Legislature(2011 - 2012)BELTZ 105 (TSBldg)

02/07/2011 01:30 PM JUDICIARY


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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
*+ SB 62 CIVIL LEGAL SERVICES FUND TELECONFERENCED
Heard & Held
*+ SB 72 CRIMES INVOLVING MINORS/STALKING/INFO TELECONFERENCED
Heard & Held
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
                    ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                  
              SENATE JUDICIARY STANDING COMMITTEE                                                                             
                        February 7, 2011                                                                                        
                           1:36 p.m.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
Senator Hollis French, Chair                                                                                                    
Senator Bill Wielechowski, Vice Chair                                                                                           
Senator Joe Paskvan                                                                                                             
Senator Lesil McGuire                                                                                                           
Senator John Coghill                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
All members present                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
SENATE BILL NO. 62                                                                                                              
"An Act allowing appropriations to the civil legal services fund                                                                
from court filing fees."                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
     - HEARD AND HELD                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
SENATE BILL NO. 72                                                                                                              
"An Act relating to the  crimes of stalking, online enticement of                                                               
a  minor,  unlawful  exploitation  of a  minor,  endangering  the                                                               
welfare  of  a child,  sending  an  explicit  image of  a  minor,                                                               
harassment,  distribution of  indecent  material  to minors,  and                                                               
misconduct  involving   confidential  information;   relating  to                                                               
probation; and providing for an effective date."                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
     - HEARD AND HELD                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
PREVIOUS COMMITTEE ACTION                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
BILL: SB  62                                                                                                                  
SHORT TITLE: CIVIL LEGAL SERVICES FUND                                                                                          
SPONSOR(s): SENATOR(s) MCGUIRE                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
01/24/11       (S)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        

01/24/11 (S) JUD, FIN 02/07/11 (S) JUD AT 1:30 PM BELTZ 105 (TSBldg) BILL: SB 72 SHORT TITLE: CRIMES INVOLVING MINORS/STALKING/INFO SPONSOR(s): RULES BY REQUEST OF THE GOVERNOR

01/26/11 (S) READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS

01/26/11 (S) JUD, FIN 02/07/11 (S) JUD AT 1:30 PM BELTZ 105 (TSBldg) WITNESS REGISTER JOHN BURNS, Attorney General Designee Department of Law Anchorage, AK POSITION STATEMENT: Introduced SB 72. RICK SVOBODNY, Deputy Attorney General Criminal Division, Department of Law Juneau, AK POSITION STATEMENT: Delivered a sectional analysis of SB 72. ANNE CARPENETI, Assistant Attorney General Department of Law Juneau, AK POSITION STATEMENT: Responded to questions related to the drafting of SB 72. NIKOLE NELSON, Executive Director Alaska Legal Services Corporation POSITION STATEMENT: Testified in support of SB 62. VANCE SANDERS, Attorney and President Alaska Legal Services Corporation POSITION STATEMENT: Testified in support of SB 62. KATE BURKHART, Executive Director Alaska Mental Health Board and Advisory Board on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse POSITION STATEMENT: Testified in support of SB 62. ACTION NARRATIVE 1:36:11 PM CHAIR HOLLIS FRENCH called the Senate Judiciary Standing Committee meeting to order at 1:36 p.m. Senators Paskvan, Wielechowski, Coghill, and French were present at the call to order. Senator McGuire arrived soon thereafter. SB 72-CRIMES INVOLVING MINORS/STALKING/INFO 1:36:47 PM CHAIR HOLLIS FRENCH announced the consideration of SB 72. 