Category Archives: Pro bono

Legislative Council adopts access to justice recommendations

The Legislative Council met on February 15 and voted to accept both the report and the recommendations from its Study Committee on Access to Civil Legal Services. The three legislative proposals will:

  • Create legislation encouraging the state departments of Administration, Children & Families, Workforce Development, Justice, and Health Services to use a portion of the federal block grants they receive to assist with the civil legal needs of Wisconsin residents.
  • Create an Interagency Legal Aid Coordinating Council that would be charged with evaluating how the use of federal grants for civil legal services may assist these state agencies in achieving their objectives. The coordinating council would also be tasked with preparing an economic impact study on civil legal aid.
  • Authorize full-time district attorneys to provide pro bono legal services without fee in civil matters that do not conflict with their official duties.

The Legislative Council will draft and introduce legislation to implement these three recommendations. The Access to Justice Commission welcomes the prospect of a new, more coordinated approach to supporting civil legal aid in Wisconsin through funding from the Violence Against Women Act, the Victims of Crime Act, and other federal block grant programs.

The 16-member study committee was made up of 6 legislators and 10 public members, including the President of the Access to Justice Commission. The Study Committee was created in response to a unanimous request from the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The committee’s charge was”to review the funding and delivery of legal services for the indigent in civil cases. The committee shall: (1) review the need for legal services by indigent civil litigants; (2) identify additional non-GPR sources of revenue to provide civil legal services for the indigent; and (3) review current operations.”

50 years of service at Wisconsin Judicare

“I felt hopeless until they stepped in.” “This service kept me from becoming homeless and bankrupt.” By Beth Richlen, Development Director, Wisconsin Judicare For 50 years, Wisconsin Judicare has provided legal services to individuals like these in northern Wisconsin. From Stevens Point to Superior, from Hudson to Marinette, and everywhere in between, the low-income residentsContinue Reading

Comments sought on access to justice rule petitions

The Wisconsin Supreme Court is seeking comment on two pending rule petitions that support access to justice efforts in Wisconsin. The Access to Justice Commission filed Petition 15-06 seeking a rule change that would allocate 50% of unclaimed class action awards to support civil legal services to low income persons (aka cy pres). The State Bar of Wisconsin filedContinue Reading

Pro bono spotlight – Brown County free legal clinic

On the first Wednesday of every month, a group of volunteer lawyers meet at Casa ALBA Melanie in Green Bay to offer free legal advice to anyone who comes in. “We answer legal questions and direct people to agencies, attorneys or other resources that can assist them,” said Attorney Robert R. Gagan. Gagan is aContinue Reading

Taking a holistic approach to ending domestic violence

Each year Domestic Abuse Intervention Services (DAIS) serves thousands of women, children and men through their life-changing programs. These individuals come from all facets of our community — they are our neighbors, coworkers, family and friends. DAIS provides hope and help through its staff and volunteers. When someone reaches out to DAIS, they are connectedContinue ReadingContinue Reading

Commission launches new online legal advice website

The Wisconsin Access to Justice Commission is pleased to announce the launch of Wisconsin Legal Advice Online (WLAO), a free online service that allows eligible Wisconsin residents to post legal questions for response by volunteer Wisconsin lawyers. Created by the Commission and sponsored by the State Bar’s pro bono program, WLAO is one way to make brief legalContinue ReadingContinue Reading

2015 Pro Bono Honor Society certifications

With the arrival of fall, it’s time again to look back and celebrate what has been accomplished in one of the Access to Justice Commission’s priority areas: expanding and recognizing pro bono service by Wisconsin lawyers. The Wisconsin Pro Bono Honor Society is the Commission’s way of honoring lawyers who have made an outstanding contribution of atContinue ReadingContinue Reading

Proposed rule changes would expand access to justice

The search for new ways to address the chronic shortage of resources for civil legal aid in Wisconsin has taken on a MacGyveresque feel – sans the Swiss Army knife and duct tape. The Commission and others are always on the lookout for new ways to use old tools to come up with life-impacting solutions. Two of them arrivedContinue Reading

Volunteer spotlight: Melinda Giftos and Anthony Jurek

The Student Expulsion Prevention Project (StEPP) was started with a small grant from the State Bar of Wisconsin’s Pro Bono Initiative. The goal of the project is to keep more kids in school and reduce the minority achievement gap that results from the disproportionate number of minority students being expelled. StEPP coordinates trained volunteer lawyersContinue ReadingContinue Reading

Profiles in pro bono: Jay Miller

Jay Miller wants to get the word out. The Low Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC) is available to low-income residents who need assistance with IRS tax matters. “LITC is a valuable resource for low income taxpayers who have disputes with the IRS. We’re busy, but we currently are not turning anyone away,” he said. Miller hasContinue ReadingContinue Reading