By org akorbitz wisbar Adam Korbitz, Government Relations Coordinator, State Bar of Wisconsin
June 1, 2011 – The Wisconsin Supreme Court has voted to deny a rules petition that sought to convert Wisconsin’s integrated bar into a voluntary bar, citing the petition’s failure to meet the court’s minimum standards for such filings.
Voting 4-3 in open administrative conference on June 1, 2011, the justices rejected Petition 11-01, which Wisconsin attorneys Steven Levine and James Thiel had filed in February. Levine is a former president of the State Bar of Wisconsin, and both Levine and Thiel are current members of the State Bar’s Board of Governors.
The court’s action leaves the petitioners free to file another petition in the future, one that sets forth a proposed draft rule of how the conversion from an integrated bar to a voluntary bar could be accomplished.
In April 2011, the Board of Governors voted to take no position regarding the petition.
During debate on the petition at its June 1 conference, several justices indicated that they favored an integrated bar and would have voted to reject the petition on its merits. Other justices indicated they felt a voluntary bar had strong support among State Bar members and that the court should direct the petitioners to submit a draft rule for public hearing prior to the court deciding whether to grant or deny the petition.
Ultimately, four justices (Chief Justices Shirley Abrahamson and Justices Ann Walsh Bradley, Patrick Crooks and David Prosser) agreed to dismiss the petition for not being in proper form under the court’s current guidelines for filing rules petitions. Among other requirements, those guidelines include a stipulation that in all petitions that seek to amend “an existing rule, statute, or administrative matter, deleted portions should be shown and stricken through followed by new text that should be underlined.”
Attorneys Levine and Thiel had explicitly declined to file a proposed amended rule, stating in their petition:
“No specific rule amendments, repeals, or creations are being proposed at this time. After attempting to draft amendments and repeals to SCR Ch. 10 to create a voluntary State Bar of Wisconsin, petitioners have come to believe that the mere amendment and/or repeal of current Supreme Court rules establishing and regulating the State Bar would probably be insufficient to accomplish transition of the Bar’s status from mandatory to voluntary. New rules and an entirely new framework are probably necessary. Petitioners suggest that if the Court decides to endorse the concept of a voluntary bar, the Court appoint a committee to recommend how best to accomplish that transition, including perhaps the drafting of an entirely new SCR Ch. 10.”
In other action on June 1, the court voted to hold a public hearing this fall on Petition 10-08, which would establish a right to counsel in certain civil cases. The State Bar’s Board of Governors was briefed on the petition in December 2010 but has not yet taken a position regarding it. Attorney John Ebbott, executive director of Legal Action of Wisconsin, filed the petition in September 2010.
In addition, the court adopted without public hearing Petition 11-02, which creates authority for the Board of Bar Examiners to establish a system for applicants to electronically submit their applications for bar admission.
Continue to monitor WisBar.org and visit the State Bar’s Government Relations page for updated information on these and other budget issues.
Board takes no position on pending voluntary bar petition, opposes petition to amend mandatory dues reduction rule - April 12, 2011
Rules petition filed with supreme court seeks to revive mandatory/voluntary bar issue - February 23, 2011
Board of Governors briefed on “Civil Gideon” petition - December 3, 2010
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