1:37:02 PM JOHN BURNS, Attorney General, Department of Law (DOL), stated that SB 72 is aimed at the stalking and exploitation of minors. Through the efforts of both the Governor and the Legislature, Alaska is firmly focused on ending the epidemic of sexual assault and domestic violence that has plagued communities for far too long. The statistics bear repeating. Children in Alaska are sexually abused at a rate that is 6 times higher than the national average; and women in Alaska are raped at a rate that is 2.5 times the national average. SB 72 builds on legislation passed last year and proposes changes that will further protect victims from exploitation and assault. In addition to clarifying aspects of existing statutes, SB 72 expands the crime of stalking by amending the definition of nonconsensual contact to include the use of global positional devices and the installation and attempted installation of devices to observe, record, or photograph events in the home, workplace, or vehicle of a victim or on a victim's personal telephone or computer. The amended definition reflects a reality of technology and the uses for which it is applied. SB 72 also makes it a crime to publish or distribute an explicit image of a minor and makes it a crime to knowingly obtain confidential information about another person without legal authority or consent. As proposed by the Governor, the objective of SB 72 is consistent with efforts to eradicate sexual assault and domestic violence. 1:39:21 PM SENATOR MCGUIRE joined the hearing. RICK SVOBODNY, Deputy Attorney General, Criminal Division, Department of Law (DOL) stated that, in general, Alaska has state-of-the-art statutes related to protecting children and adults from domestic violence and sexual assault. The Governor's initiative appropriately deals with things like prevention and keeping kids in school so they aren't victimized, but every year the conduct of society changes such that the current legislation needs to be tweaked. SB 72 serves this purpose. MR. SVOBODNY provided the following sectional analysis of SB 72: Sections 1 and 2 change the stalking statutes. Right now stalking occurs when a person A engages in nonconsensual contact with person B and that conduct places person B or their family members in fear of death or physical injury. Reflecting changes in technology, SB 72 adds two ways that a defendant may make contact that is beyond the victim's consent. The first is by installing or trying to install a GPS device or similar technology on a victim's vehicle in order to track their whereabouts. [The second way includes installing or attempting to install a device for observing, recording, or photographing events in a person's home, workplace, or vehicle, or on a person's personal telephone or computer.] 1:44:01 PM SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI asked if it would be considered stalking if a person used Google Earth to look at another person's house on a regular basis. MR. SVOBODNY answered no; it's the installation of a device that would track somebody. CHAIR FRENCH called a point of order to clarify that on page 2, subparagraph (H) is about following or monitoring a person with a GPS and subparagraph (I) is about installing a device that is like a webcam. MR. SVOBODNY agreed; he was discussing subparagraph (H) when the question was posed. SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI noted that subparagraph (I) talks about using a device for observing a person's residence and said he'd like to know how Google Earth doesn't apply. He then asked if subparagraph (H) would bar an employer from putting a GPS device on an employee's vehicle. MR. SVOBODNY replied that conduct alone wouldn't be criminalized by this section. This stalking section deals with causing somebody to be placed in fear of death or physical injury by repeated instances of nonconsensual contact. SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI indicated he would check the statute. CHAIR FRENCH agreed with Mr. Svobodny; one of the elements of stalking is that there's a pattern of nonconsensual contact. Acknowledging that the members probably aren't totally up to speed on all advances in technology, he said he isn't sure how easy it would be to track someone by looking at which cell phone tower routed their calls. The police use this information from time to time and it wouldn't be good if a stalker could too. He asked Mr. Svobodny to comment. 1:47:51 PM MR. SVOBODNY deferred the question to Sergeant DeGraaf. He continued to explain that the idea in the first clause in subparagraph (I) is the situation of installing a device like a webcam in someone's house or vehicle for the purpose of observing, recording, or tracking that person. The second clause deals with computers or telephonic devices in the home or workplace. He cited examples. CHAIR FRENCH said the elements listed in subparagraphs (A) through (I) on pages 1 and 2 require that the victim know about them. MR. SVOBODNY replied not necessarily, but as a result of this conduct the person is put in fear of death or physical injury. A rather common example is somebody leaving Hallmark cards with phrases on a person's windshield; it takes awhile to figure out what's going on, but that conduct can eventually place the person in fear. 1:52:31 PM CHAIR FRENCH clarified that there has to be some awareness on the victim's part that this is happening. If someone is watching your house and you don't know about it, you don't like it and it's creepy but it's not part of the stalking proof. MR. SVOBODNY agreed; the victim has to know about it and be put in fear. 1:52:53 PM SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI read the definition of the crime of stalking in the second degree and asked if it hasn't occurred until a person knows about it and is in fear of death or physical injury. MR. SVOBODNY replied it wouldn't be the crime of stalking until the person was aware, but the elements might fit another crime such as eavesdropping or indecent viewing. SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI questioned what is being criminalized in subparagraphs (H) and (I). MR. SVOBODNY explained that this adds to the definition of nonconsensual contact; if a GPS device was installed or a device was installed on a person's cell phone or computer and they became sufficiently cognizant to be put in fear, then that would be the crime of stalking in the second degree. SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI asked, if installs one of these devices on my cell phone and I don't know about it, this bill doesn't make that a crime. MR. SVOBODNY confirmed that this change would not make that conduct a crime. SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI asked if it would be the crime of stalking in the second degree if he finds out about the installation and fears death or physical injury. MR. SVOBODNY replied the conduct would also have to be repeated. 