A Heartfelt Tribute to Sara H. Quirt Sann
Editor’s Note: With great sadness, the Wisconsin legal community learned that attorney Sara H. Quirt Sann, 43, was among four victims killed March 22 in shootings that occurred in three separate locations near Wausau, including a law firm in Schofield. (“Schofield Attorney Among Four Victims Killed in Tragic Shootings,” WisBar News, March 23, 2017.) Here is a heartfelt tribute from one of her many friends among the legal community:
Sara H. Quirt Sann has always been one of the most admirable people I have met. She was not an ordinary person; she was truly extraordinary, yet very down to earth and real. It is difficult to write about her in the past tense; how can we be without our Sara?
Sara was truly a magnificent human being. She has been “super Sara,” defender of children always requiring what was best for them as a guardian ad litem and as an attorney. Sara was well respected by judges (she was regularly appointed as guardian ad litem for children), by her colleagues, and by anyone she met. She was cooperative in an adversarial system, always doing the right thing even when no one was looking. She had strong ethics and an endearing grace in how she went about her work and her life. Sara was always professional yet had a great sense of humor with a ready smile, she had enduring inner strength and got along with everyone as she was calm with unlimited patience, while hysterically funny.
Sara had an incredible resilience that carried her through many difficult situations. She was often called on to make decisions for others in tough cases that stressed her, but somehow her remarkable judgment and durability were always there and she found her way, which was the best way for all involved. You could always call her or sit down with her to discuss any case, and it would be an enjoyable experience where headway would be made in a considerate cooperative manner. She was a role model for how attorneys should comport themselves and an all-around fantastic human being.
I can see why she was dubbed SQuirt in law school: she was this small, energetic, beautiful person with a robust laugh who loved life and everyone in it. She was an enthusiastic and nonjudgmental person, she liked everyone, seeing only the best in anyone she met. She would want us to carry on and enjoy our memories of her with goodwill and not sadness, for she was not one to ever wallow in the things that could make anyone feel bad.
Sara liked any day on the golf course; showing up with a tan and those brilliant white teeth, she happily rutted about many putting greens. She enjoyed a good glass of wine, a good steak, a Wisconsin fish fry on a Friday night, and the company of good people, which to her was anyone. She played hard, but worked harder to do right by everyone. Sara had a heart of gold and her kindness was felt by all. She was family to all. I will see her smile in my mind’s eye for all eternity.
With deepest sympathy to Sara’s family and to the families of all the persons who died on March 22, 2017, from a senseless act of domestic violence.
Atty. Diana R. Schira
Schira Law Firm, Mosinee
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Funding for Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program in Jeopardy
I read with interest, appreciation, and pride Dianne Molvig’s article, “Profiles in Public Interest Law” (Wisconsin Lawyer, March 2017), profiling 10 State Bar members making tremendous contributions to their communities through their public interest law practices.
I was also pleased to see the sidebar, “Loan Forgiveness Can Ease Repayment Burden,” featuring the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. This program enables borrowers to earn forgiveness of their eligible federal student loans after making 120 on-time monthly loan payments while working in a qualifying public service position. This benefit helps recruit and retain public service employees of all kinds, including police officers, firefighters, nurses, teachers, and social workers, as well as lawyers who work in public service roles. It is a very important part of enabling new lawyers to work in the public sector and serve the public while paying off their student debt.
Readers should know, however, that this loan forgiveness program is at risk of being cut. Proposals range from placing a low ceiling on the amount of total forgivable debt to eliminating the program altogether. I’d encourage readers to monitor this situation closely by registering to receive the Equal Justice Works student debt newsletter, and to speak out to protect this very important resource for Wisconsin public service lawyers.
Margaret Raymond, Dean
U.W. Law School, Madison
The Center for Public Representation Has Proud History
The March 2017 Wisconsin Lawyer features several excellent and timely articles on social justice lawyering in Wisconsin. One profiles current practitioners and a second discusses how the legal services network is using contemporary technologies and other innovations to increase assistance for low-income people. These articles show that the Wisconsin tradition of public interest service and innovation is alive and well.
The story of the Center for Public Representation (CPR), now called the U.W. Law School’s Economic Justice Institute (EJI), is part of that proud history. The CPR was founded in 1974 and continues today as part of the U.W. Law School. I was one of the founders and served as Center Director and Law School Clinical Professor until 2002.
The CPR was both one of the first public interest law firms in the Midwest and a pioneer law school clinic training students in civil legal practice. I am currently working on a history of the institution, which was created by Wisconsin lawyers, community leaders, and law teachers. The CPR had a hybrid mission. One goal was to provide representation for unrepresented groups and individuals: examples are advocacy for women’s right to credit in their own names and representation of ex-offenders denied employment based on their criminal records. A second goal was to train law students in how law can advance social justice: we taught students how to advocate in administrative agencies and in the courts for unrepresented individuals, groups, and interests. Today, the EJI continues to provide civil legal training for law students in poverty law, family law, consumer protection, and immigration.
