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  • WisBar News
    June 12, 2019

    Director of State Courts Addresses State Bar Board; Board Takes Actions

    Judge Randy Koschnick, the Wisconsin Director of State Courts, gave remarks and took questions at the State Bar of Wisconsin Board of Governors (board) meeting today and the board took several actions in its final meeting of the fiscal year.

    Joe Forward

    Judge Randy Koschnick

    Director of State Courts, Judge Randy Koschnick, addressed the Board of Governors and discussed some of the initiatives his office is working on to improve efficiencies within the court system.

    June 12, 2019 – Judge Randy Koschnick, the Wisconsin Director of State Courts, gave remarks and took questions at the State Bar of Wisconsin Board of Governors (board) meeting today and the board took several actions in its final meeting of the fiscal year.

    Kicking off the State Bar’s Annual Meeting and Conference in Green Bay, the board invited Director Koschnick to report on the court system’s work and initiatives.

    Koschnick, a former circuit court judge for Jefferson County, said lawyers and judges depend on each other for the proper functioning of the court system and must work together. As an example, he noted that a consortium of judges and lawyers worked together on the rate paid to private bar attorneys who take on public defender cases.

    Joe ForwardJoe 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.

    An increase, from $40 to $70, is included in the proposed state budget that is moving toward finality. “This is not the first time that an increase has been discussed and contemplated, but this is the first time that such a concerted effort was put together to advance this important initiative,” Director Koschnick said.

    Director Koschnick noted that the Joint Finance Committee also approved funding for additional assistant district attorney positions and increased county support payments to offset the increased rate of $100 per hour for lawyers appointed by the courts.

    The changes will help ensure parties are well-represented, that individual liberty interests are protected, and cases are processed in a timely manner, he said.

    Koschnick said his office has implemented initiatives to ensure that judges attend high quality judicial education programs that will help them stay well-informed on changes in the law. And he noted that the state supreme court has approved a pilot program to bring e-filing to the appellate courts, just as the circuit courts now use e-filing.

    After Koschnick’s appearance, the board dove into its final meeting of the fiscal year with outgoing board chair Odalo Ohiku presiding. A new board will reconvene in September.

    Chuck Stertz

    Dist. 10 Gov. Chuck Stertz discusses a petition that would allow permanent revocation of a law license for attorney misconduct. The board delayed discussion and action until the next fiscal year.

    Board Postpones Discussion/Action on Proposal on Permanent Revocation

    The board voted to postpone discussion and action on a pending petition that would allow an attorney’s law license to be permanently revoked as a disciplinary measure.

    The proposal is included within a petition (19-10) that an OLR Process Review Committee, established by the Wisconsin Supreme Court, has submitted to the court.

    Currently, a lawyer whose law license is “revoked” may petition the Supreme Court for reinstatement after five years. The petition would allow permanent revocation of an attorney’s law license, with no opportunity for reinstatement.

    In previous board meetings, governors raised arguments on both sides. Some argued that reinstatement should always be possible. Others said egregious cases could merit permanent revocation. Today, the board extended the time for its consideration.

    Dean Dietrich, chair of the State Bar’s Professional Ethics Committee, will prepare an issue brief on permanent revocation before the board revisits the issue in the next fiscal year. The supreme court is not expected to consider the petition until the fall.

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    Members of the board convened in Green Bay for the State Bar's 2019 Annual Meeting and Conference.

    Board Supports $5 Client Protection Fund Fee Increase

    The board voted to support an increase to the fee that lawyers pay to the Wisconsin Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection (Client Protection Fund), established in 1981 to compensate clients who have suffered financial loss due to attorney misconduct.

    The Client Protection Fund Committee will file a petition to the Wisconsin Supreme Court to increase the fee by $5, to $25 annually. Currently, lawyers pay an annual $20 fee. The current fee of $20, assessed by the Wisconsin Supreme Court and collected by the State Bar of Wisconsin with annual dues statements, has not changed since 2013.

