706, 2017


June 7th, 2017|

Written by:  David Karl Gross

Birch Horton Bittner & Cherot is proud to announce that Kathryn Black has been named to the 2017 “Alaska Super Lawyers” by Thomson Reuters and Super Lawyers magazine.  This is Ms. Black’s 11th year to be listed.  Each year, no more than five percent of the lawyers in the state are selected by the research team at Super Lawyers to receive this honor.  Ms. Black has been listed in “Best Lawyers” since 2006 in the practice areas of corporate law and mergers and acquisitions.

Ms. Black’s practice consists of representation of financial institutions in all aspects of loan documentation and collections, including in-depth knowledge of bankruptcy, debtor/creditor rights, secured transactions, real estate financing, commercial loan documentation, foreclosures, repossessions, and the law of banking.

Super Lawyers, a Thomson Reuters business, is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement.  The annual selections are made using a patented multiphase process that includes a statewide survey of lawyers, an independent research evaluation of candidates, and peer reviews by practice area.  The result Is a credible, comprehensive, and diverse listing of exceptional attorneys.

The Super Lawyers lists are published nationwide in Super Lawyers Magazines and in leading city and regional magazines and newspapers across the country.  Super Lawyers Magazines also feature editorial profiles of attorneys who embody excellence in the practice of law.  For more information about Super Lawyers, visit

2305, 2017

BHBC Welcomes Two of Its Lawyers to the Alaska Bar

May 23rd, 2017|

The Alaska Bar Association has finally announced the results of its February 2017 examination and BHBC is proud to announce that two of its Alaska-born lawyers are among the 22 newly admitted to practice in the 49th State.

Shane Coffey is a graduate of West Anchorage High School, where he was a part of three 4A State basketball championships (which required multiple wins over a Bartlett High squad led by future NBA champion Mario Chalmers). Shane earned his undergraduate degree in finance from the University of Alaska in Anchorage before attending law school at the University of Oregon. In law school, he was a member of the Law Review and the Moot Court Board, and he worked as a judicial extern at the local state trial court in Eugene, Oregon. He helped the court with a bustling docket of cases covering divorces, domestic violence, medical malpractice, murder, and more. Shane joined BHBC’s Anchorage office not long after taking the bar exam. His practice will likely draw on his background in finance to focus on business transactions and corporate law, and he hopes to also draw on his love for the outdoors to practice natural resource law.

Zach Olson has practiced in our Washington, D.C. office for nearly three years. He is from Nome, where he also played basketball (though his team washed out in the first round of the 3A State championship). He attended college at the University of Idaho and then worked for several years with U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), before attending law school at George Mason University. He worked on transportation, wildlife, environmental, and land use policy on Capitol Hill, at the U.S. Department of Interior, and then at the U.S. Court of Federal Claims before joining a large lobbying firm. His practice for BHBC has focused on wildlife law, including using regulatory and litigation tactics to protect hunting and trapping rights. He has also done a lot of work for energy and utility companies before the Regulatory Commission of Alaska. He is hoping that being licensed in Alaska will give him greater flexibility when representing his many Alaska-based clients and is looking forward to spending some time in BHBC’s Anchorage office this summer.

205, 2017

The BHBC Family Welcomes Ember Jade Garrett

May 2nd, 2017|

Ember Jade Garrett in a quiet moment.

On March 15th at 9:19pm, Kristy Garrett, a senior associate in the Anchorage office, welcomed her daughter Ember Jade Garrett into this world.   Ember was born weighing 7 pounds, 7 ounces and measuring 19.5 inches.   Ember was born at the exact same time as her older brother, Coal Jax.   In addition to mom, her dad Paul, her brother Coal, and her dog Murphy are very excited to welcome this sweet girl into their family.   Her extended family in Michigan, including her grandparents have plans to meet her in June and July.   At 7 weeks old, Ember already visited her Birch Horton friends and is thrilled to be a part of this welcoming community.


