House Passes Bill to Make Sullivan-Shaheen POWER Act Permanent, Supporting Survivors of Violence

2018 POWER Act, expanding pro bono legal services, was previously set to expire at end of the year

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) thanked their House colleagues, led by Representative Mary Sattler Peltola (D-Alaska), for passing their bill today to permanently authorize the Pro Bono Work to Empower and Represent (POWER) Act. Since it was signed into law for a four-year term in 2018, thePOWER Act has been helping combat domestic violence and sexual assault by requiring every federal district court across the country to host an annual summit encouraging lawyers to offer pro bono legal services to survivors. The bill also requires that, every two years, an event be held in areas with high numbers of Native Americans and Alaska Natives, with a focus on addressing these issues among Native populations. To date, the POWER Act has resulted in 248 pro bono legal summits across the nation, reaching more than 61,000 attorneys. The permanent extension passed the Senate unanimously in August.

“Survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault have a much better chance of securing a protective order and escaping the cycle of violence when they are represented by a lawyer. But the cost of obtaining legal representation is too often an obstacle for survivors,” said Sullivan. “Many lawyers are more than willing to donate their time and expertise to help vulnerable survivors navigate the complex legal system. The key is letting attorneys know about the significant need that exists and how they can help. This was the motivation behind my 2018 POWER Act—a continuation at the national level of our efforts in Alaska with the Choose Respect initiative. In the years since the POWER Act became law, we’ve amassed an army of thousands of lawyers who are lifting women and children out of horrible situations. But the epidemic of domestic violence and sexual assault has not stopped—and neither will we. I want to thank my colleagues in the House for passing this important legislation that will continue to bring hope and healing to many more survivors across the country, and in our great state.” 

“Survivors of domestic and sexual violence deserve every support possible to find safety and justice through the legal system – ensuring they have access to free legal services is an important first step. I’m proud the House passed my bipartisan legislation with Senator Sullivan today to extend authorization of an important program that extends pro bono legal services to survivors. This bill now heads to the President’s desk to become law, ensuring there is no gap in access to services and helping survivors escape cycles of violence,” said Shaheen. “As Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee that oversees funding to assist survivors, I’ll continue uplifting survivors as we work to end the scourge of domestic and sexual violence in our communities.”

Background on the POWER Act:  

  • Research has shown that when abuse survivors are represented by an attorney, their ability to break out of the cycle of violence increases dramatically. For example, one study found that 83 percent of survivors represented by an attorney were able to obtain a protective order compared to just 32 percent of survivors without an attorney.
  • The POWER Act is modeled after the pro bono summits Sen. Sullivan organized throughout Alaska while he was attorney general working on the “Choose Respect” initiative.

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