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    Wisconsin Lawyer
    Vol. 77, No. 6, June 2004

    Legal News & Trends

    ABA honors Rep. Obey for support of civil legal services funding

    Wisconsin Rep. David Obey (D-Wausau) was recognized by the American Bar Association for his "extraordinary contributions to legal reform and the administration of justice" at a May 5 reception in Washington, D.C.

    Christina Plum, Dan Rossmiller, Christine 
Bremer, Rep. David Obey, Dennis Archer, Pat Ballman
    (From left) ABA Young Lawyers Division Secretary/Treasurer, Christina Plum, Milwaukee; State Bar Public Affairs Director Dan Rossmiller; Christine Bremer, Wausau; Rep. David Obey (D-Wausau); ABA President Dennis Archer; and State Bar Past President Pat Ballman.

    Rep. Obey, who is serving his 18th term in Congress, is a longtime, vocal champion of adequate funding for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC). His impassioned, bipartisan advocacy on the issue in 2003 resulted in a critical increase in funding, which prevented drastic funding cuts in 26 states, including Wisconsin.

    "In 2003, Wisconsin's LSC programs were facing cuts topping $700,000, a devastating loss for Wisconsin's low-income citizens," said State Bar President George Burnett. "As always, Congressman Obey stepped into the breach to advocate in Congress on behalf of the Legal Services Corporation and Wisconsin's most needy. We thank him for his continued and tireless commitment."

    A similar recognition for Rep. Obey is planned for early this summer in Wausau.

    Court makes sweeping changes to trust account rules, effective July 1

    On April 30, 2004, the Wisconsin Supreme Court issued an order to repeal and recreate SCR 20:1.15, the rule regarding lawyer trust and fiduciary accounts, effective July 1, 2004. The amendments to SCR 20:1.15 constitute the most significant changes to that rule since its inception in 1988.

    The new trust account rule has an index, similar to a statute, with headings for its subsections that are expected to make it much easier to locate information and requirements. The new rule also provides greater detail than the current rule on trust account record-keeping requirements. In addition, it distinguishes between trust accounts and fiduciary accounts with respect to record-keeping and prohibited transactions. The new rule also addresses computerized record-keeping, electronic transactions, separate accounts for probate matters, and alternatives to overdraft notification. Further-more, it codifies the Marine case, a 1978 Wisconsin Supreme Court decision that established what a lawyer must do prior to withdrawing fees from a trust account.

    Order 02-06

    Seminar. The State Bar and the Office of Lawyer Regulation will sponsor a CLE seminar on Wednesday, July 28, from 2 to 4:15 p.m., to educate the Bar regarding the new rule's requirements. The seminar, offered live in Madison, simultaneously will be offered via Webcast.

    Or call the State Bar at (800) 728-7788 or (608) 257-3838.

    Court rules attorneys exempt from Gramm-Leach-Bliley

    The American Bar Association, joined by more than 26 bar associations, was successful in a lawsuit challenging the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) decision that lawyers are subject to the privacy provisions of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act if, as part of their law practice, lawyers provide real estate, tax, estate planning or other financially related legal advice to individuals. The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that to subject attorneys to the Act was beyond its statutory authority and constitutes arbitrary and capricious agency action. The FTC has until July 12 to decide whether to appeal.

    In response to the ABA's request, the general counsel of the FTC has issued a letter stating that unless and until the district court's decision is reversed, the FTC will not bring enforcement actions against or investigate any practicing lawyer for failing to comply with the Act's privacy provisions. The ABA asked the FTC for this assurance because many attorneys have requested guidance about their responsibilities in light of the district court's decision.

    While the ABA is hopeful that the court's decision will stand, the ABA also seeks Congressional action on this issue. In 2001, the New York Bar Association (NYSBA) and the ABA challenged the Act's application to lawyers. The State Bar of Wisconsin joined with Ohio in its amicus brief to the NYSBA's action against the FTC.

    Mandatory court form updates include criminal and family

    As of April 29, the Wisconsin Records Management Committee, an advisory committee to the Director of State Courts Office, which develops and distributes mandated forms, has updated and introduced the following forms. Key: New (N)/Revised (R)

    Criminal

    • CR-206 Order for Competency Examination (R)
    • CR-236 Judgment and Commitment Order for Sexually Violent Person (R)
    • CR-277 Order for Examination under 971.17(4)(c) (Not Guilty by Mental Disease or Defect) (N)

    Updated to comply with 2003 Act 121, effective May 1

    • CR-227 Plea Questionnaire (R)

    Updated to comply with 2003 Act 187, effective April 22

    • CR-237 Order Denying Petition for Supervised Release (R)
    • CR-238 Order for Supervised Release Plan (R)
    • CR-239 Order for Supervised Release (R)

    Family

    • FA-604 Stipulation and Order to Amend Judgment for support/Maintenance/ Custody/Placement (R)
    • FA-608 Family Medical History Questionnaire (form summary only) (R)

    Forms, summaries, background, and information on using standard court forms are available in PDF or MS Word format at www.wisbar.org/forms. For more information, contact gov judy.mahlkuch wicourts Judy Mahlkuch at (608) 266-7143.

    First class of Spanish and sign language interpreters sworn in

    Swearing in ceremony

    Fourteen graduates of the Wisconsin Court System Interpreter Training and Certification Program were sworn in by Chief Justice Shirley S. Abrahamson (at podium) on May 25. Director of State Courts John Voelker (right of Abrahamson) looks on as the first class of Spanish and American Sign Language interpreters take the oath. To meet the requirements for certification, court interpreters must demonstrate a clear understanding of legal terminology, complete a two-day training program, and pass a multi-part written exam and a lengthy oral exam. Of the 34 Spanish language interpreters who reached the oral exam phase, eight passed. The 25 percent pass rate exceeds the average national rate of 12 percent. Hmong, Russian, Arabic, and a second Spanish oral exams will be offered later this year.




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