Civil legal aid Moves Wisconsin forward

The Wisconsin Access to Justice Commission has a longstanding commitment to increasing funding for civil legal aid from all sources, public and private. Civil legal aid has a history of bipartisan support in Wisconsin. So, we are pleased to see Governor Evers building on the good work of his predecessors and the Legislature in his proposed appropriations for civil legal aid in the 2021-2023 budget. This proposed funding increase will bring us closer to meeting …

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New video – What is civil legal aid and why is it so important?

Here is a great example of how to explain what civil legal aid is and why it’s so important. It’s a network of resources that help make justice available to everyone, not just those who can afford to pay for it. The video was produced by the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation and is distributed with assistance from Voices for Civil Justice and the Kresge Foundation.

Supporting LSC and equal justice under law

Today, the President released his budget framework, including a proposal to eliminate the Legal Services Corporation, the largest single national funding source for free civil legal assistance to low income Americans. The Wisconsin Access to Justice Commission strongly urges Congress to continue its longstanding bipartisan support of LSC and reject this budget proposal. Eliminating LSC would undercut America’s promise of equal justice for all and harm our state justice system.

In Wisconsin, LSC provided $5.2 million in 2016 to two organizations, Legal Action of Wisconsin and Wisconsin Judicare, allowing them to provide free legal information, advice, and representation on civil matters to over 9,000 low income Wisconsin residents in cities, towns, and villages across Wisconsin. Together, these two organizations help people who have basic civil legal problems with their housing, children, safety, health care, and incomes.

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Legislative Council adopts access to justice recommendations

The Legislative Council met on February 15 and voted to accept both the report and the recommendations from its Study Committee on Access to Civil Legal Services. The three legislative proposals will: Create legislation encouraging the state departments of Administration, Children & Families, Workforce Development, Justice, and Health Services to use a portion of the federal block grants they receive to assist with the civil legal needs of Wisconsin residents. Create an Interagency Legal Aid Coordinating Council that would …

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New study committee on access to civil legal services

A new Study Committee on Access to Civil Legal Services was recently launched by the Wisconsin Legislative Council. The 16-member committee includes 6 legislators and 10 public members, including Jim Gramling, President of the Access to Justice Commission. The chair is Rep. Cody Horlacher and the vice-chair is Sen. Duey Stroebel. A full roster is available here. The study committee was created in response to a unanimous powerful request from the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The committee’s charge is “to review the …

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New funding for civil legal services is on the way

The Wisconsin Supreme Court issued its final order requiring that at least one-half of unclaimed funds in class action settlements and judgments be directed to the Wisconsin Trust Account Foundation to support civil legal services to the poor. The court’s unanimous order was issued in response to Petition 15-06 filed by the Access to Justice Commission. This class action rule change takes effect on January 1, 2017. It will apply to cases filed on and after the effective date as …

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Supreme Court action on access to justice

Petitions_grantedOn April 13, the Wisconsin Supreme Court voted unanimously to adopt a change proposed by the Access to Justice Commission that will result in a new source of funds for civil legal aid to the indigent in Wisconsin. The court acted following a public hearing on Petition 15-06, which was filed by the Access to Justice Commission. The rule change will direct at least 50% of unclaimed funds in state class action settlements and awards to the Wisconsin Trust Account Foundation to support civil legal services.

On the same day, the court also approved Petition 15-05, which was filed by the State Bar of Wisconsin, to allow lawyers to claim CLE credit for pro bono work. Registered in-house counsel will also have broader authority to do pro bono work. CLE credit for pro bono can be earned at the rate of 1 CLE credit for every 5 hours of pro bono legal services up to a maximum of 6 credits per reporting period. Attorneys will need to perform their pro bono work through a “qualified pro bono program” in order to claim the pro bono CLE credits. The court is expected to issue final orders on the two petitions in the coming months.

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Comments sought on access to justice rule petitions

The Wisconsin Supreme Court is seeking comment on two pending rule petitions that support access to justice efforts in Wisconsin. The Access to Justice Commission filed Petition 15-06 seeking a rule change that would allocate 50% of unclaimed class action awards to support civil legal services to low income persons (aka cy pres). The State Bar of Wisconsin filed Petition 15-05 proposing rule changes to allow lawyers to claim a limited amount of CLE credit for certain pro bono …

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More help for victims in Winnebago County

Thanks to a $100,000 subgrant of federal STOP grant funds awarded by the Director of State Courts Office, Christine Ann Domestic Abuse Services in Oshkosh has begun funding legal representation for victims of domestic violence who need representation in family law matters. The program was developed collaboratively by the Access to Justice Commission, Christine Ann Center, Winnebago Family Court Commissioner’s Office, and the Winnebago County Bar Association. The grant funds will be used to pay private …

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Proposed rule changes would expand access to justice

The search for new ways to address the chronic shortage of resources for civil legal aid in Wisconsin has taken on a MacGyveresque feel – sans the Swiss Army knife and duct tape. The Commission and others are always on the lookout for new ways to use old tools to come up with life-impacting solutions. Two of them arrived at the Wisconsin Supreme Court in the form of rule change petitions during the week of October 5th. First in …

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