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Improving the process

By: TONY ANDERSON//February 16, 2012//

Improving the process

By: TONY ANDERSON//February 16, 2012//

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Roger LeGrand has always tried to find ways to make the legal system better.

Fresh out of law school, in 1975, he became interested in the plight of those who could not afford legal services. It was a time when agencies were emerging in Milwaukee, Madison and Green Bay, but nothing was available in La Crosse.

So in the late 1970s, he helped found Western Wisconsin Legal Services, which eventually became part of Legal Action of Wisconsin.

As a young private practice attorney, LeGrand helped found a legal services group in La Crosse.

And while serving as La Crosse County district attorney in the early 1980s, he established the county’s first Domestic Abuse Task Force and created its Victim Witness Program.

As a family court commissioner in La Crosse, LeGrand looked for ways to temper custody disputes. He said he is particularly proud of his work to establish a custody assessment team in La Crosse.

As a family court commissioner, he said, he witnessed the costly and contentious nature of custody disputes and wanted to help come up with a more collaborative approach to custody battles.

“The idea is to try softening the adversarial nature of the divorce process,” LeGrand said.

La Crosse now has a custody assessment team – which includes a guardian ad litem, a child development specialist and a mediator – to meet with couples and their attorneys to develop a plan they can take to the court. And whenever there is a divorce involving children, the parents take an educational course to help them decide how they will parent the kids now that they will be living apart. If the parents cannot reach an agreement following that training, the law requires the parents be sent to mediation.

“Doing it in a less adversarial, more collaborative way is the way to go,” LeGrand said.

That previous work settling disagreements has been an asset, he said, in his work on the state Tax Appeals Commission, to which he was appointed three years ago. His appointment ends in 2015.

“My expertise is in resolving disputes,” he said. “I think that is what I bring to the commission.”

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