and other legal officials for the 2023 Alaska Bar Association Annual Convention.

From military to Alaska Supreme Court Justices, lawyers, judges and others made their way to Fairbanks for the annual Bar Association Convention.

A bar association is an organization that establishes conduct for practicing law in a given area and the Alaska Bar Association is a mandatory bar association that all lawyers practicing in Alaska must join. There are other bar associations in the state that optional to join such as the Tanana Valley Bar Association.

The convention takes place each year to provide Alaska’s legal community a chance to develop consensus on important issues. For 2023, the primary focus was on “Native American law,” said Diana Wildland, the president of the Alaska Bar Association. This includes, “indigenous peoples rights and the way that, that’s interplaying with a variety of different aspects of the law, primarily ICWA,” Wildland said. ICWA also known as the Indian Child Welfare Act, is a federal law that provides preference to Native American families when a Native American child is up for adoption.

These topics were discussed in the form of presentations by legal scholars during the convention, with a focus on how those laws have been interpreted and utilized in various supreme court cases at the federal level. There was also a discussion panel where more attorneys were able to discuss the issues.

“The State of Alaska has of course, a huge population of native people who are going to be directly impacted by that,” Wildland said. These updates from a federal perspective are considered critical to functions of the legal community in Alaska. “We need to know how that’s changing the landscape of the law so when we practice we are up to date and well informed. But it’s also something that I think is really important to bring into Alaska for the community at large too because our jobs as lawyers is to serve our community, serve the Alaska population in general and these federal cases have a direct impact on the people that we serve,” said Wildland.

The emerging legal issues involving legalized cannabis was also a topic of discussion.

The convention which rotates between Fairbanks, Anchorage, and Juneau is also important for lawyers to create bonds and understanding which was disrupted during the COVID-19 pandemic. “This is only the second convention we’ve had in person after covid. Even though we do go to battle in the courtroom, that is not always how we interact with one another,” said Wildland.