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In the early 1970's, a small group of trial lawyers began meeting several times a year over dinner to discuss their cases and the practice of civil law in Alaska. This initial networking evolved into the formation of a chapter of the national trial lawyer group, the American Association for Justice formerly known as the Association of Trial Lawyers of America (ATLA). The Alaska chapter is named the Alaska Trial Lawyers, formerly kown as the Association for Justice, and has been in existence since the mid 1970's. Its first president was Ames Luce. The hard fought political issue of the time was no-fault insurance, which the trial lawyers believed to infringe on the rights of injured victims to a full and fair recovery from those responsible for harming them.
In the early 1980's, the Association had grown to the point where it retained a part time executive director. By 1985, the national tort reform movement, sponsored by insurance, manufacturing, and commercial interests, became active in Alaska. The Association spearheaded the opposition, and created the Alaska Action Trust as its lobbying arm. The Association was able to moderate legislation passed in 1986, which nonetheless significantly impacted injury victims. In every year thereafter, tort reform forces have attempted to further erode the rights of injured Alaskans. To a large extent, they finally succeeded in 1997, by enacting a cap on general damages and punitive damages, along with other procedural changes which uniformly disadvantage victims. The Association continues to challenge these provisions.
Over the years, the Association has grown to include members across the great state of Alaska. The founders have largely retired from civil practice. The veterans of the tort reform wars have stepped back, and the Association is now managed and vitalized by a younger group of lawyers who are in the trenches of civil and criminal litigation, large and small.
The Association sponsors luncheons for member networking and dinner meetings with an educational speaker. It also sponsors an annual one and a half-day Civil Conference in the Fall with noted national and local speakers. The Association holds two Board of Governors seats with the American Association for Justice.