50 Years of Judicare: How It All Began
[Editor’s Note: In recognition of Judicare’s 50th anniversary, and in a stroke of pure serendipity, we received this letter about Judicare’s creation just in time to include it in this issue focusing on public interest law and lawyers.]
I resigned my corporate legal and management position with a large corporation to accept a position in Wisconsin’s state government. After a short time I was directed to go to Washington, D.C., to learn about a new federal government program and determine how Wisconsin could participate in it. It was the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 (part of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty).
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At that time, Wisconsin had legal aid offices in Madison and Milwaukee, but no similar offices in rural counties. The State Bar of Wisconsin had a fee schedule for services. I developed and wrote a proposed program that would provide free legal services to poor people in rural counties. A poor person, qualified by the local county welfare office, could go to any attorney of his or her choice. I believed it was imperative that it be a local attorney. The attorney would be paid a lower fee than the schedule but would receive some assured compensation for his or her services. Further, the intent was to have a very small administrative staff with the funds going to attorneys who would be doing the work. This was not to replace pro bono services, which I commend, but to be an adjunct to demonstrate that there may be other ways to be of service to the poor.
I called the State Bar’s director, Phil Habermann, requesting an appointment. We discussed the program details, and he was most helpful with his suggestions and encouragement. He named it “Judicare.” I appeared before the Bar’s Board of Governors, who gave me encouragement and their approval to proceed.
It was a demonstration project. It was to be changed and adapted to meet the clients’ and their attorneys’ needs.
I went to the Office of Economic Opportunity in Washington, D.C., seeking grant funds to demonstrate that legal services could be delivered to the poor in another manner. I ran into fierce opposition. I went from office to office seeking anyone to listen to me. In desperation to get rid of me, they said I would have to go to their legal consultant, a professor of law at the University of Chicago Law School. Surprise! He thought it was a great idea and offered suggestions and granted his approval.
I went back to Washington and pleaded to give Judicare a chance. Once again, I faced fierce opposition. I went from office to office. I was not going to give up! There were citizens in rural Wisconsin who needed legal help. There were wonderful attorneys in rural Wisconsin who wanted to help their neighbors. Finally, after so much pleading for days, I received a grant.
I returned to Madison, and Gov. Warren Knowles signed the funding acceptance. An initial staff was selected and Judicare began.
Carl J. Olien
Sun City, Arizona
Can Audio Recorders Provide a Complete Transcript?
In “Proposal Eliminates Court Reporters in Work Comp Cases, Other Hearings” (WisBar InsideTrack, Feb. 1, 2017), State Bar legal writer Joe Forward wrote that plaintiff and defense counsel oppose a proposal to allow audio recorders to replace court reporters in cases that fall under the Division of Hearings and Appeals, which annually hears thousands of cases, including worker’s compensation cases.
A provision in the Department of Administration’s 2017-19 biennial budget request calls to “eliminate the requirement that the Division of Hearings and Appeals have a court reporter at every hearing and implement electronic recording of hearings.”
A reader wrote to offer additional facts on this topic.
Reader: Mr. Forward, congratulations on a very detailed and informative article. There are a few additional facts, however, that should be added to create a more complete picture of this rather complex topic.
Foremost is that the Division [of Hearings and Appeals] has long run its transcript policy in direct contravention of the law/administrative code by allowing parties to order and receive a copy of the official hearing transcript at any point in time. See:
DWD 80.14 Transcripts.
(1) Transcripts of testimony taken or proceedings had before the department will be furnished to the applicant or respondent or their attorneys in accordance with the following provisions:
(a) After the commencement of an action to review an order of the commission in circuit court …
(b) Transcripts of the hearing may not be provided until after commencement of an action in circuit court. (Emphasis added)
Therefore, the letter to the Governor (at paragraph 5) from the Wisconsin Defense Counsel, the Wisconsin Association for Justice, and the Wisconsin Association for Worker’s Compensation Attorneys that asserted that “transcripts are necessary for appeals to the Labor and Industry Review Commission …” is simply incorrect. Transcripts are not necessary; the LIRC is happy to accept a written synopsis of the hearing testimony. See:
LIRC 1.04 Record used for review. Review by the commission shall be based on the record of the case including the evidence previously submitted at hearing before the department. The record of the hearing may be in the form of a written synopsis or a transcript, and may include an audio recording of the hearing. The form of the record of the hearing which the commission uses in its review shall be determined as follows:
(1) Except as provided in subs. (2) through (5), the commission shall base its review on a written synopsis of the testimony taken at the hearing. The synopsis shall be prepared by the department, by the commission, or by an outside contractor, from an audio recording of the hearing or from notes taken at the hearing by the administrative law judge. In those cases any party may obtain a copy of the synopsis as provided for in s. LIRC 1.045….
Even Admin Code chapter LIRC 1 could be read as in conflict with Admin Code section DWD 80.14(1)(b) if it implies that the Division’s official hearing transcripts can be “legally” provided to the LIRC, prior to a circuit court action. Of course, a privately prepared transcript would not violate section DWD 80.14.
Parties should also be aware of their recently acquired right to independently audio record the hearing proceedings, per Admin Code section DWD 80.13. That code provision should now be expanded to allow for audio and visual recording to address the concern noted in your article, that sometimes it could be difficult to know who is speaking or what else of consequence may be occurring during the proceeding that is not clear from just an audio recording. Hopefully ALJs will recognize the added importance of instructing witnesses to repeat testimony that may otherwise be inaudible and advising them to speak up and speak clearly.
As much as I appreciate the work of court reporters, their efforts are hardly a guarantee of a 100 percent accurate recitation of all testimony. Anyone who has reviewed at least a handful of transcripts of their hearings can attest to that fact.
While I take no position regarding the Governor’s proposal, I do believe that with some minor adjustments, even without court reporters, worker’s compensation hearings and subsequent appeals can continue to be accomplished just as fairly and effectively as they have in the past.
Taking Stock of the Governor’s Proposed Budget
In “Proposed State Budget: Potential Impact on Lawyers, Judges, and Courts” (WisBar InsideTrack, Feb. 15, 2017), State Bar government relations coordinator Cale Battles reported on the governor’s 2017-19 biennial budget proposal, which contains $76 billion in spending over the next two years. The article noted that the budget includes funds for assistant district attorney and public defender pay progression, judicial pay raises, and $1 million for civil legal needs, among other things that affect lawyers, judges, and the courts, including items the State Bar of Wisconsin or its sections have actively monitored or pursued in recent years.
A reader posted a comment.
Reader: You missed the biggest proposed change: elimination of the Labor & Industry Review Commission (LIRC) and transfer of appellate review of equal rights, unemployment, and worker’s comp cases to division heads. In unemployment insurance (UI) cases, Department of Workforce Development (DWD) lawyers will both be prosecuting these cases (employer UI tax cases and claimant and employer concealment cases) and handling appellate review. And, agencies have to get the new review process in place and operating by July 1.