June 7, 2023 – Teen court youth, pro se family law litigants, and families in need of continuing medical coverage are among those helped through grants from the Wisconsin Law Foundation funded by generous donations from Wisconsin lawyers.
Wisconsin Law Foundation is the charitable arm of the State Bar of Wisconsin. Thanks to donations from State Bar members, the Foundation annually provides high-impact
Truman Q. McNulty grants of $1,000 to $2,500 each to charitable or educational programs or projects that promote greater public understanding of the law and improve the administration of justice, and to projects that directly impact Wisconsin residents.
In 2023, the Foundation awarded a total of $25,000 in grants to 10 organizations that help children and families, support teen court programs, assist those who can’t afford legal representation, help access to health care, and offer legal assistance to pro se litigants with limited access to justice.
Here’s more about the 2023 recipients and their programs.
Making an Impact in Wisconsin’s Communities
ABC for Health’s statewide project, “Health Coverage Rights & Responsibilities during Medicaid Unwinding: A Community Legal Education Project” is a series of plain language videos on YouTube for accessible community legal education directed at the legal rights and responsibilities of individuals subject to Medicaid and BadgerCare Plus renewals running through all of 2023 and into early 2024. The changes will impact 1.65 million Wisconsinites. ABC staff will also conduct presentations to each of the local HealthWatch Coalitions across the state in Dane, Milwaukee, Eau Claire, and Northeast Wisconsin counties.
Briarpatch Youth Services’ Restorative Justice Program is a youth peer court that offers an alternative to the traditional juvenile justice system by providing eligible youth an opportunity to participate in a restorative justice process. During which, youth learn about legal ideas, procedures, and the justice system. Each year, the program serves 125-150 youth ages 12 to 18 in Dane County. The majority of youth participants are economically disadvantaged and/or minorities.
Catholic Multicultural Center’s Immigration Legal Services Program offers the most comprehensive set of low-cost immigration legal services in South Central Wisconsin to an 11-county service area. The program serves individuals with income below 300% the federal poverty guideline who cannot afford the fees of a private attorney.
Centro Legal for their Family Consultation Program directly addresses the unmet legal needs for clients living at or below 125% of the federal poverty income level. The program helps participants understand their legal rights, options, and responsibilities in family law matters, and helps them navigate family law court. As a result, program participants approach the family court system prepared, with accurate expectations and knowledge of the resources available to them.
Crawford County Teen Court gives first-time youth offenders an opportunity to go in front of a group of peers to determine sentencing for an offense after they admit to committing the offense. This is in place of going through the juvenile justice system. It has been in operation since November 2011 with over 100 juvenile cases heard to date. The goal is to keep teens out of the juvenile justice system as well as, eventually, the adult justice system.
Grant County Teen Court, which began in 2011, provides an option for first-time offenders to fix their mistakes and helps prevent the same mistakes in the future. It also helps teens learn about the criminal justice system and how to help their peers. “This program has made a difference in many of our participants, some of them choose to stay on after their case is complete to be a jury member and some of them liked the community service that they did and they choose to do more on their own,” writes Lancaster Police Chief Debra Reukauf. “We also had one mother tearfully thank the jurors for what they did for her son. She was so proud of the change they made in her son.”
Milwaukee Justice Center’s (MJC) Civil Legal Aid Helpline started in 2020 during the pandemic, to continue its legal services to clients. The helpline connects members of the public with MJC services, court information, and referrals to various community resources. It improves access to services for clients with mobility issues or other obstacles that prevent them from going to the courthouse in person.
Sauk County Circuit Court’s Pro Se Family Law Clinic opened in April 2023. The clinic provides self-represented litigants the opportunity to have access to user friendly forms and written instructions, in both English and Spanish. The clinic provides assistance via a customer service representative for procedural information and from volunteer attorneys who provide legal assistance, free of charge.
Vera Court Neighborhood Center’s free legal clinic offers services to residents on Madison’s north side. The grant covers the cost of professional interpretation during sessions with volunteer attorneys to accommodate Spanish speakers who attend the clinic. In 2022, the center’s monthly clinic provided services to 144 people.
Wisconsin Teen Court Association’s Restorative Justice Summit is a statewide educational forum that brings together young people and youth-serving professionals to collaborate in advancing equitable, evidence-based restorative justice and peacemaking practices that aim to transform youth services, programs, and communities in Wisconsin. In 2023, the Summit will be on the U.W.-Madison campus with Milwaukee-based keynote speaker, Jeremy Triblett, and breakout sessions that include former judges and youth with experiences with the juvenile justice system.