Saving by Investing in Civil Legal Aid

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Category: Civil Rights, Family Law, Legal Profession, Poverty & Law, Pro Bono, Public
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Kara is a single parent with two children. She works full-time, but still makes less than $1,500 each month. Kara’s boyfriend Jay, the father of one of Kara’s two children, lives with her, but does not always contribute to the household. In addition, he’s physically abusive to the family cat and to Kara. After the most recent incident where Jay pushed Kara into the wall and grabbed her arm so hard he left a bruise, Kara wants him to leave. And she wants a restraining order. But knowing who to call and where to go—and, most of all, how to pay for services she’ll need—is overwhelming her. If Kara lives in a state that invests in civil legal aid, she’ll have no problem finding resources and will be able to have a lawyer represent her—at little to no cost to her—at any court hearing she needs to get a domestic violence injunction.

While Kara’s story is merely illustrative—though many people experience circumstances like Kara’s every day—its larger point is important. Civil legal aid is a combination of services and resources that helps Americans of all backgrounds—including those who face the toughest legal challenges: children, veterans, seniors, ill or disabled people, and victims of domestic violence—to effectively navigate the justice system. Civil legal aid helps ensure fairness for all in the justice system, regardless of one’s ability to pay. It provides access to legal help for people to protect their livelihoods, their health, and their families. Civil legal aid makes it easier to access information through court forms; legal assistance or representation; and legal self-help centers. Civil legal aid also helps streamline the court system and cuts down on court and other public costs. When we say the Pledge of Allegiance, we close with “justice for all.” We need civil legal aid to ensure that the very principle our founders envisioned remains alive: justice for all, not the few who can afford it.

Our state has had a rocky history of funding civil legal aid programs. While the state did begin such funding, of late, that funding has since dropped precipitously. In 2007, for the first time in Wisconsin history, the legislature included nearly $2 million in the state budget for civil legal aid. In 2009, the funding was increased to just over $2.5 million. But in 2011, the funding was eliminated completely from the state budget. From 2012-2015, Wisconsin was one of just three states that did not provide any funding for civil legal aid for low income people. (The other two are Florida and Idaho.) Read more »




2017 Jenkins Honors Moot Court Finalists

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Category: Legal Profession, Legal Writing, Marquette Law School, Public
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Congratulations to the 2017 Jenkins Honors Moot Court Competition finalists.  The teams advancing to the final rounds are as follows:

Nate Oesch and Elisabeth Thompson v. AJ Lawton and Ashley Smith

We appreciate the judging assistance in this round of the Hon. Nancy Joseph, Atty. Stephen Cox, Atty. Katherine Hartmann, Atty. Lauren Maddente, Atty. Hannah Schieber Jurss, and Atty. Mary Youssi.




2017 Jenkins Honors Moot Court Semifinalists

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Category: Legal Profession, Legal Writing, Marquette Law School, Public
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Congratulations to the students in the Jenkins Honors Moot Court Competition who have moved on to the semifinal round of the competition.  The students will be competing on Wednesday evening at 6:30 p.m. in the Appellate Courtroom and the Trial Courtroom to determine who will be advancing to the final round on April 11 at 4:00 p.m.

The teams will be paired as follows:

Nate Oesch and Elisabeth Thompson v. Meredith Donaldson and Ben Lucareli

AJ Lawton and Ashley Smith v. Mitch Bailey and Jacob Heuett

Congratulations to all the participants in the competition.  We also very much appreciate the judges who grade briefs and participate in the preliminary rounds.  This year we had a recent alum, Natalie Schiferl, who travelled all the way from Minnesota to judge the competition.  One of the great things about moot court is how active our alums and volunteers are, and we appreciate their time and assistance very much.  A special thank you to Samuel (Micah) Woo, Associate Justice in charge of the competition.

Best wishes to all of the competitors on Wednesday night.




Collaboration Between Attorneys and Law Students Benefits Both Parties

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Members of the Hispanic Law Students Association mingle with local Hispanic Attorneys at an event in Milwaukee.As President of the Wisconsin Hispanic Lawyers Association (WHLA), I have had the opportunity to help foment various partnerships in the legal community. One of the most recent and fruitful of these is our collaboration with the Hispanic Law Student Association (HLSA) at Marquette Law School. While our collaboration began informally, we have recently created a student liaison position on our Board of Directors. Currently, 2L Alex Castro is serving in that capacity. This closer communication with Alex has lead to a number of interesting events.

On October 13, 2016 our associations brought Consul Julian Adem of the brand new Mexican Consulate in Milwaukee to the law school. Mr. Adem presented on the array of functions and services of the Consulate, from providing documents, community education, and legal advice to Mexican nationals, to offering visa services for non-Mexicans who want to travel to Mexico. There was a strong turnout of both students and local attorneys. The information will, without a doubt, help a number of clients and can be shared with the wider networks of those who attended. Read more »




Women in Wisconsin Law: Olga Bennett

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Category: Feminism, Legal History, Legal Profession, Public, Wisconsin Court System
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This is the second part of a three part series on Women in Wisconsin Law.

