Press release on state funding for civil legal services

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.

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Commission urges support for legal services funding

Wisconsin Access to Justice CommissionIn a letter to the Joint Committee on Finance, the Wisconsin Access to Justice Commission expressed its support for restoring funding in the state budget to support civil legal services to the poor and the disadvantaged. The proposed budget would eliminate all state funding (about $2.5 million) for civil legal services, affecting thousands of our neighbors who are poor, elderly, disabled, abused, homeless, or otherwise unable to obtain legal legal assistance.

Individuals and families who are illegally evicted, who are abused, who cannot obtain child support, or who are in foreclosure will be left to fend for themselves in a legal system that they cannot effectively navigate alone. Their unmet legal needs will not vanish if the funding to help them is eliminated.  Instead, their problems will worsen or linger, court dockets will swell even further with unrepresented individuals, or their problems will need to be addressed in other, less efficient and more expensive ways.

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Annual meeting agenda

The agenda for the Annual Meeting of the Wisconsin Access to Justice Commission is available now. March Agenda The Commission will also be meeting with the justices of the Wisconsin Supreme Court earlier in the day.

“To no one will we sell, to no one will we refuse or delay, right or justice.”

The Wisconsin Access to Justice Commission’s recent adoption of statements on its Mission and Core Values comes at a turning point for Wisconsin. Together, the statements of mission, core values and essential capacities articulate how the Commission will approach the array of  proposals and challenges it faces as it works to expand access to justice in Wisconsin’s civil legal system. Formal work on these statements began at the Commission’s November board meeting and was completed earlier this …

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