Angstman Law Office finished off its 31st year in rural Alaska with its quietest holiday season in years. Sue hosted her annual Christmas Eve party for only 22 guests this year, with many of the regulars scattered around the world. Among the missing was Sarah, visiting in Colorado. Part of the Fairbanks clan was in Europe, getting ready for an Africa relief effort that never happened and several other neighbors were out of state. Some of the potential guests were waiting our storms in the northwest which backed up flights. All of those factors, plus a decision to scale back the holiday season in recognition of the current economic situation resulted in a less noisy Christmas. Granddaughter Mary got the most unique gift, of course. James went north of Bethel and found a good birch tree, chopped it down and cut it up with a Skill saw, and built a dog sled the old fashioned way.
The quiet Christmas didn’t stop the flow of business at ALO. The office resolved a pair of difficult criminal cases. One involved a felony charge of importation of alcohol into a Yukon River village. The defendant was using his private plane to go hunting with friends at a camp a few miles from the village. An anonymous tip led to a stop at the airport, and booze was discovered in the plane. A felony charge resulted. Eventually a misdemeanor was offered and accepted with a fine instead of jail time. The situation is a fairly common by- product of the local option law that allows villages to go totally dry. When they do, the law says that no booze may be possessed within five miles of the local post office. In this case, there was never any intention to take the booze to the village, but the airstrip is within five miles of the post office, so the charge was valid. It is clear the law is routinely violated by unsuspecting travelers who land in a village or drive by in a boat, with booze on board.
Another client obtained a dismissal in a case arising from a teacher-student interaction at a Bethel school. The child complained of being assaulted by the teacher. As a result the student was removed from the classroom for the rest of the school year. The investigation revealed that the student cried when he was not able to return to the teacher’s classroom, and wrote the teacher a kind note at the end of the school year, which was luckily saved. The restraints placed on teachers today are in sharp contrast to the old days when certain students were subjected to frequent reprimands that included physical contact. Most everyone who attended school in that era agrees that the classroom setting was generally better then, and the academic performance showed it.
Many changes marked the year at ALO. The office saw two employees depart, replaced by one new lawyer in training, Matt moved to a new level of employment within the office, one that includes management responsibility. The year saw a typical level of business, down from the previous banner year, but generally consistent with recent years. The business plan remains the same, to carefully screen cases that come in the door, taking only those cases which meet certain criteria. The primary focus of ALO is civil litigation and criminal defense work. Much of our work is assigned to contract lawyers who work elsewhere, a task that has become much more feasible with modern technology.
Outside of the office, it has been a hectic year. The Kuskowkim 300 was the focus of much attention within the office. The race moved its office back into ALO, and Myron became the volunteer manager. That all followed Myron’s participation in the 2008 race, the first time since 1993 he had entered. The race lucked into a new helper in September when Casie Stockdale came to work at Old Friendly Dog Farm as a helper. She quickly showed her skill as a race helper as well, and this year’s race will reflect her work. The race starts Jan 16th, and can be viewed at K300.org. Both Myron and Casie will be racing the Bogus Creek 150 which starts the same day.
2008 saw more work on the Angstman cabin in the mountains east of Bethel. Construction is mostly done, and the already an expedition is being planned for March. Tomas Israelsson and Ben Kuntz are hoping to ski from Bethel to the cabin, a distance of more than 100 miles by trail. Stay tuned for details on that adventure.
ALO is a diverse place. It is believed to be the only law firm in America with both a sled dog team and a flock of laying chickens in the yard. This picture was entitled “Seven old Hens and a Rooster”, until it was determined that the chickens were only six months old.
ALO likes to recognize the accomplishments of its clients. Former Bethelite Don Rearden teaches college students at UAA in Anchorage, but writes professionally as well. One of his earliest efforts involved a story about an event in a caribou camp east of Bethel that is worth reading. His most recent effort involved writing a screen play for a movie which recently opened in Anchorage. The movie, Skidmarks the Movie, can be previewed here
ALO dispatched two movie critics to the premiere in Anchorage and they came away with rave reviews. Said one, (Andy) “Outrageous comedy with lots of hot women in bikinis”. Said the other (Sarah) “Zach Fairbanks style humor-just my type”. Don’s writing style was fashioned after many years in Bethel, so off-beat humor might be expected. He has promised that all of his Bethel friends will be invited to his Oscar party.