2104, 2017

U.S. Supreme Court Asked to Review Constitutionality of 8(a) Program

April 21st, 2017|

Written by:  Melinda Meade Meyers

There has been a critical development in the legal saga involving the challenge to the constitutionality of the Small Business Administration’s 8(a) Program that has the potential for broad-reaching implications for small disadvantaged businesses participating in this key sector of federal government contracting.  Rothe Development Inc. has filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court, asking it to review the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit’s ruling that Section 8(a) of the Small Business Act is constitutional on its face.  An amicus brief filed on behalf of the government in the D.C. Circuit case made a special argument about how Native American companies as a group are subject to a different legal review standard, but the Court never reached the merits of that argument.  However, the issue would likely arise again should the case come before the Supreme Court.  If the high court elects to consider the appeal, Alaska Native Corporations and Tribes should be prepared to engage in this case.

U.S. Supreme Court

Rothe, a non-minority-owned small business, is challenging Section 8(a) of the Small Business Act, which establishes a business development program for “socially and economically disadvantaged business concerns,” as facially unconstitutional because it provides race-based preferences in federal contracting.  The D.C. Circuit’s September 2016 opinion affirmed the 2015 decision of the D.C. District Court that Section 8(a) of the Small Business Act is constitutional on its face.  Ultimately, the Circuit Court held that because Rothe only attacked the Section 8(a) statute (not the SBA’s regulations implementing the 8(a) Program), and because it found that Section 8(a) itself is race-neutral, the statute did not have to pass the strict scrutiny analysis applied by the district court.  Instead, the statute only needed to pass “rational basis” analysis, which only requires that the statute bears a “rational relation” to a “legitimate end.”  This is a lower bar of analysis than applied by the district court, and the Circuit Court found that Section 8(a) easily passed this test.

After losing its case before the D.C. Circuit three-judge panel, Rothe filed a petition for rehearing en banc (by the full panel of judges) in the D.C. Circuit.  The D.C. Circuit denied that petition in January 2017.

Rothe’s Petition for a Writ of Certiorari to the Supreme Court, docketed April 17, 2017, asks the Court to consider two legal questions:

  1. Whether a statutory program that requires an agency to distribute benefits to “socially disadvantaged individuals,” and defines “socially disadvantaged” in terms of membership in certain racial minority groups, classifies on the basis of race and is thus subject to strict scrutiny.
  1. Whether a statute that may not classify exclusively on the basis of race, but uses race as a factor in determining eligibility for benefits, is subject to strict scrutiny.

The government now has three options: it can agree the Court should review the case, it can waive its right to file a response, or it can file a brief in opposition.  The government’s response is due May 17, 2017.  Rothe would have an opportunity to reply.  At the certiorari stage, amicus briefs are normally only filed by those who agree that the Court should review the case.

It is not a foregone conclusion that the Supreme Court will chose to take up the appeal.  Of the 7,000 – 8,000 certiorari petitions filed each year, the Court only hears about 80.  Four of the nine justices must vote to hear the case.  Given the current makeup of the Court, it is difficult to predict if the Court will accept the case.  However, it has been over 15 years since the Supreme Court has really considered an affirmative action case involving federal contracting.

Small disadvantaged businesses participating in this key program for federal government contracting should continue to closely monitor the progress of this petition at the Supreme Court.  Due to the potential far-reaching consequences of an adverse decision for the 8(a) Program and for federal contracting generally, Alaska Native Corporations and Tribes should strongly consider and be prepared to engage in this case through the submission of an amicus brief to the Court – as they did in the previous stages of this case – if the justices decide to grant review.

If your business would like to participate in a potential amicus process, please contact Jon DeVore or Melinda Meade Meyers at (202) 659-5800.

2004, 2017

Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Pauley; how the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision could effect Alaska’s parochial schools

April 20th, 2017|

Written by:  Katie Davies

On April 19, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Pauley, which presents the question of whether religiously affiliated schools can be constitutionally denied equal access to a government benefit, even if the benefit has nothing to do with matters of faith.

This case involves a program in Missouri that provides rubberized material for school playgrounds. In 2012, Trinity Lutheran Church applied for a state program that reimburses nonprofits for the purchase and installation of rubber playground surfaces made from recycled tires. Missouri’s Department of Natural Resources, which administers the playground program, ranked Trinity Lutheran’s application 5th out of the 44 that were submitted. Despite its ranking, the department denied Trinity Lutheran’s application on the basis of a provision in the state constitution that prohibits allocation of money from the state treasury.

