It has been a great pleasure to serve as chair of the Public Interest Section for the past year.
With the changing of the fiscal year, so too does our leadership. Please help me in welcoming the new section chair, Rich Lavigne. Rich has been a member of the section since 2016 and is the managing attorney at ABC for Health. Rich was instrumental in leading the section’s Legislative Committee this year and brings a wealth of experience and expertise to the section. The section will continue to thrive under his leadership.
Indeed, the section has experienced another year of growth and progress, thanks to the contributions of the section’s members and board.
Newsletters and Blogs
Since last summer, the section has distributed information to its members through its newsletter as well as the monthly blogs. We encourage anyone interested to contribute articles for either the newsletter or the blog.
Continuing Legal Education Programs
We have also provided interesting and important information to our members through our continuing legal education programs. These presentations included access to justice in October and addressing housing issues for vulnerable clients in December. We have another slate of great topics coming next year, and encourage members to attend these informative and probing presentations.
We also encourage members to attend our annual “Pitchers and Public Interest” events in Madison and Milwaukee, which were held in October this past year, and will be again this year.
Lobbying and Legislation
The board also took active positions on a number of controversial legislative proposals over the past year.
While we still exist in a climate which seeks to diminish unrepresented or underrepresented populations, the section took steps to oppose measures which would further disempower already oppressed members of our community. This included opposition to SB639/AB771, relating to tenants’ housing and due process rights in a variety of ways, and SB637/AB759, relating to the regulation of rental-purchase agreements and granting rule-making authority.
While the section takes positions on these types of legislation, we need further assistance to stand up to these types of deleterious proposals. I urge those with experience and expertise in these matters to contribute their time testifying in support or opposition to proposed legislation – it is often times the most persuasive thing we can do as citizens and members of this section.
Diversity and Inclusion
Finally, the section took steps this year to address the lack of diversity and inclusion on the section board and the State Bar itself.
The section board is in the early stages of developing a diversity and inclusion plan to identify and encourage diverse candidates to run for leadership positions. We also discussed ways to develop and maintain a working relationship with other organizations that are cultivating diversity efforts, such as the Legal Education Opportunities Program at the U.W. Law School, which has long been a national model for recruiting students from historically underrepresented communities and encouraging them throughout their three years in law school.
Similarly, the section continues to develop continuing legal education programs that address issues effecting underserved communities.
Thank you to the members of this section and my fellow board members for a great year. I look forward to working with Rich and other board members as the past chair this next year. It should be another great one.