1:55:39 PM CHAIR FRENCH said he understands the concern; we're relying on some other provision of criminal law to rise up and touch the conduct of somebody putting a webcam in your house without your knowledge. MR. SVOBODNY said that would be the crime of eavesdropping and it's not prosecuted very often. CHAIR FRENCH suggested that it might be time to look at that statute since there are so many new ways to share information. MR. SVOBODNY related that he's prosecuted cases of an estranged husband putting a listening device in his wife's residence without her knowledge or consent. That's the crime of eavesdropping. 1:57:12 PM SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI said he can see how [the elements in (A) - (G)] could cause fear of death or physical injury, but he wonders if the proposed (H) and (I) shouldn't be in another section. If someone installed one of these devices you'd be more likely to feel that your privacy had been violated than to fear death, he said. CHAIR FRENCH said you have to put it into context; it's the pattern of nonconsensual contact that makes a person afraid. MR. SVOBODNY offered to look at the eavesdropping statutes because it was on his mind when the bill was drafted. 1:58:54 PM CHAIR FRENCH stated that this is an area the committee is concerned about and it will be discussed again in future hearings. SENATOR MCGUIRE said she likes that the bill addresses stranger- to-stranger contact because the criminal laws initially were structured around domestic relations. "It's exciting that at least our statutes are keeping up with the conduct," she said. 2:00:30 PM SENATOR PASKVAN reviewed AS 11.41.270(a) and questioned why there needs to be a "course of conduct" as opposed to saying that someone "engages in conduct that recklessly places another person in fear." MR. SVOBODNY replied stalking was criminalized after a state employee became infatuated with a female coworker. He started saying odd things in the elevator, then she saw his car on her street, and then he started following her all the time. This course of conduct over time was very frightening and that's typically what stalking is; it's not one event. Alaska prohibited the pattern of conduct that scared people in 1993. SENATOR PASKVAN said he wonders if there's a public policy in saying that a person should not be allowed to put a monitoring device on another person's vehicle under any circumstance. MR. SVOBODNY replied it's easy to say that somebody shouldn't be able to install a webcam in another person's house, but we don't even realize how often tracking devices are put in vehicles. It's common for rental car agencies to track the whereabouts of their rental fleet and trucking companies use them to track freight. 2:05:29 PM SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI asked if a person has engaged in a course of conduct if they try to put a webcam in someone's house. MR. SVOBODNY answered no; it would need to be repeated conduct. CHAIR FRENCH noted that a memo from Mr. Svobodny regarding Cooper v. Cooper, Alaska 2006 states that more than nonconsensual contact is needed for the crime of stalking to take place; the contact must also be repeated so that it is a course of conduct and it must place the person in fear. SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI asked if it would be a course of conduct if someone puts a webcam in your house and they look at you every night. MR. SVOBODNY replied, "That certainly would be my argument to the court." SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI asked if the courts would agree, given the way the law is written. MR. SVOBODNY answered yes; there's precedent in a case involving the crime of terroristic threatening, which required repeated conduct. When a judge received a letter that had three paragraphs, the court said constituted three incidents. SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI questioned how it's possible to inflict the fear of death or physical injury by attempting to install one of these devices. CHAIR FRENCH said you might walk out of Fred Meyers and see the person who has been sending creepy messages putting something in your car or you might come home and find he's been trying to install a webcam. MR. SVOBODNY said attempting to install a GPS is an event, following is an event, and contacting a person at their office is an event; together that is a repeated course of conduct. 