Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Patience Roggensack kicked off the State Bar's Board of Governors meeting today, offering thanks to the State Bar for its role in helping the court.
April 29, 2016 – Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Patience Roggensack kicked off the State Bar of Wisconsin Board of Governors meeting today in Madison, offering thanks to the State Bar for its role in helping the court with important issues.
“You do so many things that allow the practice of law in Wisconsin to operate at a high level, that allow us to innovate in what we are doing within the state,” she said. “When we have a particular need, we call on you, and you have never said no.”
She said State Bar support is integral in helping the Wisconsin Supreme Court serve the people of Wisconsin, noting State Bar involvement in petitions that change or amend supreme court rules, assisting the court with the administration of justice.
The chief justice mentioned that the court just issued its final order to implement mandatory e-filing in circuit courts, with a roll-out plan starting July 1, 2016. The State Bar fully supported that petition, filed by the Wisconsin’s Committee of Chief Judges.
“E-filing was a huge lift for the court,” she said. “It’s something the court needed to do. The Board of Governors’ unanimous support for this project made the difference.”
She also noted other petitions the court recently approved, including one that will allow attorneys to earn CLE credit for pro bono work and open more pro bono opportunities for registered in-house counsel, measures that will help citizens and organizations.
“Again, that was a very good idea. It’s very important to the court to make sure people who cannot afford legal services still have access to the courts,” Roggensack said.
The chief justice says she is working to run a “horizontal administration,” getting justices involved in committee work and reaching outside the confines of the supreme court to seek advice on projects and issues that need the court’s attention.
She also called on the State Bar to push counties towards more security in the circuit courts, noting that some don’t have any security at all. The Wisconsin Lawyer magazine addressed this issue recently, and Chief Roggensack hopes the State Bar will keep pushing.
Miriam Horwitz, the Government Lawyers Division representative to the board, offers comments on a proposal to create a paralegal certification program.
“You don’t know what is going to set someone off,” she said. “You can’t plan for it, it’s totally unpredictable. Speak to your county boards. Tell them how important this is.”
Board Approves FY 2017 Budget
The board unanimously approved an $11.7 million operating budget for fiscal year 2017 (July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017), based on projected revenues. The budget is about $230,000 less than the FY 2016 budget. State Bar membership dues, currently $254 for active members, represents 45 percent of the State Bar’s operating budget.
The remaining 55 percent of bar operations is funded mostly through sales and registrations of State Bar of Wisconsin PINNACLE® products and CLE events, as well as advertising and sponsorships.
Board Approves New Mission and Vision Statements
The board, at the recommendation of the State Bar’s Strategic Planning Committee, approved new vision and mission statements, grounded in Wisconsin Supreme Court Rule 10.02 (organization of the State Bar of Wisconsin), along with guiding principles that will be used in relation to development of the State Bar’s strategic plan.
The new vision statement: “Our members are the respected guardians of the dignity and integrity of the rule of law within a fair and accessible justice system.”
The new mission statement: “We support our members in a dynamic and diverse society in delivering valued professional services, promoting access to justice and pursuing professional satisfaction.”
District 2 Gov. Andrew Chevrez, a member of the board's Governance Committee, explains proposed changes to State Bar bylaws and Supreme Court Rules that govern the State Bar.
Guiding principles, which serve as the organization’s compass and inspire the pursuit of excellence in the profession of law, include service to members, service to community, commitment to diversity and inclusion, professionalism, and innovation.
“Those guiding principles put a stake in the ground in terms of what the organization stands for, its values, but it also serves as a decision support tool,” said Susan Miller, chair of the board’s Strategic Planning Committee.
Board Discusses Paralegal Certification Program
The board discussed, but took no action, on a proposal for the State Bar to develop and administer a voluntary certification program for paralegals in the state.
Under the proposal, developed by the CLE Committee, individuals would need to earn 18 credits from an approved paralegal training program to be considered a “State Bar of Wisconsin-Certified Paralegal.” In some cases, current paralegals could obtain certification based on work experience, through a “grandfather” mechanism.
