State Bar leaders and Marathon County Bar Association leaders, from left: State Bar President-elect Chris Rogers, Marathon County Bar President James D. Miller, Marathon County Bar Secretary Robyn De Vos, Marathon County Bar Vice President Kristen Lonergan, State Bar Past President Fran Deisinger, and State Bar President Paul Swanson.
This article was updated on April 26, 2018 at 12:30 p.m.
April 23, 2018 – The State Bar of Wisconsin’s Board of Governors approved a 2019 budget and heard reports on court e-filing developments and a petition to increase the hourly pay rate for private bar attorneys who take public defender appointments.
But the board, which met in Wausau last Friday, took ample time to recognize the passing of three special attorneys: Vel Phillips, Peg Lautenschlager, and Wausau’s own Sara Quirt-Sann, one of four victims killed in a shooting spree last year.
The State Bar donated $1,000 to Sara’s Garden, a children’s installation that will be dedicated in Sara Quirt-Sann’s name at Monk Botanical Gardens in Wausau.
Scott Sann, husband of Sara Quirt-Sann. Sara was one of four people killed in shootings last year in Wausau. Scott thanked the State Bar for a donation to Sara's Garden, a children's instillation planned for a local botanical garden.
Sara’s husband, Scott Sann, and Wausau attorneys Dale Eaton and Christine Olsen, appeared to accept the donation on behalf of Sara’s Garden.
“Sara’s Garden will be a children’s garden that is dedicated for the imagination and innocence of children, two important characteristics that Sara Quirt-Sann would have recognized in her role as a guardian ad litem,” Eaton said.
“It was a great loss for us to lose Sara and it speaks very highly of our bar that you are willing to come forward and support this project in her name,” Olsen added.
Peg Lautenschlager and Vel Phillips
The board also recognized Peg Lautenschlager, a member of the board and the first and only woman to serve as Wisconsin’s Attorney General. In late March, Lautenschlager lost a longtime battle with breast cancer. She was 62 years old.
“I would like to take a moment to recognize that there is somebody who was at our last meeting who is not here today. She was a great friend, a great lawyer, and a great human being. I am talking about Peg Lautenschlager,” said State Bar President Paul Swanson, who attended U.W. Law School with Lautenschlager.
“She was so active within the bar and she did so much in the legal community. She was the kind of politician that really did reach across the aisle even though she had very strong ideological roots. I know that we will all miss her.”
Board Chair Deanne Koll, Menomanie, conducts the board meeting in Wausau.
On April 17, 2018, legal pioneer Vel Phillips died at the age of 95. Phillips was well known as a civil rights leader. She was the first African-American woman to graduate from U.W. Law School, in 1951. She was also the first African-American member of the Milwaukee Common Council, and the first African-American judge in Wisconsin.
Phillips also became the first and still only African-American elected to statewide public office when she was elected as secretary of state in 1978.
“If you were somebody of my age from Milwaukee, you knew that she was a pioneer and a champion in many ways,” said Immediate Past President Fran Deisinger of Vel Phillips. “If you ever met Vel, it only took a moment to have that immediate human reaction – this is a person of great character, kindness, empathy, and conviction.”
“She received more awards than the rest of us will ever collect all together and none of it really impressed her because she was just all about making her world better, her city better, her community better, her neighborhood better, her family better,” Deisinger said.
“She was a giant in our profession and it’s a great loss. She was one of the great citizens of our state and of my city, and so we want to recognize her here today.”
Jean Bousquet and Marcia Vandercook, who work for the Wisconsin Court System, briefed the board on new e-filing developments.
Currently, e-filing in circuit courts is mandatory in civil, family, small claims, paternity, criminal and traffic cases, formal and informal probate, and ordinance cases. Under the expansion plan, counties go voluntary on new case types before starting mandatory.
By September, e-filing will be mandatory for judgments, liens, guardianships, and mental commitments in the 30 counties with voluntary e-filing for those case types.
The Consolidated Court Automation Program (CCAP) will start expanding e-filing for other case types this summer, including juvenile guardianships and commitments, and adoptions, as well as CHIPS, delinquency, and termination of parental rights cases.
Dist. 2 Gov. Odalo Ohiku reports on the work of the Diversity and Inclusion Oversight Committee.
Bousquet said CCAP is also changing the way court officials will sign documents electronically, usually orders that filers submit for the judge’s signature.
“We are looking to change the way the signature looks and where it is placed,” Bousquet said. “We want to move the court’s signature to the top three inches of the first page of the document.” Filers would need to change page one of orders for signature by making a three-inch blank area for placement of the court’s signature.
“We would also plan to place a header in that same space on all pages of court documents so we can provide data about the court case, the document, the file date, and the page numbers on that document,” said Bousquet, chief information officer.
She said the changes will remove confusion about where signatures should be placed, and avoid “orphan” pages. “We want to make a change so people don’t have to spend time worrying about technical parts of a document rather than the substance of the document,” Bousquet said. “We think this will be easier for people to use.”
Bousquet said CCAP expects this change to be fully implemented by March 2019, meaning filers will need to update all their filed documents by then.
