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Alaska Bar marks Martin Luther King Day with free legal services

Unlike most holidays, Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a day "on" rather than a day "off." A day of service. A chance to give something back to the community. This is consistent with Dr. King's belief that each and every one of us, through our individual efforts, can truly make the world a better place.

This Monday, for the sixth consecutive year since 2010, the lawyers of the Alaska Bar Association will do our part by putting on free legal clinics in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau, and hosting a statewide toll-free phone bank for communities outside of those cities.

The Anchorage free legal clinic will be held at the Mountain View Boys and Girls Club, 315 Price Street, starting at noon until 6:00 p.m. The Bar Association will also hold free legal clinics in Fairbanks at the Rabinowitz Courthouse, 101 Lacey Street, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., and in Juneau at the Dimond Courthouse from 9 a.m. to noon, and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. The Bar Association -- with thanks to Alaska Public Radio Network -- will also host a free legal clinic phone bank for remote Alaskans, who may call 800-478-5256 between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. and be connected with a lawyer to answer question. Everyone is welcome to bring or call in questions regarding family law, landlord-tenant law, public benefits, and other legal issues. Each client will be afforded a free 15-minute consultation with a licensed attorney.

Our day of service, spending this holiday counseling the needy, rather than being with our families and friends, is a modest effort compared to the courage and sacrifice of Dr. King. But to those clients who seek our free legal advice, the cases are the most important things happening to them -- affecting their families, their homes and their livelihoods. Each citizen dealing with the often intimidating legal system is far better off with the assistance of a lawyer, if only to briefly explain what is happening in their case. We are privileged to provide this service in honor of Dr. King.

In the past six years 710 members of the Bar Association have provided 1,565 Martin Luther King Jr. Day free legal clinic clients with 3,230 hours of volunteer time. We hope that our continuing contribution will inspire others to do whatever they can as groups and individuals to help move us closer to Dr. King's dream of equal justice for all Americans.

Jonathon A. Katcher is founding member of the Alaska Bar Association Martin Luther King Jr. Day Free Legal Clinic. He practices law in Anchorage.

The views expressed here are the writer's own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com.

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