2:08:19 PM SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI asked if it would be a crime of stalking in the second degree to install a webcam outside someone's house and focused on their front door. MR. SVOBODNY replied that would not be counted as part of this course of conduct. He said his interpretation would be that it must be installed in the house. CHAIR FRENCH opined that it's an open question because you'd see inside the residence if a device was installed outside the residence but focused on a window or the front door. SENATOR PASKVAN asked about the circumstance of hiring a private investigator to track the activities of a person. MR. SVOBODNY replied a person who solicits another or aids and abets another in committing a crime is as guilty as the person that is doing the crime. If the investigator's conduct fits the elements and recklessly places the person in fear of death or physical injury, both the private investigator and the employer would be committing a crime. 2:10:49 PM SENATOR PASKVAN said private investigators are hired all the time to do just that, particularly in the civil arena. This makes it a bit unclear as to what's a crime and what's legal. Is it legal if someone's registered with the state to be a stalker, as opposed to the amateur? MR. SVOBODNY agreed that private investigators do all those things, but they have to meet the other elements of the crime. He added that it's a problem when a criminal statute can be read multiple ways because the defendant wins in their interpretation. 2:13:01 PM SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI said he has great concern passing laws that give prosecutors great discretion; rather, the law should be written as succinctly and articulately as possible. Senator Paskvan raises an excellent point, and the language in the proposed provisions should be tightened, he said. CHAIR FRENCH pointed out that the foundational element is the course of conduct that recklessly places another person in fear of death or physical injury. It's not the specific incident that a prosecutor will rely on to form the basis of his/her case. He asked Mr. Svobodny to move to Section 2. 2:15:12 PM MR. SVOBODNY said Section 2 includes "software" in the definition of "device." Section 3 increases the classification of the crime of online enticement of a minor for a person who is not required to register as a sex offender or child kidnapper from a class C felony to a class B felony. For a person who is required to register as a sex offender, the classification would increase from a B felony offense to an A felony offense. It also refers to Section 12 and places the offense of online enticement in with the other sexual assaults, attempted sexual assaults, or conspiracy to commit sexual assaults. This changes the presumptive ranges for these offenses. 2:17:59 PM SENATOR PASKVAN asked if this is really a problem because increasing the penalties would give defendants more reason to mount a vigorous defense and the cases would be more complex for prosecutors. MR. SVOBODNY said he agrees that it's likely that these cases would be litigated strongly and the work would increase for prosecutors, but the complexity of the cases would be the same. He offered to follow up and provide the information about how many of these cases go to trial. CHAIR FRENCH said he'd like to know how many people are prosecuted under this statute given the scope of the problem in Alaska with sex assault and sex abuse of a minor. MR. SVOBODNY agreed to provide the information and warned that the numbers of cases that are prosecuted are substantially less than the numbers of times that people in Alaska have gone online and exchanged child pornography. He reminded the committee of the demonstration last year that showed these online exchanges and emphasized that these cases are time consuming to investigate because it's necessary to not only track down the computer that was used but also to prove that a particular individual was sitting behind that computer. 2:21:41 PM MR. SVOBODNY summarized that Sections 3 and 4 deal with the online enticement and Section 5 deals with the unlawful exploitation of a minor. The penalties are increased for these crimes. Section 6 amends the crime of endangering the welfare of a minor in the first degree. The current law prohibits a parent or guardian from leaving a child under age 16 with a person who is required to register as a sex offender. This adds a person who is required to register as a child kidnapper to that group. SENATOR COGHILL asked if his understanding is correct that a lot of the people that are required to register as a child kidnapper end up in this category because of disputes over the custody of their children. MR. SVOBODNY replied he would follow up and look at the kidnapping statute, but he believes these cases would generally be charged as custodial interference. SENATOR COGHILL said he needs to understand this better because some custody disputes are legitimate. 2:24:56 PM Section 7 adopts a new crime for "sexting." It proscribes a person sending an explicit image of a minor's genitals, anus, or female breast without consent of the parent or guardian if the minor is under age 16. The prohibited conduct would be a B misdemeanor offense if the image is published or distributed to one or two people; an A misdemeanor offense if the image is published to more than two people; and a C felony offense if the publication or distribution is over the Internet. This would not apply to a minor under age 16 who publishes or distributes his or her own image. MR. SVOBODNY noted that this issue is somewhat controversial and a way to resolve it may be to include the "Romeo and Juliet exception," which is that a required element would be that there has to be four years difference between the person whose picture is sent and the person who posts the image. CHAIR FRENCH stated concern about the section. 