Wisconsin Access to Justice Commission Urges Legislature to Fund Civil Legal Services
March 31, 2011
Gregg Moore, President 715-832-7109
Jeff Brown, Staff Coordinator 608-305-4205
MADISON – The Wisconsin Access to Justice Commission urges the Legislature and its Joint Committee on Finance to maintain the state’s commitment to fund civil legal services for Wisconsin’s poorest and most vulnerable residents by restoring funding for civil legal services in the 2011-13 state budget. Every state faces budget challenges but Wisconsin is the only state proposing a complete elimination of state funding for civil legal services at a time when the need for help with issues like foreclosure, bankruptcy, abuse, hunger and homelessness is rising.
As Commission President, Gregg Moore noted: “Funding civil legal services for the poor is part of a public/private partnership to achieve justice, and state financial support is essential. It is unreasonable and unrealistic to expect that private sources – foundations, donations, attorney contributions, and volunteer lawyers – can, or should, meet the entire support needs of the civil legal services system.”
Wisconsin currently provides about $2.6 million per year in state funding for civil legal aid services for people who are unable to obtain legal assistance any other way because they have little income, are elderly, or are victims of abuse. The current funding comes, not from tax revenues, but from the “Justice Information Surcharge” ($4.00 of that $21.50 fee). The proposed budget redirects that $4.00 to other programs, eliminating funding for civil legal services.