Commission testifies in support of a civil right to counsel

At Tuesday’s hearing in the Wisconsin Supreme Court, the Access to Justice Commission reiterated its support for a new rule that would lead more Circuit Court judges to appoint attorneys for indigent Wisconsin residents in certain civil court cases. As Professor Marsha Mansfield noted on behalf of the Commission, this is an issue of fundamental fairness, because there are “people who really do need the help of a lawyer in order to successfully present their case: not win or lose but just to be a able to fully develop the facts or law necessary to have a full decision rendered.”

Congress prepares to cut LSC funding (again)

In the midst of the greatest economic meltdown in a generation, Congress is poised to cut 2012 funding for the federal Legal Services Corporation (LSC), the largest single funding source for civil legal services to the poor. LSC funds a national network of nonprofit law offices who leverage their staff and volunteers along with other funds to provide free civil legal services to low income individuals.  The Senate recommendation of a 2% cut to LSC’s appropriation is more moderate than the extreme 26% reduction proposed in the House but neither would provide what LSC needs to accomplish its mission. [More on what you can do below]

LSC grantees provided vitally important services to low-income Americans in almost 1 million cases last year. Legal Action of Wisconsin and Wisconsin Judicare, our two LSC grantees in Wisconsin, handled over 9,900 cases using LSC funding last year. Still, the data shows what a history of underfunding LSC means for those who desperately need legal help: legal services offices must consistently turn away one eligible potential client for every one that they are able to serve. Nationwide, that adds up at least 1 million of people who go unserved and millions more in the same household who are also adversely affected.

Wisconsin would suffer more than most from a cut in LSC funding. It would compound the devastating impact of the Wisconsin Legislature’s total elimination of state funding for civil legal services to the poor in Wisconsin.

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Commission supports a civil right to counsel

At their meeting today, the Wisconsin Access to Justice Commission voted unanimously to adopt the following statement: “The Access to Justice Commission emphatically endorses the right to legal counsel for low income Wisconsin residents when basic human needs are at stake, as embodied in Petition 10-08, Petition to Establish a Right to Counsel in Civil Cases, and as found in American Bar Association Recommendation 112A, dated August 7, 2006, which has been adopted by the Board …

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