2:27:38 PM SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI posed a hypothetical situation of a grandmother using her iphone to take a picture of a baby she is watching to send it to her bridge club friends. He asked if this violates the statute because the baby is only wearing diapers. MR. SVOBODNY replied that would be a problem under the strict reading of the bill because the grandmother isn't a legal guardian. If the prosecutors used no common sense it would be a misdemeanor offense. SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI asked if it would be a violation of the law if a 15 year old girl took pictures of herself and distributed them a week later after she turned 16. MR. SVOBODNY replied she could be prosecuted under the bill because the crime occurs when the distribution occurs. 2:29:58 PM ANNE CARPENETI, Assistant Attorney General, Department of Law (DOL), clarified that the bill specifically provides that the statute doesn't apply to a person sending their own picture. CHAIR FRENCH reviewed the language on page 3, line 28, that says it doesn't apply to a minor under 16 and pointed out that Senator Wielechowski's hypothetical posits distribution at age 17. MS. CARPENETI agreed that should be clarified. SENATOR PASKVAN posed a hypothetical situation of a 15 year old girl sexting to a 16 year old boyfriend who shares it with a buddy. He asked if the boyfriend committed a class B misdemeanor offense. MS. CARPENETI reminded the committee that juveniles would be dealt with in juvenile court, but if the boyfriend was 18 or older he would have committed a class B misdemeanor. 2:32:20 PM SENATOR PASKVAN urged caution because even if they were a juvenile this could follow them throughout their life. CHAIR FRENCH asked if this is a registerable offense. MS. CARPENETI answered no. CHAIR FRENCH clarified that a person who commits these offenses would not have to register as a sex offender. SENATOR COGHILL asked if there's a law that models some responsibility for a minor who takes a picture of him or herself and sends it on. MS. CARPENETI replied she hasn't seen one. She added that these are difficult choices and that's reflected in the tough questions that are being asked. CHAIR FRENCH questioned the wisdom of criminalizing behavior that is without question stupid. He observed that a 15 year old girl could put a picture of herself on Facebook and she hasn't committed a crime, but her boyfriend has if he points it out. MS. CARPENETI clarified that the boyfriend wouldn't have committed a crime unless he forwards the image his 15 year old girlfriend posted. MS. CARPENETI said we have to assume that the prosecutors and division of juvenile justice (DJJ) personnel are using common sense. 2:34:34 PM CHAIR FRENCH asked what core conduct this is aimed at that isn't covered by existing statutes that punish child pornographers or enticers of children. MR. SVOBODNY clarified that child exploitation is a felony offense and is substantially more serious. This bill is trying to address the reality that pictures that are posted on the Internet never die. They follow a person for the rest of his or her life and may influence a potential future employer. This is to reduce the impact of making a stupid decision. 2:38:02 PM SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI asked if there are any exceptions for things with literary or artistic merit. For example, would it be a crime under this statute to forward a picture of a 17th century painting of a young girl who isn't wearing a shirt? MR. SVOBODNY said that when he asked Ms. Carpeneti to draft this bill, his thought process was that things with artistic value would fall under the parental/guardian consent exception. SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI asked if he would have committed a crime under Sec. 11.61.116 if he were to forward a 17th century literary masterpiece of a young girl who isn't wearing a shirt. MR. SVOBODNY answered no. SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI questioned how that wouldn't meet the technical definition of this violation. MR. SVOBODNY conceded that the language probably needs to be tightened, but the idea is to limit future consequences of having made a stupid and indiscrete youthful decision. 2:41:49 PM SENATOR MCGUIRE stated that she believes that the current language is vulnerable to constitutional challenges. She then raised the issue of someone using another person's phone and publishing an image or text without consent. In another hypothetical situation teens pass a phone around to show a photo and someone pushes "send." In both cases it would be a matter of proof as to who published. These examples show that in real life the chain of custody isn't as clear as we might describe it, she said. MS. CARPENETI clarified that this only applies to images, not text. SENATOR MCGUIRE responded that it's a very quick process that's often done without consent. She mentioned her experience with her young son. 2:46:11 PM MS. CARPENETI pointed out that this is a criminal statute that has culpable mental states. The state would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person knowingly posted the image with reckless disregard to the age of the person in the image. She reiterated that this is difficult and she appreciates the helpful comments. SENATOR PASKVAN asked how many people the state believes will be put in jail by this statute assuming there is a common sense understanding of who would and would not be prosecuted. MR. SVOBODNY replied hopefully no one but it's a difficult