June 17, 2009 – The State Bar recognized eight local bar associations for public service projects at the Bar Leaders’ Conference held this spring. The awards, funded in part by the Local Bar Grant Competition (LBGC), were presented by committee chair Ben Brantmeier. Projects included:
running free legal clinics and teen court programs;
producing publications and videos in English and Spanish for pro se family law litigants and small claims court;
publishing a newspaper insert focusing on the separation of powers and how the judicial branch of government protects citizens’ rights;
creating a Restorative Justice Programming Website for attorneys, justice workers, and the public;
publishing a brochure for students that highlights federal and state laws that deny financial aid for drug-related convictions; and
offering free continuing education to train attorneys who accept pro bono appointments in federal cases.
“The quality and responsiveness of the local community service programs put forth by State Bar members is exceptional,” said Ben Brantmeier, Chairperson of the Local Bar Grant Competition Subcommittee chair Ben Brantmeier. “These awards recognize the ability and willingness of Wisconsin attorneys to address needs of their neighbors while promoting a positive image of lawyers who care about their community.”
Representing associations accepting awards (first row, from left): LBGC chair Ben Brantmeier; David Westrup, Wisconsin Hispanic Lawyers Association; Jennifer Susek, Eastern District of Wisconsin Bar Association; Katherine Seifert, Winnebago County Bar Association; (second, from left): Antonique Williams, Wisconsin Association of African American Lawyers (WAAL); Anthony Baish, Eastern District of Wisconsin Bar Association; Alan Hougum, Marathon County Bar Association; Jennifer Binkley, Dane County Bar Association; (third row), the Hon. Darcy McManus, Tri-county Bar Association, and Lynnette McNeely, Wisconsin Association of African American Lawyers (WAAL).
The following local bar associations received awards:
Awards of Exceptional Achievement
The Dane County Bar Association (DCBA) produced a video in both English and Spanish that guides pro se Family law litigants through the courtroom experience. This is the second video of the Moving On:Family Law Video series. The first video, “Moving On: A Guide to Pro Se Divorce,” also is available in both English and Spanish.
In accepting the award, Madison attorney Jennifer Lyn Binkley noted that the DCBA is producing a third video that will address the thorny issues surrounding child placement, custody, and support. “Our goal for making the series available is to give pro-se litigants visual and written information so they can be more confident as they navigate the process.” Find out more.
The Winnebago County Bar Association (WCBA) was recognized for a newspaper insert it created in 2008 to help fellow citizens observe Law Day. Working in coordination with other Fox Valley bar associations, the WCBA created an insert that focused on the separation of powers and how the judicial branch of government protects citizens’ rights. The insert included a column by Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, pertinent parts of the U.S. Constitution, educational activities, and information about sources of free and low-cost legal representation.
Attorney Katherine Seifert, who accepted the award on behalf of the WCBA, credited attorney Jessica King with bringing the ambitious project, which is now in its fourth year, to a successful completion. Seifert explained that the insert is a supplement to Law Day classroom visits by area attorneys who discuss the rule of law and our justice system with students. Find out more.
David Westrup accepted the award for WHLA.
The Wisconsin Hispanic Lawyers Association (WHLA) translated into Spanish the Milwaukee County Small Claims Court Manual for use in the Pro Se Clinic of the Milwaukee County Small Claims Court.
The value of a bilingual manual of this kind is very clear to the dozen or so people who visit the clinic each week notes WHLA president Carlos A. Ortiz. Speaking from a personal perspective Ortiz says, “As a son of two immigrants and a lawyer who serves clients within the Latino community, I have seen first-hand the inherent barriers within the legal system. There is still a long way to go before we can accurately state that there is equal access to justice. The Small Claims Manual, however, serves as a step in the right direction.”
Find out more.
The Marathon County Bar Association developed and implemented the Restorative Justice Programming Web site, which provides information for attorneys, justice workers, and the general public, concerning restorative practices. Volunteer attorneys created the content on the web page and educate the public by speaking at various community events.
