Press Releases

Anchorage Equal Rights Commission Backs Down, Drops Charges Against Local Law Firm, Attorney

October 2, 2018

First Liberty Institute contended commission violated the firm’s first amendment rights, denied attorneys ability to vigorously defend their client

Anchorage, AK—Attorneys with First Liberty Institute and the law firm Brena, Bell & Clarkson, P.C. (“BBC”) today announced that it had reached a settlement resulting in the withdrawal of charges brought by the Anchorage Equal Rights Commission (“AERC”) against BBC. AERC, attempting to silence an attorney and his firm and interfering with the attorney-client relationship, brought charges against the attorney and his firm while it was defending the religious liberty of its client, a homeless shelter for women known as the Downtown Hope Center.

“The right to legal counsel is a hallmark of our republic,” said Hiram Sasser, General Counsel to First Liberty. “Our legal system is premised on the idea that everyone has legal rights and that the government must afford them a full and fair opportunity to defend themselves. We are grateful that the AERC abandoned these baseless charges.”

BBC represented the Downtown Hope Center (“DHC”), a religiously affiliated women’s homeless shelter, after the AERC accused it of violating Anchorage’s non-discrimination policy by preventing a biological male self-identifying as female from residing at the facility. After local media outlets published stories about the case in which a BBC attorney was quoted, the Commission brought charges against his firm for violating local speech ordinances, forcing him to withdraw from representation.

According to the settlement, the AERC also dropped all charges against the DHC related to BBC’s public statements.

“We are pleased that we can now continue representing our clients with the appropriate legal counsel every citizen deserves,” said Kevin Clarkson on behalf of BBC. “Thankfully, the AERC recognized that it had overstepped its authority and properly brought this matter to an appropriate resolution.”

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First Liberty Institute is the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to defending religious freedom for all Americans.

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