Access to Justice Commission Holds Public Hearings on Challenges Facing
Attorney Howard Bichler (left), Judge Margaret Vergeront, and Fr. Bill Ribbens attend the hearing in Green Bay
on July 24.
July 30, 2012 – The Wisconsin Access
to Justice Commission is continuing its series of public hearings to
gather public input on the challenges facing low-income Wisconsin
residents statewide and how residents respond when they need legal help
with critical civil legal problems.
“A lot has changed since the State Bar’s 2007 Bridging the Justice Gap
report," says Jeff Brown, staff coordinator for the commission.
"Tomorrow’s hearing in Eau
Claire is one more step towards gathering updated information about
the unmet civil legal needs in Wisconsin. Speakers at the July 24
hearing in Green Bay provided compelling testimony about the impact of
funding cuts and service reductions on low-income clients in the Green
Bay and Fox Valley areas."
Karen Roehl, managing attorney for Legal Action of
Wisconsin’s Oshkosh office noted:
“We have more low-income persons in our service area that
qualify for our services than ever before. We have clients that had
never been poor before – were in the middle class, had never
qualified for our services in the past – and now, usually due to
loss of a good-paying job they had for years, find themselves facing
legal and economic issues they never thought they would ever have to
Monica Murphy, staff attorney with Disability Rights
Wisconsin, detailed the impact of funding cuts on its services:
“In recent years we have seen a dramatic increase in the
requests for our services. For example, in 2008 we provided 1:1
assistance to 3,779 people, in 2011 that number had jumped to 8,140.
While the number of people seeking our assistance has jumped
dramatically, the same cannot be said for our resources. In fact, in the
last couple years, we have seen large cuts to some of the grants we
depend on to provide services. While we have tried to make do using
reserves that we have had and adopting austerity measures, we are now
facing the prospect of eliminating up to six positions in the upcoming
Claire hearing is tomorrow at 4 p.m. Additional hearings
are planned for Milwaukee (Sept. 13), Madison (Sept. 18), Wausau (Oct.
2), and La Crosse (Oct. 16).
Attorneys, judges, and the public are all invited to attend and share
their experiences, suggestions, and insights. Send written comments to
the commission by email
or regular mail at P.O. Box 7158, Madison, WI 53707-7158.
The commission wants to know:
Who is finding legal help?
Who is falling through the cracks?
What impact has finding, or not finding, legal help made in your life
or the lives of the people you serve?
What is Wisconsin doing well for low-income or vulnerable residents
who need help with civil legal issues?
What more should we all be doing?
How are you helping to meet the civil legal needs of those who cannot
The Access to Justice Commission develops and encourages means of
expanding access to the civil justice system for unrepresented
low-income Wisconsin residents. It was created in 2009 by the Wisconsin
Supreme Court at the request of the State Bar of Wisconsin. Visit the
Commission’s website for more
information and updates.