Making a difference for homeowners in foreclosure

By Sarah Orr

The Foreclosure Assistance Clinic (FAC) is a weekly, free, drop-in legal clinic where UW Law School Consumer Law Clinic students and volunteer lawyers provide limited-scope assistance to homeowners in foreclosure. The students and lawyers from a variety of practice areas have donated over 700 hours to the FAC and helped over 300 homeowners since mid-2010. While the worst of the foreclosure “crisis” may have abated, homeowners still need basic legal information and assistance to navigate the process.

dcfpt logoThe FAC was created by the Dane County Foreclosure Prevention Taskforce to help homeowners both regain some control over their situations and tell their personal stories in a legal system that can feel impersonal. We help homeowners understand how to respond to the foreclosure lawsuit and provide information about additional resources, such as mediation and financial counseling services. The homeowners leave the FAC with renewed determination to persevere. One client remarked, “It’s a wonderful resource during this financial turmoil.” Another client found that the FAC “helped make a hard time a little easier.” A few clients were astounded that they could meet with a local lawyer and law student free of charge. They were deeply grateful for the time we spent with them.

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Support builds for judicial code amendment

In early 2013, the Wisconsin Access to Justice Commission convened a working group to examine possible changes to the Wisconsin Code of Judicial Conduct that would provide additional guidance to judges to help address one of the challenges raised by the growth in self-represented litigants. On September 13, 2013, the Commission filed Petition 13-14 with the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The court has now scheduled a hearing on the petition for February 24, 2014, at 9:45 am. Comments may be submitted in writing to the court or in person at the hearing.

Letters in support of the petition have now been filed by the Wisconsin Association of Judicial Court Commissioners, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals Judges, the Wisconsin Family Court Commissioners Association, the Executive Committee of the Wisconsin Trial Judges Association, and the Committee of Chief Judges. The State Bar of Wisconsin’s Board of Governors has also voted to support the petition.

The Commission’s working group was guided in part by Comment 4 to Rule 2.2 of the ABA Model Code of Judicial Conduct, adopted in 2007, and a 2012 joint resolution from the Conference of Chief Justices and the Conference of State Court Administrators. The working group also gathered suggestions from judges and practicing attorneys. The working group then drafted a proposed petition to amend Supreme Court Rules 60.04. The full Commission approved the petition at its meeting on September 6.

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New leadership at Disability Rights Wisconsin

By Rita Lord

On September 30, 2013, Daniel Idzikowski became the new executive director at Disability Rights Wisconsin (DRW). A graduate of Marquette Law School, he has spent his career working for social justice organizations, including the Appalachian Research and Defense Fund (APPALRED), Legal Services of Northeastern Wisconsin, the Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee, Legal Action of Wisconsin and Catholic Charities. He also served as Assistant Dean for Public Service at Marquette Law School, as vice-chair of the State Bar’s Legal Assistance Committee, and as a member of the Milwaukee County Community Justice Council along with the boards of several nonprofit organizations.

IdzikowskiDan attributes his dedication to social justice to his Jesuit education at Marquette High School, Georgetown University and Marquette Law School, where he learned to appreciate the need to help others. After law school, he joined the Jesuit Volunteer Corps and worked at APPALRED, an organization that provides free civil legal services to low-income people in east and south central Kentucky. “The founder and director of APPALRED, John Rosenberg, saw the law as a means to empower people, especially those who live in a culture of poverty. He made me want to continue that work,” Dan said.

He described his passion as twofold. The first is creating conditions that equalize opportunity and power, particularly for those who are disadvantaged. “DRW was very attractive to me because it is dedicated to just that,” he said. “I want to stand with and empower individuals to exercise their rights and be included in society. That’s what justice is — having an equal voice, even when society tells them they are not equal.” The second is promoting collaboration, bringing together different parties to effect change.

When asked to discuss the greatest needs of social justice organizations, Dan said that funding is always an issue because adequate resources are needed to maximize access to the court system, the legislature and government processes. “Funding allows us to give the fullest representation to those people who need it,” he said. He noted that changes in efficiencies in the court system itself would also be a move in the right direction.

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Inns of Court pro bono project

by Kent A. Tess-Mattner As part of its mission “foster excellence in professionalism, ethics, civility, and legal skills,” the Leander J. Foley, Jr. Matrimonial Chapter of the American Inns of Court in Milwaukee is helping to staff the Milwaukee Justice Center (MJC) at the courthouse as its service project for the 2013-14 academic year. The MJC is a collaborative project between the Milwaukee Bar Association, Milwaukee County and Marquette University Law School. It utilizes volunteers …

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Mobile legal clinic is on a roll

Mobile Legal ClinicMarquette Law School and the Milwaukee Bar Association have partnered to launch the Milwaukee Justice Center Mobile Legal Clinic, a specially outfitted bus designed to help provide free, brief legal advice to individuals who find themselves outside of the areas currently served by legal volunteer efforts in metropolitan Milwaukee. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel recently included the Mobile Legal clinic on its list of Big Ideas 2013.

The Mobile Legal Clinic was made possible by a gift from Frank Daily and Julianna Ebert to honor the pro bono work of Michael Gonring, their friend and longtime partner at Quarles & Brady LLP.

The Mobile Legal Clinic is believed to be the only service of its kind in Wisconsin, and one of only a handful in the nation. It is operated by the Milwaukee Justice Center, a collaborative project among the Milwaukee Bar Association, Marquette Law School and Milwaukee County.

The Mobile Legal Clinic had its first outing in September at the John C. Cudahy YMCA in Milwaukee. In October it visited the Woodland Resource Center in Milwaukee and it hosted monthly sessions at that location through the end of the year. In January 2014, it will be traveling to the Parklawn YMCA.

“The Mobile Legal Clinic reflects the service-oriented mission of Marquette University Law School and the larger legal profession,” said Joseph D. Kearney, Dean of Marquette University Law School. “By helping those who may not otherwise be able to obtain professional legal counsel, and by doing so in their communities, the Mobile Legal Clinic will fill a gap in this region. It will also enable our students, working with attorneys and members of the community, to gain experience and develop an ethic of service.”

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