There would be a biannual CLE reporting requirement for State Bar-Certified Paralegals, a mechanism to prove good character, and they would be subject to ethical rules modeled on the Rules of Professional Conduct for Attorneys. At all times, only paralegals working under attorney supervision could be State Bar-certified.
State Bar Board members convene for the April 29 board meeting at the State Bar Center in Madison. The final board meeting of the year will be held June 15 in Green Bay as part of the 2016 Annual Meeting and Conference.
Katheryn Bullon, chair of the CLE Committee, said the program could help deter paralegals from the unauthorized practice of law, as certified paralegals would be working under attorneys. She also said the program could boost employment prospects for paralegals, and create a pool of well-qualified candidates to help attorneys.
Board Discusses SCR and Bylaw Changes
The board discussed a proposal to update the State Bar’s bylaws, which have not been updated in more than 10 years, and amend some provisions in Chapter 10 of the Wisconsin Supreme Court Rules, which governs the regulation of the State Bar.
The board’s Governance Committee is recommending the changes, which would require approval from the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Douglas Buck, chair of the Governance Committee, said the changes will streamline processes when the board votes to change bylaws, rather than waiting for approval from the Supreme Court.
The proposed changes would remove, from SCR Chapter 10, references to individual officers and the Board of Governors that set forth responsibilities currently delegated to the State Bar and its staff.
The proposal also makes minor changes to the State Bar dues structure, places day-to-day operational duties and obligations of State Bar officers, committees, sections, and divisions in the State Bar Bylaws, rather than SCR Chapter 10, and makes changes to the State Bar Bylaw referendum and amendment procedures.
Proposed changes to the State Bar Bylaws would insert language removed from SCR 10, noted above, into the bylaws. The proposal would also establish two types of committees, board committees (appointed by the president) and State Bar committees (appointed by the board), create a number of new standing committees, and create a new section that deals exclusively with State Bar divisions.
Save the Date: AMC at Elkhart Lake in 2020
The board approved the location and date for the State Bar’s 2020 Annual Meeting and Conference. It will be held June 10-12 at the Osthoff Resort in Elkhart Lake.
The 2016 Annual Meeting and Conference (AMC) is June 16-17 in Green Bay, followed by Wisconsin Dells in 2017, Lake Geneva in 2018, and Wisconsin Dells in 2019.
Other Business and Discussion Items
Law Practice Succession Planning. The board heard a report from the Succession Planning Working Group, established by State Bar President Ralph Cagle, on recommendations to encourage members, particularly solo and small-firm attorneys, to name successor counsel in the event that they are unable to continue their practice. The board took no action.
Policy Committee Recommendations. The board’s Policy Committee is recommending the board reaffirm six State Bar policy positions (and the preamble on State Bar policies), sunset one (related to HIPAA adopted in 1998), and adopt seven with amendments. The board discussed the recommendations but took no action.
Exoneree Compensation. At the request of the State Bar’s Criminal Law Section, the board discussed whether to take a policy position supporting modifications to statutes related to compensation and support of persons exonerated of criminal convictions. No action was taken.
Chair Nominating Committee. President-elect Fran Deisinger appointed a three-person Nominating Committee, which will nominate a 2017 Board of Governors Chairperson. Robert Gagan, past State Bar president, Charles Sterz, Young Lawyer Division representative to the board, and James Casey, Nonresident Lawyer Division representative to the board.
Access to Justice Commission Appointments. The board reappointed attorney Howard Bichler and retired Appeals Court Judge Margaret Vergeront to the 17-member Wisconsin Access to Justice Commission.
Health Law Section Bylaws. The board approved a request from the Health Law Section to amend the section’s bylaws.
Upon request, interested members may obtain a copy of the minutes of each meeting of the Board of Governors. For more information, contact State Bar Executive Coordinator Jan Marks by org jmarks wisbar email or by phone at (608) 250-6106.