Inside Track: New State Bar Program Improves Adult Understanding of How Wisconsin Courts Work:

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  • Inside Track
    August
    05
    2012

    New State Bar Program Improves Adult Understanding of How Wisconsin Courts Work

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    In this video, Colorado Court of Appeals Judge Russell Carparelli talks about the Colorado-based Our Courts program, which brings nonpartisan information programs to adult audiences to further public knowledge and understanding of the state and federal courts. Carparelli and U.S. District Court Judge Marcia Krieger founded the program in 2007.

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    Our Courts Colorado program founder Colorado Court of Appeals Judge Russell Carparelli and Public Education Committee Court Education Task Force co-chairs Gail Richardson and Ann Brandau will bring the Our Courts program to Wisconsin.

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    Reedsburg attorney and Wisconsin Law Foundation board member Myron La Rowe (right), Bill Lueders, Wisconsin Freedom Information Council, and John Voelker, Director of State Courts, listen to Judge Carparelli’s mock presentation of the Our Courts program.

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    Madison attorney Jennie Dye attends on behalf of Community Justice Inc.

    Sept. 5, 2012 – More than 20 judges, attorneys, and members of the legal community attended an Our Courts presentation in Madison on Aug. 15. The Colorado-based program brings nonpartisan information programs to adult audiences to further public knowledge and understanding of the state and federal courts.

    The Problem

    A 2008 study commissioned by the State Bar shows that a lack of information for adults about our court system negatively impacts their perception of the courts as fair and impartial. Just a little more than half of the Wisconsin residents surveyed strongly agreed that they understood the difference between the small claims, civil, and criminal courts. More than 10 percent of the respondents reported they never voted, never contacted public officials, and never attended government meetings.

    “Often, the primary source of information for adults on court matters is media coverage of sensational court cases, tabloid journalism, or biased commentaries,” said State Bar Public Education Coordinator Marsha Varvil-Weld. “That makes general and accurate information about the courts difficult to find. Our Courts presentations address the role of fair and impartial courts in applying and preserving the rule of law. The Our Courts program will fill a need that no one else has been adequately addressing.”

    The Solution

    The Public Education Committee Court Education Task Force is bringing the Our Courts program to Wisconsin to educate Wisconsin residents about the court system. The committee, which comprises members of the legal profession and the community from statewide, hopes to hold the first public presentations in the spring of 2013.

    “We look forward to working with not only lawyers and judges from around the state, but leaders in education, the media, and business,” said committee co-chair Gail Richardson. “Using their perspective and expertise will help ensure that we fully identify the gaps in public understanding, and that we successfully develop and market nonpartisan, interactive programs that reach the widest audience possible.”

    The Court Education Task Force is co-chaired by La Crosse attorney Ann Brandau and District 5 Court Administrator Gail Richardson. Executive Advisory Committee members include: Ms. Linda Davis, Partnership Council, Mequon; Jennifer Brown, O’Flaherty Heim Egan & Birnbaum, La Crosse; Justice Janine P. Geske (ret.), Marquette University Law School, Milwaukee; Prof. Joe Heim, UW La Crosse, La Crosse; Mr. Robert Kleemeier, CEO, I.D.ology, Eau Claire; the Hon. Edward Leineweber, Bell Moore & Richter S.C., Madison; Mr. Bill Lueders, WI Freedom of Information Council, Madison; Ms. Kristen McDaniel, Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, Madison; Mr. Gregg Moore, Access to Justice Commission, Eau Claire; Hon. Neal Nielsen, Vilas County Circuit Court, Eagle River; Theresa Owens, Assistant to the Chief Justice, Wisconsin Supreme Court, Madison; Mr. Bob Pedersen, Goodwill Industries of North Central WI, Inc., Menasha; and Mr. John Voelker, Director of State Courts, Wisconsin Supreme Court, Madison.

    About Our Courts

    Colorado Court of Appeals Judge Russell Carparelli founded the Our Courts program with U.S. District Court Judge Marcia Krieger in 2007. To date, volunteer attorneys and judges have made more than 350 presentations to over 11,000 people. Judge Carparelli is assisting Wisconsin lawyers and judges to develop a similar program in Wisconsin.

    Get Involved

    For more information or to get involved, email Marsha Varvil-Weld, State Bar Public Education coordinator or call (608) 250-6191.