Wisconsin Needs to “Bridge” its “Justice Gap” with State Funding Urges Bar Committee in New Report
From the Brennan Center for Justice:
Wisconsin Needs to “Bridge” its “Justice Gap” with State Funding Urges Bar Committee in New Report A recent report documenting the “justice gap” in Wisconsin could improve access to the courts for low-income people if its recommendations are adopted. On March 16, 2006, the Access to Justice Committee of the State Bar of Wisconsin released Bridging the Justice Gap: Wisconsin’s Unmet Legal Needs, an in-depth examination of the state’s civil justice system. One central finding of the report is that approximately 80 percent of low-income households with civil legal problems are unable to obtain access to a lawyer. The report finds that many low-income people need legal assistance with consumer, employment, and family law, and with claims for public benefits. Among the report’s key recommendations are that the Wisconsin government should provide funding for civil legal aid. Currently, Wisconsin is one of six states that do not allocate any state funds to civil legal aid. The Governor’s proposed budget, however, would allocate $1 million for legal services, which is a start, but experts estimate that it would take between $16 million and $40 million to address Wisconsin’s justice gap in an appropriate manner. In addition to recommending state funding for legal aid, the report also urges the state to establish self-help centers for unrepresented people and to expand access to non-lawyer advocates and pro bono attorneys. To read the report, see: http://www.wisbar.org/atj/study. Derrick Nunnally, Lack of State Legal Aid Funding Called ‘Justice Gap’, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Wisconsin), Mar. 18, 2007; also based on original reporting by Brennan Center staff.