Pro Bono Law for Domestic Abuse Victims Signed


Bipartisan legislation mandating that federal district courts promote pro bono legal services for domestic violence survivors was signed into law by President Donald Trump Sept. 4.

While the Kavanaugh hearings and the partisan debate over his nomination dominated much of the news cycle, the Pro bono Work to Empower and Represent Act of 2018—the POWER Act—passed without controversy.

One of the law’s sponsors in the Senate, Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), told Bloomberg Law in July that the law could create “an army” of lawyers to help domestic abuse survivors.

“On average, every day in our country, three women are killed by a current or former partner,” Sullivan said in a Sept. 4 statement.

“Research has shown that when abused victims are represented by an attorney, their ability to break out of the cycle of violence increases dramatically,” he said.

The Senate passed the bill in 2017 and it passed the House with some changes in mid-July. The Senate agreed to them Aug. 15.

The POWER Act requires the chief judges of the 94 federal district courts to hold annual events in partnership with domestic violence service providers to encourage lawyers to volunteer their time.

It’s modeled after the “Choose Respect” campaign that Sullivan helped champion while attorney general of Alaska, which has the highest rates of domestic violence and sexual assault in the country.

The Alaska campaign, which resulted in more than 100 attorneys volunteering thousands of hours to help survivors, held events featuring survivors talking about their experience, sign-up booths, and educational opportunities for lawyers to learn about domestic violence, Sullivan said.

The first event must be held within one year.

To contact the reporter on this story: Melissa Heelan Stanzione in Washington at mstanzione@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jessie Kokrda Kamens at jkamens@bloomberglaw.com