Human Trafficking: It’s Happening in Our Communities
Regarding Joe Forward’s recent profile of Milwaukee County ADA Sara Lewis and the realities of human trafficking in Wisconsin, thank you, and well done. (See “Human Trafficking: Milwaukee Prosecutors Want Stronger Law, Propose Changes,” InsideTrack, Aug. 21, 2013.) I think the article will surprise many people who were not aware that trafficking occurs routinely in our own communities. Addressing common misconceptions comes with the territory for me as chair of the Justice program at a Milwaukee all-women’s university.
Mount Mary University hosts a testimonial writing workshop each fall for survivors of trafficking and sexual violence, see www.mtmary.edu/untold-stories.html. Writers build skills to put their experience in context and speak in their own authentic voice to produce writing that is later showcased around the state. Attorney General Van Hollen put one writer’s poem on the program for the 2013 Crime Victims Rights Week ceremony. The writer was terrified, but ecstatic. She felt powerful. This is one way to help survivors find their voice and their best life, long-term.
We need other ways to help survivors of crime. No one would likely argue that a 15-year-old trafficked runaway deserves the best efforts of the legal system. But what about the 22-year-old formerly trafficked person who has a significant legal record from past criminal activity or association? As aptly put by Sara Lewis in Forward’s article, “When there’s a gray area, we just have to balance victimization with culpability.” Every person and situation is unique and demands a unique response.
LOTUS legal clinic began at Mount Mary University in August to meet these challenges. The title stands for what we do – provide Legal Options for Trafficked and Underserved Survivors of crime. Victims have special legal protections to ensure they can participate in the criminal case. They have standing to assert those rights in court, although seldom the advocacy to do so. Many people don’t know this, including attorneys.
The Wisconsin Department of Justice assists victims who believe their rights were violated by public officials; however, victims often have additional legal needs, directly related to the crime, concerning employment, housing, and many civil issues. Victims of trafficking might have convictions for crimes they were forced to commit by their traffickers. In all of these cases, what are their options?
LOTUS is the only statewide comprehensive legal clinic of its kind in Wisconsin, developed to help victims navigate such issues. It is supported by the Milwaukee and Waukesha county courts, the DOJ Office of Crime Victim Services, prosecutors, Sojourner Family Peace Center, the Greater Milwaukee Human Trafficking Task Force, the future Family Justice Center project, the University of Michigan Human Trafficking Legal Clinic, and others.
And what about you, reader? I encourage you to get in touch with me to volunteer for LOTUS. Our first attorney training and recruitment is set for Nov. 14, 2013, at Mount Mary University. Event details will be posted to the LOTUS facebook page, at www.facebook.com/LOTUSMountMaryUniversity.
Again, applause to the dedicated prosecutors, detectives, and victim advocates who work on these matters in Wisconsin, and to Mr. Forward and InsideTrack for contributing the piece.
Mount Mary University, Milwaukee
Mock Trial Worthy of Support
Regarding the National High School Mock Trial Championship scheduled to occur in Madison next May, I hope Wisconsin lawyers will help support this event with a contribution or by volunteering at the event.
My daughter (Anna Alaska Pendleton) was on the Shorewood High School team that competed in the national tournament in Texas in 2007, and the bar associations in Texas showed the teams great hospitality. Anna’s experience with the mock trial program helped her develop poise, confidence, and analytical skills. I especially remember the very supportive and kind (but not condescending) comments made by volunteer Judge Pam Pepper (U.S. Bankruptcy judge in Milwaukee) to the team after judging one of the team’s trial sessions in Milwaukee. She commented favorably on their courtroom skills compared to many of the attorneys she saw on a daily basis and complimented them on their preparation and tenacity. She urged them to consider a career of service in the legal profession.
Anna did not pursue a law degree but instead developed an interest in medicine, in particular medical challenges facing persons in developing nations, and she is currently pursuing those interests in her third year at Harvard Medical School. Being involved in the mock trial program was a great experience for Anna and many other high school students, and next year’s national tournament in Madison is one worthy of Bar members’ support.
Alexander “Sandie” Pendleton
Pendleton Legal S.C., Milwaukee
[Editor’s Note: To volunteer your time or contribute to the National High School Mock Trial Championship sponsorship fund, visit http://nationalmocktrial2014.wisbar.org.]
PINNACLE Price Correction
Alcohol Beverages Regulation in Wisconsin, by Aaron R. Gary (Madison, WI: State Bar of Wisconsin PINNACLE©, 2012) was reviewed in the July/August issue. The review contained an incorrect member price. The correct member price is $219. The nonmember price remains $235. Order, www.wisbar.org. The editors regret the error.