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  • WisBar News
    December 07, 2018

    State Bar Board Adopts Position Statement Against Sexual Harassment in the Legal Profession

    The State Bar of Wisconsin's policy-making body also adopted a diversity and inclusion action plan and announced a slate of officer candidates for the 2019 elections.
    Amy Wochos

    “Sexual harassment occurs in the legal profession,” said Dist. 2 Gov. Amy Wochos, chair of the State Bar's working group on sexual harassment. “It’s hard to tell how pervasive it is. There’s not a lot of data. But it will continue if we don’t acknowledge its existence and take steps to address it.”

    Visit the State Bar’s Facebook page for more photos of the event.

    Dec. 7, 2018 – The State Bar of Wisconsin’s Board of Governors today adopted an official policy against sexual harassment in the legal profession and encouraged State Bar members to make a similar commitment within law firms and legal departments.

    Grassroots movements such as #MeToo fueled a national conversation about the widespread problem of sexual assault and harassment in the political, media, and entertainment spheres, prompting organizations across the U.S. to take action.

    In February, the ABA’s policy-making body adopted a resolution, urging legal employers “to adopt and enforce policies that prohibit, prevent, and redress harassment and retaliation based on sex, gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation.”

    At its meeting today in Madison, the State Bar’s Board of Governors (board) adopted a policy specific to sexual harassment, defining what sexual harassment encompasses and encouraging Wisconsin’s legal community to adopt strong anti-harassment policies.

    The statement notes that members have legal, moral, and ethical responsibilities to prohibit sexual harassment in their own spheres “and to foster a professional environment and legal system that neither tolerates nor enables harassment.”

    The position statement is the product of the Working Group on Sexual Harassment in the Legal Profession, appointed by State Bar President Christopher Rogers.

    “Sexual harassment occurs in the legal profession,” said Dist. 2 Gov. Amy Wochos, chair of the working group. “It’s hard to tell how pervasive it is. There’s not a lot of data. But it will continue if we don’t acknowledge its existence and take steps to address it.”

    The working group recently released a final report, which the board unanimously adopted as an official board report, with recommendations for future action on what can be done to address sexual harassment in the legal profession and the legal system.

    State Bar President-elect Jill Kastner

    State Bar President-elect Jill Kastner presents an action plan for diversity and inclusion efforts in fiscal year 2020. The board approved the action plan, developed by the State Bar's Diversity and Inclusion Working Group.

    Board Adopts Diversity & Inclusion Action Plan

    The board adopted a detailed action plan to advance diversity and inclusion within the legal profession, one of the State Bar’s five strategic priorities. The action plan was developed by the State Bar’s Diversity and Inclusion Working Group, chaired by State Bar President-elect Jill Kastner.

    The action plan includes steps to promote diversity and inclusion among State Bar leadership, including officers, board members, and committee members. It also emphasizes strengthening the State Bar’s relationship with affinity bar associations and other diverse legal groups.

    For instance, the plan calls for recruiting and training diverse attorneys for leadership positions within the State Bar and to serve as advisors on diversity and inclusion issues.

    Board Chair Odalo Ohiku

    Board Chair Odalo Ohiku gives a report on the State Bar's Diversity Clerkship Program.

    The plan also aims to create an organizational culture that attracts, retains, and engages diverse leaders, volunteers, staff, and community partners, as well as increasing diversity among the leadership of section and division boards and their memberships.

    Increasing the representation of diverse perspectives in State Bar programming and publications, such as Wisconsin Lawyer™, is another action step.

    “The purpose of this report is to take real action steps that will make a difference, making deliberate and intentional choices, decisions, and moves that will promote diversity and inclusion in the State Bar,” said President-elect Kastner.

    The Diversity & Inclusion Working Group is a subgroup of the Diversity & Inclusion Oversight Committee, a standing committee established in 2015 to encourage and support ongoing efforts to encourage and support diversity and inclusion. Working group members included Kastner as well as Kori Ashley, Andrew Chevrez, Odalo Ohiku, and Matthew McClean.

    Board Honors 2018 Wisconsin Legal Innovators

    2018 Wisconsin Legal Innovators group photo

    The 2018 Legal Innovators were recognized at today's Board of Governor's meeting in Madison. They include, from left: Front row, Abby Churchill and Emery Harlan; middle row: Andrea (Ann) Rufo, Sofia Ascorbe, Karen Renee, and Heidi Wegleitner; back row: Kori Ashley, Amanda Rabe, Raphael Ramos, Don Tolbert, Sheila Sullivan, Louis Condon, and Collin Schaefer. Visit the State Bar’s Facebook page for more photos of this event. or click here.

    The State Bar’s Board of Governors honored the 2018 Wisconsin Legal Innovators, members and/or programs using innovative approaches and creative thinking to tackle challenges in the legal profession and the delivery of legal services.

    “That’s a Fine Idea: Legal Innovation in Wisconsin,” an initiative of the State Bar’s Communications Committee, launched in 2014 and now celebrates its fifth class of innovators. Emery Harlan, partner with MWH Law Group LLP in Wisconsin, was named this year’s Lifetime Legal Innovator for ongoing efforts to increase diversity at his law firm and in the legal profession. Other innovator award recipients include:

    • Abby Churchill, Helping Transgender Clients

    • Heidi Wegleitner, Raphael Ramos, Don Tolbert, and Team: Eviction Defense for Low-income Tenants

    • Anne Smith, Collin Schaefer, Louis Condon, and Eric Englund: Seeding Success for Startups

    • Sheila Sullivan, Ann Rufo, Amanda Rabe, and Team: Standing Up for Crime Victims

    • Karen Renee: Creating a One-stop Shop for Finding Court Reporters

    Read all about the 2018 Wisconsin Legal Innovators in the November Wisconsin Lawyer and don’t forget to nominate a legal innovator for next year.

    Other Business

    ochelle Johnson-Bent

    Dist. 2 Gov. Rochelle Johnson-Bent listens to the proceedings.

    • State Bar Officer Election Candidates. The board approved the Nomination Committee’s 2019 State Bar election candidates for president-elect, treasurer, and the Wisconsin Judicial Council. Candidates are: Kathleen Brost and Grant Birtch (President-elect); Kathryn Bullon and Eric Andrews (Treasurer); and Sarah Zylstra and Howard Bichler (Judicial Council). State Bar members can also run for an officer position by filing a petition signed by 100 active State Bar members. The deadline to submit a petition is Feb. 1, 2019. For more information and to receive a petition, contact Jan Marks at (608) 250-6106 or (800) 444-9404, ext. 6106.

    • WisTAF Board of Directors. The board approved the appointment of Joshua Kindkeppel as a replacement to the 14-member Wisconsin Trust Account Foundation (WisTAF) Board of Directors. Kindkeppel of Eustice, Laffey, Sebranek & Auby S.C., Sun Prairie, replaces Atty. Meghan Teigen, who resigned. WisTAF is dedicated to civil access to justice and funding legal services for low-income persons through the administration of interest on Lawyer Trust Accounts and other sources.

    • State Bar 2023 Annual Meeting and Conference. The board approved the location of the State Bar’s 2023 Annual Meeting and Conference, which will be held June 14-16 at the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee.

    Upon request, interested members may obtain a copy of the minutes of each meeting of the Board of Governors. For more information, contact State Bar Executive Coordinator Jan Marks by email or by phone at (608) 250-6106.

    Visit the State Bar’s Facebook page for more photos of this event.


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