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  • WisBar News
    May 02, 2022

    State Bar Board Approves FY 2023 Budget, Well-Being Task Force Report

    The State Bar of Wisconsin's Board of Governors also discussed a rules petition filed with the Wisconsin Supreme Court that would change record retention rules for some eviction cases and heard remarks from former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson, a member of the State Bar.

    Jeff M. Brown

    District 14 Governor Sherry Coley

    District 14 Governor Sherry Coley, a member of the finance committee, discusses the proposed FY 2023 budget. (Photo by Shannon Green)

    May 2, 2022 – The State Bar of Wisconsin’s Board of Governors recently approved the organization’s budget for fiscal year 2023, among other actions.

    At its April 29 meeting at the State Bar Center, the 52-member board unanimously approved the proposed $12.7 million budget recommended by the Finance Committee.

    State Bar Chief Financial Officer Paul Marshall said the budget holds the line on expenses while not exceeding revenues, and also fully funds the continuation of programs, products, services, and staffing that serve members and the State Bar’s mission.

    The Finance Committee recommended a $4 dues increase, about a 1.5% increase, to reach a balanced budget in line with best practices, Marshall said.

    State Bar membership dues for full-active members will move to $272 for FY 2023 (July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2023). Membership dues are separate from Wisconsin Supreme Court assessments and fees, currently $236 for full active members which also appear on the dues statements that will be sent to members in May.

    Membership dues account for about 45 percent of the State Bar’s revenue. The other major revenue stream includes sales and registration revenues from State Bar of Wisconsin PINNACLE®, including books, seminars, and conferences.

    The State Bar now offers an installment plan to spread dues and assessment payments over six months. In addition, members experiencing financial difficulties can submit a Hardship Waiver Application.

    Korey Lundin from Wisconsin Legal Action

    Korey Lundin from Wisconsin Legal Action, Inc. explains a Wisconsin Supreme Court rules petition that would shorten the length of time evictions records are retained by county clerks. (Photo by Shannon Green).

    Well-Being Task Force Report

    In other business, the board unanimously adopted a motion to support the continued work of a task force on lawyer well-being, convened by the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

    Jeff M. BrownJeff M. Brown is a legal writer for the State Bar of Wisconsin, Madison. He can be reached by email or by phone at (608) 250-6126.

    The Task Force on Wisconsin Lawyer Well-being issued a report in December 2021. The report made 72 detailed recommendations covering every sector of the legal profession.

    President Cheryl Daniels served on one of the task force’s seven subcommittees. She told the board that the scope of the recommendations is so broad that the State Bar cannot hope to implement them all on its own.

    “It’s an incredibly detailed report about different organizations and how they think about wellness in their group,” Daniels said.

    The board approved a motion to support the task force’s work and the goals outlined in the report, and to pledge that the State Bar will be available to facilitate gatherings of all interested organizations that wish to share their work of improving lawyer well-being.

    Secretary Kristen D. Hardy and District 9 Governor Marisol Gonzalez Castillo

    Secretary Kristen D. Hardy and District 9 Governor Marisol Gonzalez Castillo listen to a discussion of the proposed rules petition on the retention of eviction records.

    Board Hears Rules Petition on Eviction Records

    Korey Lundin, a lawyer with Legal Action Wisconsin, Inc. presented Rules Petition 22-03, which his organization has already filed with the state supreme court. The proposed rule would change record retention rules for some eviction cases.

    Lundin urged the board to support the petition, which will likely be considered by the court this fall. The board did not take action at this stage.

    Under the proposed ruled, the retention period for records in an eviction case where no money judgment was entered would shrink from 20 years to one year.

    “The reason for this petition is to address the severe harm that eviction records have on renters,” Lundin said.

    Landlords file between 25,000 and 30,000 eviction actions each year in Wisconsin, Lundin said. But only between 10-15% result in a judgment of eviction and the removal of the renter.

    For renters who don’t end up with a money judgment against them, “that record follows the renter wherever they go,” Lundin said. Retaining records in those cases makes it very difficult for renters to put a roof over their heads, Lundin said.