question because this isn't a current crime so there aren't any statistics. What we don't want is to have a 24 year old man distributing pictures of a 15 year old girl. 2:49:03 PM CHAIR FRENCH announced he would hold SB 72 in committee. SB 62-CIVIL LEGAL SERVICES FUND 2:49:25 PM CHAIR HOLLIS FRENCH announced the consideration of SB 62. SENATOR MCGUIRE, sponsor of SB 62, said the bill would allow appropriations into the Alaska Legal Services Fund equivalent to 25 percent of the filing fees paid to the court system during the previous fiscal year. Right now these filing fees go into the general fund. For over 40 years Alaska Legal Services Corporation has been helping low-income Alaskans who need representation, and the corporation's state funds are dwindling. She said that Alaska Legal Services helps families who are in true crisis, including families experiencing domestic violence, as well as many senior citizens. 2:52:30 PM SENATOR COGHILL asked how many corporations like this have a dedicated fund to go to. SENATOR MCGUIRE responded she would get the information. CHAIR FRENCH mentioned that the Sea Life Center, among others, can receive corporate donations and then the corporations can get credits against their state taxes. SENATOR COGHILL replied both tax credits and grants are prolific but there are few places in the statutes authorize a private corporation to receive an appropriation from a specific area. 2:53:54 PM NIKOLE NELSON, Executive Director, Alaska Legal Services Corporation, said the ALSC mission is to provide meaningful access to justice for low income Alaskans, thus promoting family stability, safety, and reducing the legal consequences of poverty. In the last year they helped over 400 victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, as well as 600 Alaska seniors. The corporation also helped 300 disabled individuals get access to Social Security and health care benefits, and it helped 349 families to fight homelessness. Ms. Nelson noted that 38 percent of the clients they served last year lived in rural communities. 2:56:53 PM The bad news, she said, is that last year ALSC turned away hundreds of families because it lacked the staffing resources to help them. While the ALSC client base is growing each year, funding has decreased. The percentage of people living in poverty in Alaska is higher than it has been in 15 years. In 2009 ALSC received over 3,400 inquiries, and 2,834 applications for help. They need to bridge the gap between those who need ALCS services and those who are able to get them. SB 62 is part of the solution. 2:58:54 PM VANCE SANDERS, Attorney and President, Alaska Legal Services Corporation, said he worked for ALSC as an attorney from 1982- 1992, and he is now an attorney in private practice. Mr. Sanders said that ALSC has tried to go to every available funding source it can think of. The corporation was founded by Congress but is independent of government control, so as to meet the needs of the people it serves. While ALSC still receives federal money, the reality is that federal funding will no longer be reliable. The corporation has tried to fill the gap but state funding has gone from $1.2 million in 1984 to $350,000 in the governor's budget this year. If ALSC is going to fight domestic violence and help people in need, it must be funded. MR. SANDERS said three years ago, with help from Senator Thomas, ALSC was able to amend the punitive damages statute so that the fifty percent that goes to the state would be available for appropriation. However, the Legislature has never appropriated that money. ALSC is hoping that the Legislature will appropriate that money as well as the civil filing fees in court cases. This would be extremely helpful. He also emphasized that legal services helps judges, because it cuts the number of pro se cases. 3:03:03 PM KATE BURKHART, Executive Director, Alaska Mental Health Board and the Advisory Board on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, stated that she does not speak for the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS). She is speaking on behalf of these boards to support SB 62 because of the direct benefit to Alaskans experiencing mental illness and substance use disorders, as well as their families and communities. Those who experience a mental health disorder often live in poverty, and living in poverty means having to go to the justice system for basic human needs, such as fair housing and access to health care. Most people do not understand how difficult it is to access the justice system if you live in poverty. Add to that a disability, such as mental illness, and it is almost impossible without a professional advocate. Representing someone experiencing a mental health disorder requires a great deal of patience and time, and a fair amount of specialization. The nonprofit, public interest law firms in Alaska, such as ALSC offer this in a way that is not often offered to the constituency it represents. 3:06:17 PM MS. BURKHARDT said the majority of people that Alaska Legal Services serves are affected by mental health issues, and often alcoholism and addiction. By insuring access to the justice system through competent legal services, SB 62 provides a unique benefit to the clients served by the boards on which she serves. CHAIR FRENCH announced he would hold SB 62 in committee. 3:06:32 PM There being no further business to come before the committee, Chair French adjourned the meeting at

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
SB62 Sponsor Statement.pdf SJUD 2/7/2011 1:30:00 PM
SB 62