Although women were admitted to practice law in Wisconsin in 1879, it would be over one hundred years until the state’s first elected female county judge.  In 1970, Olga Bennett, a native of Vernon County, was the first woman elected and sworn in as a county judge in Wisconsin.

Bennett was born on May 5, 1908, in Viroqua, Wisconsin. Education played an important role throughout Bennett’s life.  In 1925 she graduated from Viroqua High School, and in 1928, she graduated with a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Wisconsin.  After taking time following her undergraduate studies to work at a local bank, she returned to her studies four years later.  After spending a semester at the Madison Business School, Bennett enrolled at the University of Wisconsin Law School in Madison, Wisconsin.  In 1935, she graduated from law school and was admitted to the state bar.

Upon graduating, Bennett served as a law clerk for State Supreme Court Justice John D. Wickham for five years.  Following this clerkship, she went into business with her father, who was also an attorney.  Together they ran the Bennett and Bennett law firm.  Before being elected to serve as a judge, Bennett held various positions in the legal community, including serving as the first female city attorney of Viroqua.

Although one might have expected that a larger county in the state, such as Madison or Milwaukee, would have been the first to elect a female county judge, it was small Vernon County with a population of only 28,000 that holds this title.  In April 1969, Bennett ran and was elected to the bench in Vernon County (courthouse pictured above at left), defeating incumbent County Judge Larry Sieger who was appointed by the governor in 1968.  In 1970, she took the oath of office and became the second woman to serve as a judge in Wisconsin.   Read more »




Women in Wisconsin Law: Lavinia Goodell

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Category: Feminism, Legal History, Legal Profession, Public, Wisconsin Supreme Court
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This is the first part of a three-part series on Women in Wisconsin Law. 

Throughout Wisconsin’s history, women have played an instrumental role in the development of the state’s legal system. Among these women was Lavinia Goodell of Janesville, the first woman admitted to practice law in Wisconsin.

Before her move to Wisconsin, Goodell worked as an editor for several newspapers in New York. During this time, Goodell confided in a coworker that her life’s ambition was to become a lawyer. When Goodell’s parents retired to Janesville, Wisconsin, in 1871, she was convinced into joining them with her father’s promise that she would be able to study law. Upon arriving in Wisconsin, Goodell’s father helped his daughter find attorneys who would permit her to study law alongside them through an apprenticeship. After demonstrating her ability to successfully practice law as an apprentice, Goodell sought admission before the local circuit court and, with the support of several prominent local lawyers, was admitted to practice in the Circuit Court of Rock County, Wisconsin, in 1874.

After being admitted to practice law at this local level, Goodell opened her own law office that primarily represented woman and the elderly. Despite being able to practice at this local level without much difficulty, one of Goodell’s cases in 1875 was appealed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. When the supreme court did not allow her to argue the case, Goodell filed an application for state admission.   Read more »




America’s First Law School

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V__9AECI had the opportunity in August to spend a day at the Litchfield Law School in Litchfield, Connecticut.  Although several universities enrolled students in law departments during the final decades of the eighteenth century, almost all lawyers of the period prepared for practice by completing apprenticeships in lawyers’ offices.  Attorney and Judge Tapping Reeve thought that education at a formal law school would be a better way for lawyers to prepare, and therefore he founded the Litchfield Law School in 1774.

More than 1,100 students attended the Litchfield Law School before it closed in 1833.  Two of Reeve’s students (Aaron Burr and John C. Calhoun) went on to become Vice President.  Fifteen of the students became governors.  Three of the students became Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States.  Twenty-eight students became United States Senators, and another ninety-seven served in the United States House of Representatives.  Clearly, the Litchfield Law School was important in educating and credentialing a significant portion of the era’s most accomplished lawyers. Read more »




Rules to Work By

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raised handMost of the lawyers I know and deal with are exceptional professionals and generally, great people. They are not the ambulance chasing, greedy, egocentric, lying, unethical, do anything for a buck hired guns that people stereotype as your traditional lawyer. As an in-house lawyer, my one client, the business, would suffer if I were to fall prey to these stereotypes. It is possible in some situations the loud aggressive pit-bull attorney finds success and is necessary. As an in-house construction lawyer, if that were my approach when dealing with other stakeholders, I would still be working on the first contract to come across my desk.

I have adopted some of the rules my six year old was sent home with after his first day of kindergarten. Listen, be safe, polite and respectful, and play nice with others. My playground is buzzing everyday with non-client parties like customers, subcontractors, vendors, GC’s, owners, regulatory agencies, the public, trade associations, unions and families. Finding a way to “play nice” with all of these competing influences and without sacrificing the duty to advocate for my client, has been my greatest challenge and biggest success.

Whether giving legal counsel or advising as a trusted business partner, in-house lawyers assist the business team with issues ranging from accidents, crisis management and work place safety to multi-million dollar contracts and employee harassment. Read more »




State Bar’s Appellate Practice Section Hosts Outstanding Brief Competition

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The Appellate Practice Section of the State Bar of Wisconsin is hosting its first Outstanding Brief Competition for members of the bar. Any appellate opening or response brief from a case decided in the last year may be entered in the competition. Entries are due by March 31. As noted on the state bar’s website:

The brief writers (and their firms or agencies) will be publicly recognized, and the briefs will be posted to the Appellate Practice Section’s website to serve as models for appellate practitioners. Anyone can nominate a brief – author, colleague, friend, judge, clerk, or other admirer of great legal writing. Nominations will be kept confidential.