    At the last board meeting in April, Client Protection Fund Committee Chair Steve Chiquoine informed the board that the committee reviewed financials from 2013 to the present and found that in four of the past six years, claims were deferred for payment due to insufficient available funds. He urged the board to support the increase.

    In 2017, for instance, $300,000 in approved claims were deferred for payment to clients. The fund has experienced an increase in the number of larger recoverable approved claims, and a fee increase is required in order to fulfill the fund’s mission, he said.

    Odalo Ohiku, Chris Rogers, and Jill Kastner

    From left, Board Chair Odalo Ohiku presides over the board meeting while outgoing State Bar President Christopher Rogers and incoming State Bar President Jill Kastner participate.

    Committee on Resolution of Fee Disputes

    The board voted to reestablish a Committee on Resolution of Fee Disputes to oversee the State Bar’s Fee Arbitration Program, a service to the public and attorneys in Wisconsin. The program provides an affordable and efficient way for lawyers and clients to resolve disputes over attorney’s fees with the help of trained, volunteer arbitrators.

    The committee meets as needed to address issues such as arbitrator training, program rules, procedures, and member and public outreach. The Arbitration Program processes about 200 arbitration requests per year on disputes ranging from $1,500 to $200,000.

    However, since 2013, an informal advisory group was ensuring oversight and governance of the Arbitration Program and the committee was officially dissolved in 2018. The board voted to reestablish the formal committee to improve the State Bar’s ability to oversee and govern the Arbitration Program under established rules.

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    Board members Jim Marshall and Susan Miller chat during a break at the Board of Governors meeting in Green Bay.

    Board Approves Board Chair for FY 2020

    The board unanimously approved Dist. 2 Gov. Kori Ashley (Milwaukee) as the chairperson of the board for fiscal year 2020 (July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020).

    The Chairperson of the Board of Governors Committee recommended Ashley, an attorney with Legal Action of Wisconsin. Ashley has been a member of the board since 2017 and is also member of the Wisconsin Association of African American Lawyers.

    Kevin Lonergan

    Kevin Lonergan gives the board a report on the Wisconsin Law Foundation, the charitable arm of the State Bar.

    Board Elects Six Members to Executive Committee

    The board approved six nominations to the State Bar’s Executive Committee for fiscal year 2020: Dist. 4 Gov. Mary Lynne Donohue (Sheboygan); Nonresident Lawyers Division representative Erik Guenther (Las Vegas); Dist. 2 Gov. Amy Wochos (Milwaukee); Dist. 10 Gov. Charles Stertz (Appleton); Dist. 2 Gov. Brittany Grayson (Milwaukee); and Dist. 13 Gov. Robert Barrington (Juneau).

    The Executive Committee is 14-member body that exercises all the powers and performs the duties of the Board of Governors between meetings.

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    Dist. 6 Gov. Jesse Blocher provides insight at the board meeting.

    Other Business

    • The board approved the Construction & Public Contract Law Section’s request to amend the section’s bylaws.

    • The board approved the Nonresident Lawyers Division’s request to update and/or change the division’s bylaws.

    • The board reappointed two State Bar representatives to the Wisconsin Access to Justice Commission, Dist. 11 Gov. Howard Bichler (Cumberland) and the Hon. Richard Sankovitz (Milwaukee). Both of their terms expired in March 2019.

    • The board reelected two State Bar of Wisconsin delegates to the ABA House of Delegates, James Casey (Washington, D.C.) and Elise Libbey (Waukesha). Libbey will serve as the State Bar’s young lawyer representative.

    • The board approved State Bar President Christopher Rogers’s four appointees to the Wisconsin Trust Account Foundation Board: Eric Andrews (Milwaukee); Joshua Kindkeppel (Madison); Deanne Koll (New Richmond); and Mr. Glenn Dahl (Madison). Andrews and Kindkeppel are reappointments.

    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.

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