Sullivan, Shaheen, Capito and Murkowski Introduce POWER Act 2.0 to Combat Domestic Violence and Expand Pro Bono Legal Resources

Original POWER Act, signed into law in 2018, requires reauthorization before four-year sunset date in 2022

U.S. Senators Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) have introduced legislation to permanently extend the authorization for the Pro Bono Work to Empower and Represent (POWER) Act. The POWER Act, which helps combat domestic violence and sexual assault by encouraging lawyers across the country to offer pro bono legal services to victims and survivors of these crimes, was originally signed into law in 2018, but is set to expire after 2022. In 2020, the POWER Act resulted in 75 pro bono legal summits across the nation, reaching more than 43,000 attorneys.

“Over the past several years, the POWER Act has worked to dramatically increase awareness about the scourge of domestic violence and sexual assault and the need for pro bono legal services for victims in crisis,” said Sen. Sullivan. “With the sunset of the POWER Act approaching, we have an opportunity to renew this vision and continue to grow an army of lawyers across the country lending their time and expertise to lift vulnerable women and children out of horrible situations. I want to thank the tens of thousands of attorneys who’ve participated in POWER Act summits since 2018, and the judicial staff who’ve organized these impactful events. In honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I’m glad to introduce the POWER Act 2.0 with Senators Shaheen, Capito and Murkowski to continue this important effort and support victims and survivors who too often can’t afford a lawyer.”

“Over the last few years, our nation has experienced a sea change surrounding the urgent need to combat sexual violence in our society. As a fierce advocate for survivors and Chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee that oversees funding for Violence Against Women Act programs, prioritizing policies and initiatives that help survivors recover and seek justice are always my top concerns. I’m glad to partner with Senator Sullivan on the POWER Act 2.0 to bolster efforts in Congress on behalf of survivors and to hold perpetrators to account,” said Sen. Shaheen. “By requiring every judicial district in the country to hold a yearly summit focusing on pro bono services to survivors, we can inform our communities on how best to help those affected take one more step toward justice. It is on all of us to end sexual assault in our society and this legislation is a meaningful effort toward that goal.”

“It’s critical we support survivors of domestic violence and assault,” Sen. Capito said. “This includes encouraging lawyers to offer pro bono work that can help victims gain access to critical legal services and protect them in the future. The POWER Act is commonsense legislation to combat domestic violence and sexual assault, and would make a tremendous difference in promoting safety for survivors across West Virginia.”

“Combatting Alaska’s unacceptably high rates of domestic violence and sexual assault continues to be a priority for me. I was disheartened to see recent data from the Alaska Victimization Survey estimating that 57.7 percent of Alaska women have experienced intimate partner violence, sexual violence, or both in their lifetime. We need a comprehensive approach to address this crisis. That is why I’m proud to join Senator Sullivan as an original cosponsor of the POWER Act, which will provide greater access to legal services for survivors who otherwise might not be able to afford them,” said Sen. Murkowski

The POWER Act mandates that each year, the chief judge of each judicial district across the country hold at least one event promoting pro bono legal services as a critical way to empower survivors of domestic violence, stalking, and sexual assault, to engage citizens, and to help lift victims out of the cycle of violence. 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.

The POWER Act also requires the administrative office of the federal judiciary to submit a compilation and summary of reports received from the chief district judges, detailing each public event conducted in the previous fiscal year.

Background on the POWER Act:

  • The National Network to End Domestic Violence estimated that over the course of one day in September 2014, up to 10,000 requests for services by abused women, including legal representation, weren’t met due to a lack of resources.
  • Research has shown that when abuse victims 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 victims represented by an attorney were able to obtain a protective order compared to just 32 percent of victims without an attorney. 
  • The POWER Act is modeled after the pro bono summits Senator Sullivan organized throughout Alaska while he was attorney general of the state working on the “Choose Respect” initiative.