Measuring Justice in Wisconsin

Wisconsin received its annual report card in the latest Justice Index, an assessment tool developed by the National Center for Access to Justice.

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.

Just Wisconsin News for November

In this month’s Just Wisconsin newsletter, we have updates on the Legislative Council Study Committee on Access to Civil Legal Services, upcoming changes to Wisconsin Legal Advice Online, a new eviction defense project in Milwaukee and some national news highlights. The Pro Bono Honor Society is also looking for outstanding attorneys who have provided at least 50 hours of qualifying pro bono legal services in 2016. One additional news item not included in the newsletter …

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Supporting judicial discretion to ensure fair hearings

On February 24 the Wisconsin Supreme Court held a public hearing on Petition 13-14, which requests amendments in the Wisconsin Code of Judicial Conduct to provide better guidance to judges in addressing the challenges raised by the growing number of self-represented litigants. The petition, filed by the Access to Justice Commission last September, proposes modifying Supreme Court Rule 60.04 to make it clear that “reasonable efforts to facilitate the ability of all litigants, including self-represented …

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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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