The CPR was founded and run by individuals who thought law could be used to improve society and envisioned new ways to use the law for those ends. We came together from the community, bar, and law school, uniting local practitioners, community leaders, and university faculty. We pioneered in the development of new forms of advocacy and new legal institutions. Examples include the use of lawyer-trained lay benefits specialists to assist seniors and the creation of a coordinated network to provide legal services to people with AIDS and HIV. We represented individuals and local groups in courts and agencies. But we also produced policy research and promoted new legislation.
In my paper (which I will present at the U.W. Law School in fall 2017), I not only recount this history: I also look ahead. I argue that the kind of energy and innovation the Wisconsin community has shown in the past is once again strengthening social justice lawyering. We already see new examples, including several described in the March articles and others such as the EJI court-based family law clinic and the nonprofit firms that provide low-cost representation. I argue that this tradition can lead to further innovation in the service of unrepresented clients and interests nationwide.
Louise G. Trubek, Clinical Professor Law Emerita
U.W. Law School, Madison
Providing Civil Legal Services: Update
Shortly after “Moving the Needle: Serving Wisconsin’s Low-income Residents” (Wisconsin Lawyer, March 2017) went to press, author Jeff Brown learned of additional developments that he wants readers to know. The new information is incorporated into the article that appears on WisBar.org and is included below.
Under the subhead “Encouraging Lawyers to Provide Pro Bono Service,” the first sentence in the second paragraph is modified to read:
The cooperative effort between the Milwaukee Bar Association, Milwaukee County, Marquette University Law School, and the court system led to the creation of the Milwaukee Justice Center, which houses self-help and pro bono projects organized by several pro bono providers, including the Marquette Volunteer Legal Clinic, Legal Action of Wisconsin, and the private bar.
Also under the subhead “Encouraging Lawyers to Provide Pro Bono Service,” a new last paragraph is added:
Pro bono service by government and in-house counsel lawyers is also being encouraged. Recently, the Wisconsin State Public Defender became the first state agency to develop a written pro bono policy for its attorneys. And new legislation proposed by the Legislative Council at the recommendation of its Access to Civil Legal Services Study Committee will allow lawyers in district attorney offices to provide pro bono legal services at no fee to clients in matters that do not conflict with their official duties.
Under the subhead “Funding Progress and Challenges,” a new third paragraph is added:
In addition, there is the prospect of a new, more coordinated approach to including civil legal aid when allocating a portion of Wisconsin’s funding under the Violence Against Women Act and the Victims of Crime Act and other federal block grant programs. Two recently approved legislative proposals from the Legislative Council would encourage state agencies to allocate a portion of federal block grant funds to support civil legal aid and would create an interagency taskforce to evaluate and assist in this effort. The proposals were recommended by the Legislative Council Study Committee on Access to Civil Legal Services.
State Bar of Wisconsin, Madison
Mandatory E-filing Fee Harms Poor Clients
Mandatory e-filing has gone into effect in criminal cases in several counties where I practice. (See “Mandatory E-filing Now in 23 Counties,” Wisconsin Lawyer, January 2017.) I resisted and delayed and then when time ran out I dove in, or “opted in” according to the parlance used on the e-filing web page. My cases tend to be high-volume criminal traffic and operating while intoxicated (OWI) defense, with minimal filings needed – unless we go to trial, which is rare. At the conclusion of each case, upon conviction, I strive to obtain a ”fine only” sentence because jail time often leads to collateral immigration consequences for the client, especially under the new administration in Washington, D.C. A fine-only sentence is not possible in OWI second and up cases, but in other criminal traffic cases it can, and often does, occur.
With a fine-only sentence, the mandatory court costs are already enormous. A $100 base fine turns into more than $500 total with court costs. In misdemeanor OWI cases, the courts often impose the mandatory minimum fine of, say, $350 for OWI second, but with court costs, the client owes the court more than $1,300, even though the maximum fine allowed by statute upon conviction is $1,100. Thus the legislative purpose in placing a maximum dollar amount on the fine is eviscerated. Poor people, who make up by far the largest demographic in the ranks of criminal defendants, are again caught in the line of fire and again the losers.
The court costs in criminal cases, including a mandatory $200 surcharge for taking DNA in every conviction, are often referred to as a “tax” on the poor, which they are. I have heard them referred to as such by experienced judges, even those from conservative counties. Mandatory e-filing is another ugly example of a back-door tax on the poor aggregately imposed, along with all of the myriad other line-item court costs, in defiance of the statutory maximum penalty or in apparent ignorance of their impact. Every case in which I must appear electronically costs the client an additional $20. Mandatory e-filing in criminal cases is an administrative tax imposed by the Wisconsin Supreme Court that did not pass the legislature. It comes out of the pocket of the poor client who did not qualify for public defender representation because he or she has a full-time job, albeit at low pay.
Digital litigation is fine. Sure, it saves reams of paper, trees, and postage. I don’t charge the client for copies or postage. These are internal office costs. But $20 up front paid to CCAP just to appear in a case is inevitably going to be borne by the client. Did the powers that be consider this ramification? Why is the cost to appear not $20 per county per year, or $20 statewide per year per lawyer? Does the $20 mandatory e-filing per case approximate the actual system cost? Even if it does, the supreme court and CCAP must realize that they have piled on to the already sizeable group of mandatory legislative and county court costs yet another hole in the pocket of the poor.
Atty. Scott R. Winkler
Winkler Law Firm S.C., Milwaukee