Family Law Section Blog
Wis. Act 317: New Obligations When Drafting Pleadings for Pro-se Litigants
Donna L. Ginzl
Recently published legislation requires attorneys to add their name and state bar number when drafting pleadings for otherwise self-represented litigants. Donna Ginzl discusses changes in Wisconsin Act 317.
Wisconsin Act 317 was published on April 17, 2018. This Act made a number of changes to numerous statutory provisions.
Of particular interest to family law practitioners are the changes to Wis. Stat. section 802.05(2m), which addresses the representations to a court that must be made when an attorney assists or drafts pleadings filed by pro-se litigants.
The previous statute read:
“Additional representations to court as to preparation of pleadings or other documents. An attorney may draft or assist in drafting a pleading, motion, or document filed by an otherwise self-represented person. The attorney is not required to sign the pleadings, motion or document. Any such document must contain a statement immediately adjacent to the person’s signature that ‘this document was prepared with the assistance of a lawyer.’”
The new statute states:
“Additional representations to court as to preparation of pleadings or other documents. An attorney may draft or assist in drafting a pleading, motion, or document filed by an otherwise self-represented person. The attorney is not required to sign the pleading, motion, or document. Any such document must contain a statement immediately adjacent to the person’s signature that ‘this document was prepared with the assistance of a lawyer, followed by the name of the attorney and the attorney’s state bar number.’” (emphasis added)
The balance of the statute remains the same.
The modifications to section 802.05(2m) appear to supersede provisions in the previously enacted limited scope representation rule, which still states at SCR 20:1.2(cm):
“[a] lawyer may prepare pleadings, briefs, and other documents to be filed with the court so long as such filings clearly indicate thereon that ‘This document was prepared with the assistance of a lawyer.’”
It is probable that the change in the law was made at least in part in response to the change in the limited scope rule last year that allowed lawyer mediators to draft pleadings for otherwise pro-se litigants, and in an effort to give additional accountability to those drafting the pleadings.
These changes appear to be part of ongoing efforts by the courts to recognize that, with the vast majority of family law cases proceeding with self-represented parties, there is a need to allow lawyers to offer varied legal services beyond full case representation.
In some cases, this could allow individuals with more limited resources to have some assistance, rather than no assistance from lawyers, while providing additional accountability to the attorneys who offer to draft such pleadings.
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