Also, by early summer, a flat filing fee of $20 will apply to traffic cases with multiple citations or forfeitures resulting from the same incident. Currently, a $20 filing fee applies to each citation or forfeiture, regardless of whether the incident is related.
Board Hears Update on Pay Rate Petition
Last year, the Wisconsin Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (WACDL) filed a petition (17-06) to amend supreme court rules relating to the pay rate for court-appointed counsel, from $70 per hour to $100 per hour.
Dist. 2 Gov. John Birdsall talks about a petition he filed on behalf of the Wisconsin Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (WACDL), concerning the pay rate for private bar attorneys who take public defender appointments.
The petition also seeks a declaration that the $40 per hour rate paid to private bar attorneys who take appointments from the State Public Defender is unreasonable. That $40 rate is lowest in the country. Petitioners argue it is creating a constitutional crisis and the supreme court should step in because the legislature has failed to do so.
The State Bar board voted to support petition 17-06 at its April 2017 board meeting, and the Wisconsin Supreme Court is holding a public hearing on it May 16, at 9:30 a.m.
Dist. 2 Gov. John Birdsall, who filed the petition on behalf of WACDL, updated the board on the petition in light of a new report “Justice Shortchanged Part II,” which was recently filed with the court and provides more data about the compensation rate in Wisconsin.
Birdsall said the current SPD rate of $40 per hour, set by statute, bars good criminal defense lawyers from taking those cases because they are economically unsustainable.
In addition, the low rate creates an untenable position for attorneys who are constitutionally obligated to provide effective assistance of counsel, Birdsall said.
“Raising the rate would attract experienced defense lawyers to take these cases and do the work that is part of the defense function – use investigators, file motions, and go to trial when necessary,” Birdsall said. “We have supplied the court with actual evidence, two different studies, which lay out the problem in detail.”
Section Carry Forward Requests
The board voted to approve various State Bar section requests to carry forward more than $10,000 in their operating budgets to FY 2019, which requires the board approval.
This item was removed from the consent agenda and added as an action item, on the motion of Dist. 2 Gov. Nick Zales, who noted that some sections were asking for carry forward amounts well above $10,000, from $25,000 to almost $65,000.
“The numbers are huge. I would like the sections to spend this money on their members, or perhaps lower dues so more people could join these sections,” Zales said.
“I’m glad the sections are doing well, but I feel strongly, being a section member for many years, that they should spend this money on their members.”
Zales did not propose to vote against carryovers above $10,000, noting sections are autonomous and raised the money on their own. “But I’ve never seen numbers this large before, he said. “I just want to send a friendly message to spend the money.”
Dist. 2 Gov. Nick Zales raises concerns about State Bar section carry forward amounts.
State Bar Executive Director Larry Martin noted that the Executive and Finance Committees discussed these carryover amounts, and noted that “there will be some things that will impact these amounts in the coming year.”
First, he said the sections will bear the full cost of a section coordinator position, starting next fiscal year, which the State Bar partially funds now. He also noted that many sections have stepped up to contribute to the Annual Meeting and Conference.
“What’s not in [these February numbers] are donations from the sections to sponsor AMC. The real measure to look at this is at the end of the fiscal year,” said Martin, who said some sections may also put on spring programming for their members.
Paul Marshall, the State Bar’s chief financial officer, noted that the Intellectual Property and Technology Law Section is lowering dues next year by $5 per member. “There is awareness among the sections that that is something that could be exercised.”
Dist. 2 Gov. Andrew Chevrez said section members should be empowered to raise any carry over concerns with section boards before it comes to the Board of Governors.
Dist. 9 Gov. Kathleen Chung said section budgets are not savings accounts, and the board should communicate the issue to the sections while respecting section autonomy.
Executive Director Martin said the Section Leaders Council (SLC) allows continued communications and relations between the State Bar board and sections, and a bylaw change creating a SLC representative on the board is in the works.
Board Approves FY 2019 Budget
The board unanimously approved the budget for fiscal year 2019 (July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019). The proposed budget did not change since the board discussed it at its February meeting. The 2019 budget of $11.5 million will be funded with $5.2 million in membership dues. Projected sales and registrations of $4.6 million and other revenue streams, such as advertising, fund the remainder of the State Bar’s proposed budget.
Attorney Starlyn Tourtillott, Native American liaison to the board, comments at the board meeting.
The State Bar projects the loss of approximately 200 full-dues paying members, about $51,000 in dues, based on shifts in membership composition. But reduced personnel and related overhead expenses, as well as other cost savings and the use of reserve funds allowed the State Bar to present a balanced budget with no dues increase.
Board Reappoints Gramling to the Access to Justice Commission
The board approved attorney James Gramling Jr. as one of four State Bar appointments on the Access to Justice Commission. Gramling was previously appointed to a three-year term as the Legal Assistance Committee’s appointee to the Commission, but his term expired in March. The Legal Assistance Committee voted to reappoint Gramling to a new three-year term, and the board approved Gramling as the committee’s appointee.
Nominating Committee for Board Chair
The board approved the appointment of a Nominating Committee for chairperson of the board: Dist. 2 Gov. Amy Wochos (chair), current board chair Deanne Koll, and Dist. 10 Gov. Charles Stertz.
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 email or by phone at (608) 250-6106.