Stoel Rives Receives 2022 Bryan P. Timbers Pro Bono Award from Alaska Bar Association for Work on Complex Foster Care Case

Press Release

ANCHORAGE, Alaska—Stoel Rives, an AmLaw 200 firm, today announced it is the sole firm recipient of the Alaska Bar Association’s 2022 Bryan P. Timbers Pro Bono Award, which recognizes “the extraordinary pro bono efforts of small/solo practitioners, law firms, and public sector agencies toward closing the justice gap to Alaskans with civil legal needs.”

Alaska’s legal services providers—Alaska Pro Bono Program, Alaska Legal Services Corporation, Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault and the Pro Bono Asylum Project—select the annual firm honoree, and chose Stoel Rives based upon the firm’s significant effort working on the matter of Nathon Pressley v. State of Alaska, et al.

“We had two ultimate goals in taking on this lawsuit,” said Stoel Rives attorney Kevin Cuddy. “First, we wanted to get justice for a young man who was failed by the Alaska foster care system. Second, and just as important, we wanted to help bring change to the system itself. We are proud to say, with the dedicated help of the legal services teammates, we accomplished our goals.”

Stoel Rives attorneys began working on the Nathon Pressley case in April 2021, alongside Jim Davis of Northern Justice Project and Savannah Fletcher of Alaska Legal Services Corporation. The pro bono team represented Pressley, a young adult who entered the foster care system when he was 13 months old. Pressley was separated from his siblings, subjected to significant mistreatment, and moved to dozens of different foster homes, facilities and schools during his time in the system. “Due to the negligence of the State of Alaska, Department of Health and Social Services, Nathon was severely harmed. By the time Nathon left foster care when he was 18, he had lost his relationships with his siblings, had grown to distrust authority figures, and struggled to connect with others. The foster care system failed him,” Cuddy said.

On June 14, 2022, after hard-fought litigation, including half a dozen dispositive motions, numerous reports from experts in New York, Fairbanks, and Seattle, and the review of tens of thousands of pages of documents, the pro bono team was able to secure a significant, life-changing settlement for Pressley. The Stoel Rives team who worked on the case included attorneys James Torgerson, Kevin Cuddy and Connor Smith, and paralegal Sarah Dronenburg. Former Stoel Rives attorney Whitney Brown, who left the firm to clerk for The Hon. Sonia Sotomayor of the U.S. Supreme Court, was also a member of the Stoel Rives team. The team spent a combined 1,243.4 hours on the case.

In addition, the team offered suggestions to DHSS on how to improve upon the foster care system, and DHSS agreed to take the team’s suggestions into consideration as it sought to help ensure that that other foster care children wouldn’t have to endure the same treatment as Pressley.

“We’re very happy we were able to help Nathon, and believe his life is changed for the better,” said Stoel Rives partner Torgerson. “Our ultimate goal continues to be system reform that results in better care for all of Alaska’s foster kids.”

Stoel Rives attorneys nationwide actively engage in pro bono work. The firm is committed to ensuring that all people, regardless of means, should have access to the legal system. Stoel Rives lawyers are encouraged to complete at least 50 hours of pro bono service annually.

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