A $200 increase to the fee out-of-state attorneys pay to handle cases in Wisconsin will bring a much-needed boost to the state’s Access to Justice Commission and Wisconsin Trust Account Foundation.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court, in a 5-2 decision during its rules conference Tuesday, voted to increase the pro hac vice fee from $50 to $250 per application. It is expected to net about $120,000 more per year.
The Office of Lawyer Regulation – which already receives $50 and put forward the proposal for the increase – now will receive $100 per application. WisTAF will receive $100, and the ATJ commission will receive $50.
Court Commissioner Julie Rich told the justices that the courts receive about 800 pro hac vice applications a year.
Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson and Justice Ann Walsh Bradley voted against the measure. Both said they wanted a public hearing – a move the other five justices also shot down – and wanted to study the allocation to each agency before voting.
The increase will make a huge difference for the ATJ commission and WisTAF, both of which have been struggling for money.
WisTAF – which provides money for indigent legal services – has seen its collections decline because part of that money comes from interest from attorney trust accounts. Interest rates have been low. The foundation now will get a projected $80,000 a year.
The ATJ commission has been searching for a new way to pay for itself for some time. The commission – created by a Supreme Court rule in 2009 – has paid its bills through a State Bar reserve account. That account – which had $300,000 when the commission started – will be gone by the end of the next fiscal year, commission leaders have said.
Last month, former commission President Gregg Moore told the court that money from private sources would most likely not be an option, and that money would need to come from the courts in order for the commission’s work to continue.
With the fee increase, the commission now will receive an estimated $40,000 a year.
Justice Annette Zieger, who proposed the increase as it was passed, said she felt the allocation works because indigent access to justice “needs to be addressed.”
“I think access to justice needs to be funded,” Ziegler said. “It’s an important issue.”Follow @eheisigWLJ