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 »




24th Annual Howard B. Eisenberg Do-Gooders’ Auction–An Interview with PILS Fellow David Conley

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The 24th Annual Howard B. Eisenberg Do-Gooders’ Auction on behalf of the Law School’s Public Interest Law Society (PILS) was held on February 17 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.  David Conley, a current law student, shares his experience here as a PILS Fellow.

Where did you work as a PILS Fellow?

The Wisconsin State Public Defender’s Office—Juvenile Division Milwaukee County

What kind of work did you do there?

The Law Offices of the Wisconsin State Public Defender represents indigent people who face criminal charges. However, the State Public Defender’s Office actually covers a variety of different cases where people are in need of legal representation. Milwaukee County is divided into two main offices. One office, (MKE Trial) handles adult criminal cases. The other office, (MKE Juvenile) represents juvenile clients facing a variety of life obstacles. These obstacles could be: (1) a juvenile delinquency petition, (2) a CHIPS (child in need of protective services) petition, or (3) a JIPS (juvenile in need of protective services) petition. The public defenders office advocates for juveniles who are in desperate need of legal help. The juvenile office also handles TPR (termination of parental rights) cases, and mental health commitment cases. As a Public Interest Law Society Fellow, it was my responsibility to assist the staff attorneys in the successful representation of these clients.

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24th Annual Howard B. Eisenberg Do-Gooders’ Auction–An Interview with Corinne Frutiger

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The 24th Annual Howard B. Eisenberg Do-Gooders’ Auction on behalf of the Law School’s Public Interest Law Society (PILS) was held on February 17 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.  Corinne Frutiger, a current law student, shares her experience here as a PILS Fellow.

Where did you work as a PILS Fellow?

Milwaukee Justice Center.

What kind of work did you do there?

I got to continue a lot of the pro bono work that I was already very involved with, including meeting one on one with clients in the Family Forms Clinic and side by side with volunteer attorneys in the Marquette Volunteer Legal Clinic (MVLC).  In the Family Forms Clinic I worked one on one with clients to help them navigate the family law process, whether that be the starting of an action, or jumping back into an existing case.

I also worked with attorneys in the MVLC to provide brief legal advice to clients on a range of matters, including such matters as family law, small/large claims, probate, landlord-tenant, and guardianships.  I was given the opportunity to be fully integrated with the MJC staff and sit in on meetings to discuss what more we could do to better serve our clients and the Milwaukee community.  It was truly incredible to see and be a part of a group that works tirelessly to continue to improve their services for the benefit of the community.  Watching the MJC staff, volunteer attorneys, and even some of the other volunteer students work so hard and brainstorm together to serve the full extent of a client’s needs was truly memorable and an experience I am truly grateful for.

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24th Annual Howard B. Eisenberg Do-Gooders’ Auction–An Interview with Natalie Lewandowski

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The 24th Annual Howard B. Eisenberg Do-Gooders’ Auction on behalf of the Law School’s Public Interest Law Society (PILS) will be held on February 17 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.  Natalie Lewandowski, a current law student, shares her experience here as a PILS Fellow.

Where did you work as a PILS Fellow?

I worked at the Milwaukee Justice Center (MJC) in the Milwaukee County Courthouse.

What kind of work did you do there?

Most days I worked in the Family Forms Clinic with other MJC volunteers and supervising attorneys, helping clients with minor forms they wanted to file in the courthouse, such as divorce forms or forms to modify placement and custody orders for their children.  The vast majority of these clients cannot afford an attorney, but earn slightly above the (extremely low) federal poverty level, so they don’t qualify for free legal aid, either.  The only practical option for these people may be to represent themselves in the matter.  That’s where the volunteers at the MJC come in, helping these clients with the forms and guiding them through the process of how and where to file them in the courthouse and what the next steps might be.

I also helped plan and execute the MJC’s annual 5K Run for Justice, which raises money for the MJC to continue helping people access the justice system (and was really fun!).  In addition, I did some work with the MJC’s Mobile Legal Clinic, which is an amazing project that brings the services of the MJC—including brief legal advice by attorneys—to places in the community where it’s hard for residents to make it to the MJC for free legal help.

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24th Annual Howard B. Eisenberg Do-Gooders’ Auction–An Interview with PILS Fellow Don Applegate

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The 24th Annual Howard B. Eisenberg Do-Gooders’ Auction on behalf of the Law School’s Public Interest Law Society (PILS) will be held on February 17 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. Don Applegate, a current law student, shares his experience here as a PILS Fellow.

Where did you work as a PILS Fellow?

