Wisconsin Lawyer: Legislative Watch: State Bar Supports LSC Funding:

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    November
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    2002

    Legislative Watch: State Bar Supports LSC Funding

    Why does the State Bar of Wisconsin support the goals of the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) so strongly? Because we believe that when important rights are at jeopardy, both sides in a legal conflict are entitled to competent legal representation, regardless of ability to pay.

    Patricia Ballman

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    Wisconsin Lawyer
    Vol. 75, No. 11, November 2002

    State Bar Supports LSC Funding

    by Patricia K. Ballman, President, State Bar of Wisconsin

    Why does the State Bar of Wisconsin support the goals of the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) so strongly? Because we believe that when important rights are at jeopardy, both sides in a legal conflict are entitled to competent legal representation, regardless of ability to pay. As an organization the State Bar is called upon under SCR 10.02 (2) to "promote the innovation and development and improvement of means to deliver legal services to the people of Wisconsin; to the end that the public responsibility of the legal profession may be more effectively discharged." This is a responsibility of each of us, and of the State Bar as an entity.

    The State Bar works through every avenue it can to address the legal needs of the indigent, including encouraging pro bono work, advocating for state general purpose revenue for civil legal services, working to raise funds from lawyers and the private sector through Wisconsin's Equal Justice Fund, and perhaps most importantly, advocating for continued LSC grants to Wisconsin legal aid programs.

    State Bar of Wisconsin Position on LSC Funding

    The LSC is funded through congressional appropriation. The Senate Appropriations Committee has proposed an appropriation for fiscal year 2003 of $329 million - level funding from last year. However, due to a decline in its poverty population, Wisconsin, along with 17 other states, would lose substantial LSC grants. The State Bar of Wisconsin joins other bar associations in support of a "hold harmless" amendment specifically to benefit these states, including Wisconsin, which would restore $19 million of the otherwise lost LSC funding. The State Bar of Wisconsin thanks those in the Wisconsin congressional delegation who support efforts to adopt this important amendment and we continue to work for its enactment.

    For complete details on this year's appropriations process, access information online at: www.abanet.org/poladv/priorities/lsc.html#Current%20Status.

    Examples of LSC in Action in Wisconsin

    While LSC money serves every county and congressional district in the nation and U.S. territories, here are three examples of LSC funds in action in Wisconsin:

    • Because of a change in zoning laws, George and Emily, an elderly couple, were threatened with eviction from the mobile home and land they had owned for 26 years. Through representation before the zoning board and circuit court, legal services lawyers helped George and Emily keep their home.
    • Sarah dropped off her children with her ex-husband for a routine visit. When she returned for them, they were gone. Her ex-husband had fled the state with the children and refused to return them, even though Sarah had primary placement. Her ex-husband was a Native American and had taken the children to an Indian reservation, further complicating Sarah's efforts to get them back. Legal services attorneys negotiated with a judge, two law enforcement agencies, and Sarah's ex-husband over several weeks and were able to reunite Sarah with her children.
    • A landlord was using "bait and switch" advertising to lure low-income people into renting from him. The landlord showed an enticing model apartment to prospective new tenants and claimed that the actual units available for rent were just like the model, but refused to let prospective tenants see the unit they would be renting until they paid a substantial deposit. Once the landlord had the money, he made the "switch." The tenants were given filthy, uninhabitable apartments - with holes in the walls, filth-encrusted kitchens, and urine-soaked carpeting. A legal services housing unit forced the landlord to stop his practices and return the clients' deposits, with damages. Criminal charges against the landlord were filed by the local district attorney.

    I think you will agree that LSC funding and the services provided by legal services attorneys are essential to a fairly functioning justice system. Can we afford not to support and fund those programs?




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