The website provides additional details about how to nominate a brief and other qualifications.  Here is a link to use to nominate briefs and to ask questions.  The Appellate Practice Section seeks through this competition to promote excellent brief writing among Wisconsin practitioners.




23rd Annual Howard B. Eisenberg Do-Gooders’ Auction–An Interview with PILS Fellow Windsor Wrolsted

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Category: Legal Profession, Marquette Law School, Pro Bono, Public
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Windsor WrolstedThe 23rd Annual Howard B. Eisenberg Do-Gooders’ Auction on behalf of the Law School’s Public Interest Law Society (PILS) will be held in the evening on Friday, February 19, 2016 at the Law School.  Proceeds from the event go to support PILS fellowships to enable Marquette law students to do public interest work in the summer.  Windsor Wrolsted, a current law student, shares her experience here as a PILS Fellow.  Besides her work as a PILS Fellow, Windsor is helping to organize this year’s Auction.

Where did you work as a PILS Fellow?

Disability Rights Wisconsin in Milwaukee.

What kind of work did you do there?

I worked closely with attorneys, advocates, and ombudsmen to advocate for persons with both mental and physical disabilities. I advocated for inmate rights within various jail systems, and also the rights of children in need of long-term care. I attended an Administrative Law Judge hearing and got the chance to meet the family of the child we were advocating on behalf of. It was truly memorable to talk with them and hear how their child’s disability was a daily factor in their lives, when realizing that it only took up a few hours of mine. I also attended local Wisconsin Community Services meetings regarding how to combat current mental health issues in Milwaukee. One meeting addressed issues relating to the homeless community, and the other addressed wrongful conviction of individuals with mental disabilities. It was incredible to see leaders from so many different organizations come together and brainstorm practical, long standing solutions. Read more »




23rd Annual Howard Eisenberg Do-Gooders’ Auction–An Interview with PILS Fellow Angela Shin

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Angela ShinThe 23rd Annual Howard B. Eisenberg Do-Gooders’ Auction on behalf of the Law School’s Public Interest Law Society (PILS) will be held in the evening on Friday, February 19, 2016 at the Law School.  Proceeds from the event go to support PILS fellowships to enable Marquette law students to do public interest work in the summer.  Angela Shin, a current law student, shares her experience here as a PILS Fellow.  Besides her work as a PILS Fellow, Angela is helping to organize this year’s Auction.

You may attend the Auction by purchasing tickets in advance or at the door.  This link also provides you with an option to donate to the Auction.

Where did you work as a PILS Fellow?

I worked for the Milwaukee Justice Center in Milwaukee County Courthouse.

What kind of work did you do there?

At the Milwaukee Justice Center (MJC), I worked with a team of incredibly friendly and supportive staff that offers free daily sessions where volunteers provide procedural information and assistance with forms to pro se litigants. The forms are geared towards family law matters. Volunteers work one-on-one with members of the community with completing legal forms and explaining courthouse rules and procedures. The MJC tries their best to accommodate and educate clients, without giving any sort of legal advice, so that they have a better understanding of what they need to do next. In addition to helping pro se litigants, I worked at the front desk to direct clients to other parts of the courthouse or sign them in for MJC’s services. Occasionally, the other fellows and I had partnered up with attorneys at the Marquette Volunteer Legal Clinic to provide free walk-in brief legal advice. Lastly, I worked on a project to make it easier for pro se clients to e-file their divorce.

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Making a Murderer: Oh-So-Many Talking Points

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Category: Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law & Process, Evidence, Judges & Judicial Process, Legal Ethics, Legal Practice, Legal Profession, Popular Culture & Law, Public, Wisconsin Law & Legal System
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635874987555624158-XXX-IMG-NETFLIX-MAKING-A-MUR-1-1-VGCTGMDU-78432434As the winter break winds down, it’s definitely worth your time to start binge-watching Making a Murderer, a recent Netflix documentary on a real-life criminal case. A very close-to-home criminal case, at that.

The documentary, filmed over 10 years, follows Steven Avery, who was convicted in 1985 of sexual assault. He maintained his innocence and, indeed, 18 years later DNA evidence exonerated him. After he was released, he sued Manitowoc County for his wrongful conviction. It looks as though that lawsuit starts digging up some very unsavory conduct among officials in Manitowoc County.

But then—Avery is arrested for the murder of photographer Teresa Halbach. Several months later, his nephew Brendan Dassey is also arrested.

I’ll stop there with plot. If you’ve been around Wisconsin, you’ve probably heard of the case. If you’ve been on the Internet in the last couple of weeks, you’ve almost surely heard of it. But you must watch it.

For law students, there’s so many teachable moments. For everyone, there’s so much to talk about. Read more »