I worked at the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office in Boston.

What kind of work did you do there?

I was placed in the Narcotics Unit for the summer, so I had the privilege of working with many Assistant DA’s whose main goal is to make the Boston community a safer place to live. My time there was equally divided between writing various motions and conducting investigative work. Some days would be spent drafting Direct Indictment Memos or Memos in Opposition to the Defendant’s Motion to Suppress Evidence, and other days would be spent watching security camera footage or listening to jail calls to assist an ADA with an ongoing investigation. Also, every week a Unit Chief from the DA’s Office would address all the office interns during the lunch hour. It was fascinating to hear the various tasks each unit is responsible for, how the different units work together, and how passionate every employee was for their unit.

How was the experience meaningful to you?

I had a front row seat to see how the criminal justice system works­–the key word being justice. I saw how the DA’s Office as a whole values justice above conviction rates and how the Office cares just as much about helping victims, witnesses, and the community as prosecuting an alleged criminal. My favorite example of how the Office gives victims a voice is the Now You See: A Celebration of Courageous Kids initiative. This project reveals the bravery of sexually and physically abused children by including a photograph of the child’s eyes along with a description of the eyes in the child’s own words. This is just one of the many examples how the Office uses unique and innovative ways to help victims other than prosecuting on their behalf. In the end, I saw a side of the lawyer profession I had not strongly considered for myself before last summer, but this experience has inspired me to further pursue this career path.

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24th Annual Howard B. Eisenberg Do-Gooders’ Auction—An Interview with PILS Fellow Ben Lucareli

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The 24th Annual Howard B. Eisenberg Do-Gooders’ Auction on behalf of the Law School’s Public Interest Law Society (PILS) will be held on February 17 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. Ben Lucareli, a current law student, shares his experience here as a PILS Fellow.

Where did you work as a PILS Fellow?

In the HIDTA (High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area) unit of the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office.

What kind of work did you do there?

I worked closely with multiple attorneys in the HIDTA unit, helping them to prosecute felony-level drug and gun crimes. During my time in the office, I wrote numerous briefs at the trial court level, conducted legal research for the attorneys, and wrote and filed criminal complaints. I also helped the attorneys sift through evidence, transcripts, and other documents to prepare for trial. Each week, I accompanied the attorneys to various hearings, as well as a few jury trials. During the hearings and trials, I would take notes for the attorneys and help them organize and present evidence to the jury. In addition to my work with the attorneys, I also went on a ride-along with a local police department, and got to work on projects with local police officers and DEA agents.

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24th Annual Howard B. Eisenberg Do-Gooders’ Auction—An Interview with PILS Fellow Elisabeth Thompson

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The 24th Annual Howard B. Eisenberg Do-Gooders’ Auction on behalf of the Law School’s Public Interest Law Society (PILS) will be held on February 17 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. Elisabeth Thompson, a current law student, shares her experience here as a PILS Fellow.

Where did you work as a PILS Fellow?

The ACLU of Wisconsin.

What kind of work did you do there?

Most of my work was legal research and writing.  I prepared two big pre-litigation memos, both in areas of substantive law to which I’d not been previously exposed.  I also drafted a complaint and wrote a number of on-the-fly memos on an array of legal questions, and I got to participate in some meetings with clients.

How was the experience meaningful to you?

The cases I worked on were incredibly meaningful.  They were timely; they were high-impact; they were rooted in the local community but had national resonance.  My work helped lay the groundwork for litigation that will raise awareness and advance justice.  This was motivating to me.  It also speaks to the value of the PILS fellowship; the funds that enabled me to spend the summer at the ACLU contributed directly to advancing their important work.

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Schultz Receives Recognition from the Wisconsin Law Journal

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Category: Marquette Law School, Pro Bono, Public
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Kindness, patience, and compassion—those were the key words in the description of Angela Schultz when the Wisconsin Law Journal recognized her as one of this year’s outstanding “Women in the Law” at an event attended by more than 300 people last week at the Pfister Hotel.

Schultz is Marquette Law School’s assistant dean for public service. She worked as an advocate for victims of domestic violence in Oregon and as a lawyer in Milwaukee focusing on elder and disability law before joining the Law School in 2011. She has helped hundreds of law students become involved in pro bono work and has become a leader in Milwaukee in helping thousands of people receive legal help that would otherwise have been out of their reach.

Angela SchultzIn an article in the Wisconsin Law Journal, Mary Ferwerda, director of the Milwaukee Justice Center, praised Schultz. “She’s very knowledgeable about access to justice issues and how what we do makes a difference,” Ferwerda said. “She has a lot of forward thinking in how to structure a program so that it is effective for clients and for student learning.”

