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  • Supreme court rejects another voluntary bar petition

    Adam Korbitz

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    Nov. 8, 2011 – For the second time this year, the Wisconsin Supreme Court has voted to dismiss a rules petition that sought to convert Wisconsin’s integrated bar into a voluntary bar. The court’s action follows a similar decision earlier this year to deny a petition filed by the same individuals.

    Meeting in open administrative conference on Nov. 7, 2011, the justices voted 4-3 against holding a public hearing on Petition 11-04, which Wisconsin attorneys Steven Levine and James Thiel had filed in July 2011. Levine is a former president of the State Bar of Wisconsin, and both Levine and Thiel are current members of the State Bar’s Board of Governors.

    During discussion of the petition at its Nov. 7 conference, several justices indicated they favored an integrated bar and the latest petition did not present any facts or arguments that were new in the decades-old debate over the modern integrated bar. Ultimately, four justices (Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson and Justices Ann Walsh Bradley, Patrick Crooks and David Prosser) agreed to dismiss the petition. Had the motion to dismiss the petition failed, the court presumably would have scheduled the petition for a public hearing.

    The meeting was the court’s second conference on Petition 11-04, having previously discussed the matter on September 15, 2011.

    Attorneys Levine and Thiel filed Petition 11-04 after the court had similarly voted on June 1, 2011, to reject Petition 11-01. Levine and Thiel had filed that petition in February 2011. The court formally denied Petition 11-01 in a 5-2 written order, stating that it did not set forth proposed language for a rule to accomplish its purpose. The court’s action on Petition 11-01 had left the petitioners free to file Petition 11-04, as long as that petition set forth a draft rule proposing how the conversion from an integrated bar to a voluntary bar could be accomplished.

    Although the court voted to deny Petition 11-04 on Nov. 7, Chief Justice Abrahamson and Justice Crooks suggested the court appoint a committee to review the performance of the State Bar in carrying out its public functions. Under SCR 10.10, the court may appoint such committees when it deems advisable. The court agreed to discuss the suggestion to appoint a committee at a future open conference.

    In other action on Nov. 7, the court voted to schedule Petition 11-03 for public hearing. That petition was filed in June 2011 by the Director of State Courts to repeal and recreate SCR 70.38 - 70.39, relating to court security and facilities. The court also voted to dismiss without public hearing Petition 11-06. That petition was filed by several Wisconsin attorneys who wanted CLE credit for teaching legal specialty courses to paralegals. In dismissing the petition, the court noted that current rules allow the Board of Bar Examiners to grant such credit on a case-by-case basis.

    Continue to monitor WisBar.org and visit the State Bar’s Government Relations page  for updated information on these and other budget issues.

    By Adam Korbitz, Government Relations Coordinator, State Bar of Wisconsin

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