Monthly Archives: October 2013

On the state of equal justice in Wisconsin

Hearing panel in Eau Claire

Hon. Molly GaleWyrick, Gregg Moore & Mike Waterman listen to testimony in Eau Claire

The Wisconsin Access to Justice Commission has released its report with key findings and recommendations on how to improve access to justice for unrepresented, low-income Wisconsin residents. The report draws on testimony from over 137 witnesses who provided testimony at a series of regional public hearings in Green Bay, Eau Claire, Milwaukee, Madison, La Crosse and Wausau.

More funding for civil legal services, increased support for pro bono efforts, and an expanded role for nonlawyers are a few of the recommendations in the report.

Since its creation by the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 2009, the Commission has worked to foster expanded access to the justice system for unrepresented, low-income Wisconsin residents. The State of Equal Justice In Wisconsin is the Commission’s latest effort to highlight both the challenges we face but also some of the bright spots that deserve more attention.

There are many paths to justice. Some of them lead to the courthouse door. As one speaker in Madison observed, access to justice means more than just being free to participate in a proceeding. When the stakes are high and individuals are unable to help themselves, more help is often needed:

 “It means having effective participation in a proceeding. In our system, that generally means having a trained advocate. Allowing someone to be present in a proceeding that they don’t understand is not access to justice. It might be access to a courtroom, but it’s not access to justice,” Kevin Magee, Legal Action of Wisconsin

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