“At the end of the day, we are a helping profession,” Schultz said. “We have a lot of compassionate, big-hearted people who come out of Marquette Law School who do all kinds of good things across the community.” Schultz has been a big success in helping make that happen.

A video recognizing Schultz may be viewed by clicking here.

 




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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Kasey Parks, 3L, Receives Milwaukee Bar Association Pro Bono Publico Award

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Kasey Parks has received the Milwaukee Bar Association’s (MBA) Pro Bono Publico Award in the category of law student. Kasey accepted her award at the MBA’s annual State of the Court Luncheon on Thursday, October 15th.
 
The award is given to an individual attorney, an organization, and a law student based on the following criteria: developing innovative ways to deliver volunteer legal services or improve access to justice; participating in activities that improve legal services to the poor or increase access to justice; and working on legislation that increases access to justice.
 
Kasey has completed over 150-hours to date. Most of her time has been given to the Marquette Volunteer Legal Clinics (MVLC). Kasey gives her time each and every week, doing what all practitioners should by making pro bono a habit in her busy schedule (Kasey is also completing her Master’s in Business Administration, is the Article and Research Editor for the Marquette Sports Law Review, and has been a volunteer and research assistant for the National Sports Law Institute for the past 3 years.).
As a member of the MVLC’s student advisory board, Kasey is a leader among her peers. She reaches out to incoming students and explains how the life of a busy law student has room for incorporate pro bono. She is an important part of our legal community’s desire to give back.  As a law student and future attorney, her service ethic and actions are key to the culture of pro bono among the legal community. Thank you Kasey. You are worthy of this recognition.  (In the photo above, Kasey is pictured with Supreme Court Justice Annette Ziegler and Milwaukee County Chief Judge Maxine White).  



Access to Justice in a Civil Context

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Category: Federal Civil Litigation, Human Rights, Judges & Judicial Process, Legal Profession, Pro Bono, Public, Wisconsin Civil Litigation
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ATJ-reportIndigent defendants in criminal cases, and select civil matters (i.e., child in need of protective services petitions, termination of parental rights petitions, Chapter 51 petitions, and Chapter 980 petitions), are entitled to the appointment of counsel when they cannot afford representation. Either the state public defender’s office represents the individual, or an attorney is appointed by the county. It is imperative that individuals facing some form of deprivation of their individual liberty and freedom, as in the aforementioned scenarios, be represented.

But, what happens in other types of civil matters, where there is no right to counsel? What happens when a person or family faces a legal issue that will affect their rights, health, safety, economic security, and overall well-being? All people, regardless of socioeconomic status, should have access to the justice system. While some individuals may be able to handle a matter pro se, meaningful legal assistance or full representation is often needed to assist individuals in asserting and defending their rights.

The Wisconsin Access to Justice Commission (WATJC) is one entity working toward “improving the administration of justice by supporting civil legal services to those who cannot afford them”. In 2011, Wisconsin became one of only four states nationally, and the only state in the Midwest, that failed to provide any state funding for civil legal services. The 2015-2017 budget appropriates $500,000 per year of the biennium for civil legal aid service to abuse victims. This sum is well below the other neighboring states. Minnesota, for example, appropriated over 12 million dollars per year of its biennium for civil legal services. According to WATJC, the average budget for indigent civil legal services in other Midwestern states is $7.6 million. While Wisconsin falls well below that average, it is at least an improvement that the current state budget appropriates some funding, albeit for a very specific class of litigants.

There are a variety of agencies that offer legal assistance and full-representation to indigent clients in civil matters. From my experience working at Centro Legal, I am aware that many more people were in need of assistance than that organization had the capacity to handle. While I cannot speak for other agencies, my best guess is that they also have more work than they can take on, and that as a result many people are turned away because there just isn’t the capacity to represent them. There are notable efforts to coordinate volunteer attorneys and to help people be matched with an attorney that would be willing to take on a case for a reduced rate. With low levels of funding from the state to support agencies already offering civil representation, the difference must be made up somehow. Whether it is volunteering to represent someone, participating as a volunteer at one of the several clinics offering brief legal advice, offering a reduced rate in certain circumstances, or offering support to practitioners that incorporate as a non-profit and offer reduced rates for indigent or modest means clients, all lawyers have a role to play in ensuring that access to justice and the legal system is not limited by one’s socioeconomic status. We all have a stake in improving access to civil legal service for people who cannot afford an attorney.