At the heart of this case is a provision in Missouri’s constitution that bars parochial schools from such public benefits, otherwise known as the “Blaine Amendment.” The amendment reads in part: “No money shall ever be taken from the public treasury, directly or indirectly, in aid of any church, sect, or denomination or religion.”

The church is challenging the Department’s decision arguing that its exclusion from a state program that provides grants to help nonprofits buy rubber playground surfaces discriminates against religious institutions and, therefore, violates the Constitution. The State argues that there is no constitutional violation because the church can still worship or run its daycare; in other words, the state’s decision in no way impedes the church’s ability to practice or worship. However, in a somewhat unorthodox move, Missouri’s newly elected Governor, Eric Greitens, changed the state’s policy by lifting the ban on state grants for religious organizations. Therefore, the first question the Court will address is whether the Governor’s policy change has rendered this case moot, or is no longer ripe for decision.

Assuming the Court permits the case to go forward, the decision could subject Alaska, as well as 35 other states with similar constitutional mandates, to the same type of challenge. Alaska’s Constitution, at least in its intent, essentially mirrors Missouri’s prohibition for allocating tax dollars to religious or private educational organizations. Specifically, the Constitution states that: “No money shall be paid from public funds for the direct benefit of any religious or other private educational institution.” The Constitution further restricts the use of public money for private or religious institutions by stating: “No tax shall be levied, or appropriation of public money made, or public property transferred, nor shall the public credit be used, except for a public purpose.”

If the Court agrees with the church that the constitutional mandate of separation of church and state is being taken too far because it is no longer being applied neutrally, it could result in taxpayer funds going to groups that discriminate based on sexual orientation or religion. Conversely, if the Court upholds the constitutional mandate, everything from school vouchers to fire and safety protection for private religious schools could be in jeopardy. One thing is for sure, many interested parties are anxiously awaiting the Court’s ruling in this case.


1704, 2017

An Alaskan Client Means an Alaskan Adventure

April 17th, 2017|

Written by:  Sarah A. Badten

Sarah Badten after driving the dog sled.

The great thing about practicing law in Alaska is that our clients generally do not fit a specific mold.  In fact, some of them are downright quirky in their array of interests.  I was lucky enough to get to spend some free time with one of our clients, Christine Roalofs, this past March.  Christine is a Dentist by trade, but she is not your average Dentist.  Christine is an entrepreneur and an adventurer.  She owns her own dental practice (among other businesses including a start-up restaurant), but on this particular day, she met me at the Chugiak dog mushers club in Birchwood.  You heard me right.  This Dentist is also a bona fide, get-out-in-the-wilderness, brave-the-conditions, living-the-dream, dog musher!

Christine Roalofs running the 2013 Iditarod as a rookie.

After saying “hi” and shaking hands she handed me a shovel, thereby putting me in charge of dog poop (can’t have that lying around unabated in a parking lot used by multitudes of dogs).  I gladly picked up after the dogs while watching Christine put the team and sled together.  When they were ready, she showed me how to ride on the back of the sled behind her, how to use the foot brake, and told me to watch her feet, as she managed the sled’s speed and turns both with verbal commands and by the use of body weight by stepping on a mat connected to the sled between the runners where she stands.

After this initial instruction Christine asked if I was ready, told me to get on, cued up the dogs and we were OFF!

Dogs eagerly waiting to run.

Wow.  I love living in Alaska!  Where else would a client take me out to do something as cool as this?  I watched the dogs happily running, I mean, JOYOUSLY running over the snow and through the woods.  We went on a winding trail with several opportunities to loop back around for shorter or longer distances.  Christine told me about the various dogs, some young and still in training.  She told me how she watches the young dogs to see how their personalities best fit in with the team so she may put them in a position suited to their nature and strengths.  She told me about falling in love with dog mushing and of the various races she and the dogs were training for.  Among several other races, Christine has taken on and finished the Iditarod.  Such an accomplishment puts her in a league with only a handful of other amazing women.  And I was riding with her.

That is, until she pulled over and told me to drive.  Oh boy.  Okay.  I can do this, I thought.  And with a little help from the backseat driver, I did!

Christine Roalofs and dogs preparing for departure.

While it was a fairly short and sweet trip, it will go down as one of the coolest things I have ever done.

Thank you Christine.  I will never forget it.  Bucket list item, check.

For more information on Christine Roalofs, check out the below links: