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  • WisBar News
    June 14, 2017

    State Bar Board Supports Prosecutor Office, Discusses Military Spouse Rule

    Joe Forward

    Board of Governors meeting group

    Board of Governors Karen Bauer, Deanne Koll, Kathleen Chung, Amy Wochos, and Jill Kastner. Find more photos from today's Board of Governors meeting on the State Bar's Facebook page, or click here.

    June 14, 2017 – The State Bar of Wisconsin’s Board of Governors convened in Wisconsin Dells today, the last meeting of the fiscal year, and registered support for an independent agency that would assist the work of county prosecutors in Wisconsin.

    The board voted to support the creation of an 11-person, independent Prosecutor Board to oversee and set policies for a newly created State Prosecutors Office, similar to the office and board that oversee activities of the State Public Defender system.

    The board also discussed a bar admission rule that would allow spouses or domestic partners of active U.S. military service members stationed in Wisconsin to obtain admission to practice law in Wisconsin, without a bar exam, if other conditions are met.

    Kicking off the State Bar’s Annual Meeting & Conference, which takes place June 15-16 at the Wilderness Resort in Wisconsin Dells, the board also approved a number of appointments, including appointment of the board’s chairperson for fiscal year 2018.

    The board also said farewell to longtime State Bar Executive Director George Brown, who retires June 30, as well as outgoing State Bar President Fran Deisinger.

    Larry Martin assumes the executive director role on July 1, the same day that Paul Swanson will take over as the State Bar’s 62nd president. Swanson, of Oshkosh, will take his oath of office this evening at the annual Presidential Swearing-in Ceremony.

    Independent Prosecutor Office and Board

    The board supported a legislative proposal to create an independent agency, the Office of State Prosecutors, with an 11-member board and an executive director and staff.

    The executive director of the Prosecutors Office would manage the office; prepare personnel policies, fiscal estimates, annual reports; and represent the Prosecutor Board before the governor, the legislature, bar associations, and courts, according to a Legislative Reference Bureau analysis of companion bills, AB 231 and SB 155.

    The Joint Finance Committee unanimously approved a motion to effectively move the legislation into the proposed state budget for 2017-19, which is still in the works.

    Under the budget proposal, the State Prosecutors Office would assume duties that are currently assigned to the Wisconsin Department of Administration, such as preparing a budget for prosecutorial units and approving appointments of special prosecutors.

    Bob Barrington

    Bob Barrington asks the board to support a legislative proposal to create an independent agency that would assist the work of county prosecutors in Wisconsin.

    The Prosecutors Office could weigh in on proposed rules directly affecting prosecutors, and would give the Prosecutors Office access to the case management system that the Wisconsin Department of Justice uses to manage cases and share information.

    The State Bar’s board voted to adopt a policy position supporting the proposal and noting that the independent Prosecutor Board “will serve to protect the interests and funding for elected District Attorneys and assistant district attorneys in Wisconsin.”

    Robert Barrington, managing attorney in the Dodge County District Attorney’s Office, said the independent agency would create a central agency to address the work of county prosecutors that currently resides with various state agencies and counties.

    “We have certainly seen, with the creation of the State Public Defenders Office, how much more efficiently an organization can be run if there is a centralized organizational structure,” Barrington said. “Prosecutors have nothing like that currently.”

    Military Spouse Admission

    The board discussed (but took no action on) a proposed rule to allow a special Wisconsin law practice licensure option for spouses or domestic partners of active U.S. military service members stationed in Wisconsin for six months or longer.

    Passing the Wisconsin bar exam or prior law practice for three of the last five years in another jurisdiction are prerequisites to admission to practice law in Wisconsin for those who don’t obtain admission through Wisconsin’s diploma privilege.

    Dist. 2 Gov. Karen Bauer said law licensure rules can be particularly problematic for lawyers who are spouses or domestic partners of active service members, since military duty may require frequent movement from one jurisdiction to another.

    If a military spouse has not practiced law for three of the last five years in another jurisdiction, they may be required to endure the timely and costly process of taking and passing a bar exam in multiple jurisdictions, then trying to secure new employment.

    Karen Bauer

    Karen Bauer presents a proposal to allow a special Wisconsin law practice licensure option for spouses or domestic partners of active military service members stationed in Wisconsin.

    “Military spouses are unemployed three times more than their civilian counterparts,” Bauer told the board. “This is the result of frequent transfers for military spouses.”

    Bauer, who plans to file a petition to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, told the board that 25 other states have adopted a similar rule. According to the Military Spouse J.D. Network, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan have made law license accommodations for military spouses, and similar proposals are underway in Iowa and now Wisconsin.

