December capped off a very successful year at Angstman Law Office. Several civil cases were settled, including a major case involving an aggravated broken leg which happened in the village of Ugashik in the Bristol bay area. An elderly lady from Haines, Alaska was visiting family in Ugashik when she tripped on an exposed grounding rod near the entrance to a house. The rod had been placed by the local Housing Authority during construction of the house. The occupant of the house had complained to the Housing Authority about the rod, which stuck out of the ground two or three inches. The accident happened Christmas eve, and the injured elder had to remain in the village untreated for many hours before she was transported out. She eventually had surgery, and a lengthy recovery period.
Two recent car accidents in Bethel resulted in settlements. In one case, a young woman suffered fractured vertebrae in a roll-over accident caused by a drunk driver. She settled for policy limits, and will be seeking additional recovery from her family's underinsured motorist coverage. The other accident was a minor fender bender where two passengers of a cab settled their injury claims for a modest amount.
The final settlement came from the City of Bethel. Earlier it was reported here that a man had his criminal charges dismissed after it became apparent that a Bethel police officer had fabricated testimony in an assault case. That resulted in a civil suit against the officer, which was settled before the city answered the complaint filed in court.
There were plenty of criminal cases resolved as well. One involved a dismissal of charges against a young man accused of reckless driving in Bethel, by the same officer involved in the assault case mentioned above. Interestingly, no police report was ever filed in that case, perhaps contributing to the state's decision not to proceed. The driver and his witnesses vehemently denied the charges.
A major criminal case resolved right after Christmas when a man charged with attempted murder and first degree assault pled guilty to second degree assault. The agreed upon sentence was the minimum mandatory of six years to serve, plus a bunch of suspended time.
One last case is worth a mention. A Togiak man called to hire ALO after his court appointed lawyer (from another Bethel firm) failed to make contact with him, even by phone, despite the fact that his trial date was fast approaching. ALO took the case, and a quick look revealed that the state had charged him with a complaint that did not establish probable cause for the hunting violation alleged. It is a basic rule that any complaint must state sufficient facts to establish probable cause that a crime was committed by the defendant. A motion to dismiss was filed, and the charges were dismissed.
This year was the first where ALO had only one lawyer on staff, an elder at that. The experiment was far more successful than might be expected. The office has an average of about one court appearance a day, but many are telephonic and most are brief. Some courts even allow an elder to go first when there are a bunch of lawyers waiting. The return to a more active court calendar has been generally entertaining. ALO has cases pending right now in Bethel, Dillingham, Naknek, Kodiak, Nome, Kotzebue and Anchorage, so keeping track of calendaring is a chore. A great new program keeps all of this information online and then sends an email reminder at regular intervals when a hearing is approaching. Rural courts have an established conference line for all participants to call at the appointed hour. Having a statewide practice was very cumbersome even ten years ago, but times have changed.
The year ended in Bethel with a significant cold spell. Temps in the -25 range were common during the last few days of December. That took some of the fun out of the holidays, but the dog farm crew still managed to get out for training runs and to take part in the Holiday Classic. Steve Olive was racing for the first time ever, and took a wrong turn which cost him a bunch of time. When it happened, he was running right behind the eventual winner Mike Williams Jr in second place. When he got back on track he was in sixth place. Here is Steve at the finish line.
Today (Jan 3rd) bottomed out at -35, the coldest day in many years at ALO. The cold didn't stop Sue from hosting her annual Christmas Eve party for about 30 folks, featuring Scandanavian fare.
Alaska's former governor is a favorite topic on these pages. She doesn't make much real news anymore, but occasionally she makes a comment that gets a headline. In December is was the Obama Christmas card that got her going. Take a good look and see if you agree with her that it does not portray American values.
Then compare it to this card sent out by President Reagan a few years ago.
Perhaps the Reagans and the Obamas share the same values. Palin is in a tough spot because she is paid to say something regularly on TV, and she really has nothing to say.
Speaking of Holiday greetings, this monthly news report will have to suffice as the ALO greeting. It is perhaps lacking in American values, but does keep the reader up to date on happenings at the office. Uncle Jack Angstman, now deceased, had a practical approach to such greetings. He was a lifetime farmer on part of what is now Long Pond Elk Farm. He lived into his late 80's and it is believed that he milked cows for all but a handful of days for almost eighty years, after dropping out of school in sixth grade to help on the Angstman farm when his dad died. Jack died in a car accident while driving home from Princeton to milk cows. He was a long time widower, and developed several novel ways of dealing with the social obligations of rural Minnesota. When he saw folks during the Christmas season, he would wish them "Merry Christmas forever" just in case he missed greeting them anytime in the future. Of course it worked, as his greeting is the only one of thousands from that era that is still remembered today.
The holiday spirit didn't stop these two Anchorage moose from sparring on a city street.
Here is Bill Eggiman's choice for a Christmas card, a winter scene at the Angstman cabin. With that, another year is in the books at ALO. Merry Christmas forever.