In 2011, Wisconsin became one of only four states in the country and the only state in the Midwest that provides no state funding for civil legal services to the indigent. Other Midwestern states budget an average of $7.6 million per year for indigent civil legal services. The impact has been disastrous for Wisconsin residents who can’t obtain the legal help they need and are unable to represent themselves when they face threats to their safety, housing, their children and more. The Commission has worked diligently with legislators, the State Bar of Wisconsin and other equal justice stakeholders to restore at least some targeted funding for civil legal services in Wisconsin. You can read more about those efforts here.
It will take a team effort from all stakeholders, including state government, to address this challenge. Funding civil legal services for the poor is part of a public-private partnership to achieve justice, and financial support at all levels of government is essential. It is unreasonable and unrealistic to expect that charity along from private sources – foundations, other donors, attorney contributions, and volunteer lawyers – can, or should, meet the entire support needs of the civil legal services system.
What can you do? Call, write or visit your elected representatives. Make sure that they know how much you value their support for civil legal services to the indigent. Click here to find out who represents you.