    Under the current proposal presented to the board for review, military spouses would be eligible for admission to practice law in Wisconsin if residing or intending to reside in Wisconsin for at least six months, based on documented military orders.

    A character and fitness registration application would be required, as well as certificates of good standing from each jurisdiction of admission and certificates from disciplinary authorities of each jurisdiction that indicate the applicant has not been suspended, disbarred, or disciplined and that no disciplinary charges are pending.

    Applicants must also submit documentation that they have never been denied admission to practice law in any jurisdiction, and certify that they are familiar with the Wisconsin Rules of Professional Conduct for Attorneys.

    Admission would terminate if the spouse service member is no longer a member of the U.S. Uniformed Services, or if the military spouse or domestic partner attorney is no longer married to or in a domestic partnership with the service member.

    The Wisconsin law license would also terminate if the service member is reassigned to a location outside Wisconsin, unless the lawyer spouse or domestic partner is not authorized to accompany the service member and remains in Wisconsin.

    Peg Lautenschlager

    Peg Lautenschlager asks questions about an independent prosecutor board.

    Board Approves Koll as Next Board Chair

    The board elected Deanne Koll to serve as the board’s chairperson for fiscal year 2018 (July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018). The board’s Nomination Committee nominated Koll to serve as chair, who is a governor at large and conducts the board’s regular meetings.

    Koll counsels lenders and businesses on collection issues and creditors’ rights in bankruptcy at Bakke Norman Law Offices in New Richmond and Menomonie.

    Board Elects Executive Committee

    The board elected six members to the board’s 12-person Executive Committee for FY 2018. The Executive Committee exercises powers and performs duties of the board between meetings, including setting board meeting agendas.

    Joe Forward Joe Forward, Saint Louis Univ. School of Law 2010, is a legal writer for the State Bar of Wisconsin, Madison. He can be reached by email or by phone at (608) 250-6161.

    The Executive Committee consists of the State Bar president, the president-elect, the immediate past-president, board chairperson, one representative each from the Nonresident Lawyers Division, Government Lawyers Division, Young Lawyers Division, and the Senior Lawyers Division selected by division boards.

    Six additional members are elected annually by the board at its final meeting of the fiscal year. The board elected the following six members to serve on the Executive Committee: Kathryn Bullon, Andrew Chevrez, Charles Stertz, Kathleen Chung, John Danner, and Jill Kastner.

    Board Elects ABA Delegates

    The board elected James Casey Jr., Washington D.C., and Milwaukee attorney Elise Libbey as State Bar of Wisconsin representatives to the ABA House of Delegates.

    Casey is a Nonresident Lawyers Division representative to the board and the sponsored research director at American University. Libbey, a judicial law clerk for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, is the State Bar’s Young Lawyer Delegate.

    Goldman Will Fill Vacant Dist. 9 Seat

    The board approved the appointment of Jeff Goldman, an attorney at Dewitt Ross & Stevens S.C., to fill the vacancy that will occur when Dist. 9 Gov. Chris Rogers assumes the State Bar president-elect role on July 1, 2017. Goldman will serve out one year.

    Audit Committee Members Appointed

    The board approved two Executive Committee appointments to fill vacancies on the five-person Audit Committee, which assists the board in monitoring the integrity of State Bar financial statements, the independent auditor’s qualifications, independence and performance, and such other responsibilities that the board may authorize. Audit Committee appointments are David Gorwitz and Robert Zellers.

    Gorwitz practices in the areas of business and corporate law, mergers and acquisitions, and estate planning at Neider & Boucher S.C., in Madison. Zellers recently retired as a Senior Vice-President, Senior Portfolio Manager with US Bank’s Private Client Reserve. He also served as the State Bar’s investment advisor for nearly 20 years and is the current treasurer for the Wisconsin Trust Account Foundation (WisTAF).

    Other Business

    The board approved the Public Interest Law Section’s request to amend the section’s bylaws, and set the date and location of the 2022 Annual Meeting & Conference. It will be held June 16-17, 2022, at the Grand Geneva Resort & Spa in Lake Geneva.

    The board approved State Bar President Deisinger’s appointments to the 15-member WisTAF board. Attorney Karma Rodgers (Milwaukee) was reappointed. Attorney April Barker (Waukesha), attorney Anne Hlavacka (La Crosse), and Mr. Justin Lepscier (Green Bay) are new appointments. WisTAF is dedicated to equal access to the civil justice system and funds legal services for low-income Wisconsin citizens.

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