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Court pushes counsel appointment petition to end of year at earliest

A state Supreme Court rules petition that aims to establish a pilot project to study the appointment of counsel in civil cases will most likely not be heard until at least later this year.

The court will hold its last administrative conference June 25. According to its agenda, the petition, filed in September by retired Legal Action of Wisconsin Executive Director John Ebbott, will be scheduled for a hearing or discussion later this year or in 2015.

The petition asks the court to establish and pay for a pilot program that would allow judges in a county or judicial district to appoint counsel for those in civil cases who can’t afford an attorney. It also asks the court to create a rule that would give judges the ability to assess a client and appoint counsel if necessary.

The court voted in December to hold the petition and to address it when it reviews the Access to Justice Commission. That matter is pending as well.

A similar petition was shot down in 2012, in part because such a rule could cost the courts up to $56 million per year. However, the justices endorsed a pilot project that was to be spearheaded by the state’s Access to Justice Commission and was going to take place in Jefferson County.

However, the State Bar declined to allocate the $100,000 needed to run the program, and instead recommended it set aside $10,000 to research how such a pilot program would work.

The court is also expected to discuss a petition that would disallow the use of crime victims’ names in appellate opinions and filings. It was filed in September by Wisconsin Judicial Council staff attorney April Southwick, who said the change would most likely help victims of sexual assault or domestic violence.

About Eric Heisig

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