    “Tenants can have these evictions rack up,” Lundin said. “Landlords use this data all the time to deny applications.”

    The problem disproportionately affects minorities.

    “If you are a renter of color, if you are a Black woman with children, you are two to three times more likely to have an eviction filed against you than somebody who looks like me,” said Lundin, who’s white.

    Lundin said the problem was exacerbated by changes to state law enacted 10 years ago. Among those changes was a speeding up of the eviction process.

    Eviction records are no longer displayed on the state court system’s website (commonly referred to as CCAP) after two years, Lundin said.

    “But that doesn’t change how long the clerk’s office hangs on to the file. They stay at the courthouse for 20 years.”

    Lundin said the one-year period specified under the proposed rule was chosen because all of the actions that can be taken in eviction proceeding are typically wrapped up within several months of the original filing.

    District 4 Governor Mary Lynne Donohue

    District 4 Governor Mary Lynne Donohue discusses the proposed rules petition on the retention of eviction records. (Photo by Shannon Green)

    Other Business

    • Fee arbitration. The board discussed, but took no action on, proposed revisions to the rules that govern the State Bar Fee Arbitration Program. The proposed changes, presented by the Committee on Resolution of Fee Disputes, give the program additional flexibility in managing requests for fee arbitration, clarify who may request arbitration, and add a new conflict of interest provision.

    • Section Carry Forward Policy. The board discussed, but took no action on, a proposed change to the State Bar’s Section Carry Forward Policy. The policy applies to the amounts a State Bar section may “carry over” in its budget reserves. The proposal would increase the amount to $25,000, from $10,000.

    • Access to Justice Commission. The board reappointed Melissa Pingel to the Access to Justice Commission as the State Bar Legal Assistance Committee Chair’s designee. Pingel is the current county administrator for Waushara County and the former clerk of courts for Winnebago County.

    Members may obtain a copy of the minutes of each meeting of the Board of Governors by contacting State Bar Executive Coordinator Jan Marks by email or phone at 608-250-6106.

    Past President Kathleen A. Brost

    Past President Kathleen A. Brost. (Photo by Shannon Green).

    Thompson Urges State Bar Board of Governors to Work with Legislators

    Governor Tommy G. Thompson

    Former Governor Tommy G. Thompson discussed criminal justice reform. (Photo by Shannon Green).

    At the request of Executive Director Larry Martin, former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson addressed the State Bar’s Board of Governors at the April 29 meeting.

    “Never has there been a bigger promoter of Wisconsin, our university system, and our state as a special place to work and to live,” Martin said of Thompson.

    “While politics today has become a blood sport, I can tell you from personal experience that our guest is a strong partisan, but he has never treated his opponents or those he disagrees with as the enemy. In fact, many call him friend.”

    Thompson, a member of the State Bar since 1966, said the organization can do more to facilitate conversations and relationships with legislative members, to build bridges.

    Thompson encouraged members to engage with their legislators, which supports the State Bar’s outreach program.

    Criminal Justice Reform

    Thompson then turned to a discussion on reforming the state’s criminal justice system.

    Of the 8,000 to 8,500 inmates released each year, Thompson said, nearly 40% end up back in prison, where the state spends $35,000 per year per prisoner.

    Why not turn some of the state’s prisons into colleges, Thompson asked.

    “The universities want to help, the vocational schools want to help, the private schools want to help. We need the workforce, don’t we?”

    During his recently completed tenure as interim president of the U.W. System, Thompson said he won a $5.5 million grant from the federal government to set up a college in state prison.

    Building a colleges-in-prisons program, Thompson said, would both address the state’s labor shortage and restore its reputation as policy innovator.

    “We need plumbers, we need carpenters, we need chiropractors, we need everything in our society right now. Make Wisconsin once again the model.”

    Thompson said the myriad challenges faced by prisoners reentering society are daunting. He urged the State Bar to play a role in advancing criminal justice reform.

    “We have turned into a punitive society. As a State Bar, let us be leaders.”

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