“The Marathon County Restorative Justice Program (MCRJP) was launched five years ago based on a theory of justice that emphasizes repairing the harm caused by criminal behavior through a cooperative process that includes all the stakeholders,” said Rothschild attorney Anza D’Antonio, one of the project’s coordinators. She explained that the program is currently limited to juvenile offenders, most referred to it by juvenile court. “Ninety-eight percent of teens going through the program fulfill the promises they make to the victims and the courts as a part of the MCRJP process,” she noted. Find out more.
Awards of Outstanding Achievement
The Wisconsin Association of African American Lawyers (WAAL) produced “Jeopardizing College Financial Aid: Drug Crimes and the Consequences, a brochure that highlights federal and state laws that deny financial aid from the date of a drug-related conviction. WAAL supplements the booklet with school talks, posters, and other outreach activities that show youth how valuable an education is and the risks posed to it by drug-related crimes.
We talk about the perils of selling drugs and how that can affect your ability to get financial aid,” said attorney N. Lynnette McNeely. “We were able to improve the choices that some of the students made. Our goal was to develop a brochure that offers unambiguous and authoritative information young people can use to prepare themselves to get a good education and achieve their full potential. In order to protect their access to funds that will be essential to their future educational opportunities, they need to know the potential consequences of using and selling controlled substances.” McNeely said that while drug-related crimes are sometimes perceived as an “inner-city” issue, they are spreading to other communities and that the brochure could be used more broadly across the state. Find out more.
The Eastern District of Wisconsin Bar Association was recognized for launching a free continuing education program to train attorneys who accept pro bono appointments in federal cases pending in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin.
“This free CLE program educates attorneys about the types of cases in the Eastern District of Wisconsin where pro bono representation is needed and outlines issues that routinely arise,” noted attorney Anthony Baish. “It is available free of charge to participating attorneys in exchange for their willingness to accept pro bono appointments. So far about 45 attorneys have been added to the pro bono pool as a result of the initiative.” Find out more.
The Tri-county Bar Association developed and implemented a Teen Court Fundraising Project, which offers teens charged with relatively minor offenses a new option to resolve their cases by confronting their own behavior in the Buffalo-Pepin County Teen Court.
The Hon. James Duvall
“The Buffalo-Pepin County Teen Court is a highly structured and effective way to guide youth away from serious criminal activity by showing them that their decisions have both immediate and long-term consequences,” noted Buffalo-Pepin Circuit Court Judge James Duvall. “It offers an opportunity for some first-time offending juveniles to clear their record and give something back to the community.”
“We all can make a difference, much more than we can possibly imagine, just by trying,” he said. Find out more.
Award of Achievement
Ozaukee County Bar Association (OCBA) members regularly volunteer their services at free legal clinics for self-represented individuals. Last year, the OCBA installed a computer at the Ozaukee County Courthouse that has significant benefits for the individuals and the courts. In the past, pro se litigants typically had to complete forms by hand, which created challenges for both litigants and court staff.
Attorney Donald Roy Fraker noted that the Wisconsin Supreme Court has created an online Self-Help Center that generates completed forms when users answer a series of questions. “The access to the Self-Help Center that this equipment now allows, not only assists people who are representing themselves but also reduces the number of incomplete and difficult-to-read handwritten documents court staff have to handle, thereby improving the overall efficiency of court operations,” Fraker said. Find out more.
About these grants. The LBGC makes funds available to local bar associations for new public service projects. Bar associations can receive up to $2,500 in grant monies for a new, useful and topical public service project that has statewide application. The next deadline to apply for a fiscal year 2009 - 10 grant is Dec. 30, 2009.
For more information about the Local Bar Grant Program, contact org kwenzel wisbar Kris Wenzel, (800) 444-9404, ext. 6185.