Saturday, May 31, 2008

Empowering Alaskans, One Claim At a Time

Even here on the last frontier, we live in a world where the whims of distant corporations can seem to be in control of our very existence.

We are bound up in a dozen relationships a day with these faceless entities. When things go well, we get what we bargained for. The book or DVD we bought online arrives in the mail; the car we purchased starts even at 20 degrees below zero; and the deal we made to clear up an old debt is honored by both sides.

At other times, the usual transactions of everyday life seem to go haywire. There is a mix-up with an order, a glitch in a payment, or an unforeseen defect in something we purchase. Usually, even then, we manage to connect with someone who helps resolve the problem.

But sometimes, things go very wrong. Like when the young father/businessman gets his truck repossessed because the loan company sticks him for a late fee he doesn't owe. Or when the family vacation to Europe becomes a lot more expensive because the travel agency quoted the wrong price of a rental car in Rome. Or when the collection agency calls six times a day or adds unfair fees and charges to the bill. And on top of it all, even more than the lost money and time, the ultimate frustration for most people is the brush-off; the attitude on the part of some company clone that "we will do whatever we want and there is nothing you can do or say that will change things."

It is then that an email or a call to our backwoods law office can help. Because this is what the LAW is all about. It is to provide a neutral forum where the individual who believes they have suffered a wrong has the absolute right to call the accused transgressor to answer. And for us, it is immensely satisfying to help right even small wrongs, for ultimately any healthy society must give people a sense that justice can be found, at least some of the time, by those who are willing to seek her.

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Internet & Life on Chunilna Creek Homestead

Judy and I first staked "open-to-entry" land in the backwoods North of Talkeetna in 1973. In those days, once we left the flagstop on the Alaska Railroad and treked to the cabin, we were truly cut-off from most communication with the outside.

Messages to bush-dwellers read over an AM radio station or a shaky CB radio network was it for personal communication. Even in the mid-1980s, when some dedicated Anchorage lawyers (including now Palmer Superior Court Judge Eric Smith) represented Chase residents challenging poorly-planned state land "disposals" before the Alaska Supreme Court, the bush and CB message service was our sole means of contact with the lawyers. These radio connections gave us the first news that the supreme court had ruled in our favor against the state in 1986.

Today the internet and cellular links have truly revolutionized life in the backwoods.

Here in the homestead law office we are now able to access search engines and legal research sites at a click of the mouse, file complaints and motions in the U.S. District Court through the ECF system, and email documents to a helpful paralegal in Anchorage for mail or in-person filings in the state courts. When the Alaska appellate courts issue their weekly decisions, they appear in our email inbox instantly.

While our wireless link has its limitations, i.e. it is not fast enough for video, it has opened up the ability to effectively practice law, even in the backwoods of Alaska.

This blog will, from time to time, tell a bit of our story about practicing consumer rights & environmental law in the backwoods. I also will be posting tips, court decisions, and commentaries that might be helpful to consumer/citizens facing the predatory debt-buyer industry.