By org jforward wisbar Joe Forward, Legal Writer, State Bar of Wisconsin
Jan. 12, 2012 – At its Jan. 11 administrative conference, the Wisconsin Supreme Court explored the possibility of forming a committee to review the State Bar of Wisconsin’s performance, at the State Bar’s expense, and agreed to hold in abeyance a petition calling for a voluntary bar.
Supreme Court Rule (SCR) 10-10 allows the supreme court, at such time as the court deems it advisable, to appoint a committee “to review the performance of the state bar in carrying out its public functions.” The supreme court determines the size and composition of the committee, and the State Bar must pay the expenses of the committee.
A majority of the justices agreed to revisit the possibility of forming a committee to review the State Bar’s performance, but did not decide conclusively on appointing a committee for a review. The court will explore the details of the review process before making a final decision.
A SCR 10-10 review has not been performed since the early 1980s. Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson strongly supports the performance review, and asked the court to appoint a committee promptly to start work in November 2012.
Other justices had reservations about appointing a committee without more information about the scope and mission of the committee, which led to a 6-1 vote to revisit the issue of a SCR 10-10 review after more information is provided to the court.
Justice Annette Ziegler opposed the idea, stating that State Bar funds would be better spent elsewhere at this time, and the performance review issue is not properly before the court.
“This [10-10 review] is something that is being brought up under the auspices of [petition] 11-04, but really doesn’t belong there,” Ziegler said. “So I don’t think it’s properly before us.”
Performance review stems from petition 11-04
Discussion of a performance review stems from petition 11-04, submitted by attorneys Steven Levine and James Thiel, which calls for rule changes to create a voluntary bar. In November 2011, the supreme court voted 4-3 to deny or dismiss the petition without a hearing.
Upon reconsideration yesterday, the court agreed to hold the petition in abeyance pending the possibility of a SCR 10-10 performance review, which the chief justice believes is necessary as a precursor to deciding the final disposition of the pending voluntary bar petition.
At the request of the court, the State Bar submitted a cost estimate for a SCR 10-10 performance review, estimating the review would cost $82,080. Of that amount, $70,750 would be allocated overhead and personnel time.
State Bar President Jim Brennan supports the review in his personal capacity. In a letter to the court, Brennan stated in part, “It has been almost three decades since the last appointment of such a committee, and I am satisfied that another review is justified and would render usable data that would enable the State Bar of Wisconsin to better perform its public functions.”
However, Levine submitted a letter to the court, which stated in part, “While I certainly have differed with the Bar on how it has spent dues moneys, I do not believe the Bar has failed in its public service obligations. Given the Bar’s current serious financial problems, I believe the thousands of dollars such a study would cost would not be warranted at this time.”
The court also held a public hearing and administrative conference Jan. 11 on petition 11-03, relating to court security and facilities, which would repeal SCR 70.38-39 and create SCR ch. 68.
Director of State Courts John Voelker submitted the petition on the recommendation of the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s Planning and Policy Advisory Committee (PPAC).
In his supporting memo, Voelker said a “separate chapter will recognize the importance of security policy and procedure development, implementation and monitoring as a function of the judiciary while also recognizing the cooperative relationship between the state and counties in the construction and maintenance of Wisconsin’s courthouses.”
After a lengthy discussion, the court approved the petition, with amendments. The amended petition will return to the court for final approval at a later date, with input from the petitioners regarding the amendments discussed.
On its own motion, the supreme court amended SCR ch. 36, “Eligibility for Appointment as Guardian ad Litem for an Adult,” to correct certain statutory citations. Specifically, the court amended references to certain statutory chapters that have been repealed or renumbered.