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High court to wrap up term with final rules conference

Proposals to allow work for federally recognized Indian tribes to count as proof of practice and to revise the state’s rules of evidence will both be up for discussion before the Wisconsin Supreme Court on Thursday.

In what is likely to be its last conference in its current term, the high court is scheduled to decide whether it wants to hold public hearings on the two proposals.

One petition up for consideration would change the state’s reciprocity rules to let tribal lawyers who are licensed and in good standing in other states count legal work they’ve done for federally recognized Indian tribes as proof of practice.

The Stockbridge-Munsee Community put the proposal forward last year after the state’s Board of Bar Examiners had denied admission to a lawyer whom the tribe had hired to be its prosecutor. Other supporters of the proposed change include the Wisconsin Tribal Judges Association, the Wisconsin State Bar’s Board of Governors and Indian Law Section and the Wisconsin State-Tribal Justice Forum.

The Board of Bar Examiners recently wrote a letter to the Supreme Court stating it has no objection to letting legal services performed for a federally recognized Indian tribe count as proof of practice. It then went on to suggest how the proposed rule could be improved.

The high court will also be deciding whether to take up a proposal to revise the state’s rules of evidence in various ways. If adopted, the changes would allow witnesses to be impeached by introducing evidence of bias and would codify state court polices governing when parties in civil and criminal cases can introduce evidence of witness’ previous convictions.

Another change would bring the state’s policies concerning witness impeachment in line with federal rules, allowing impeachment through the introduction of evidence of specific acts. Yet another change would revise the state’s rules concerning the admissibility of writings and recorded statements.

The petition marks the second time the Judicial Council asked the court to make these changes. The council, which is charged with recommending to Supreme Court and state Legislature ways to improve the state’s rules of procedure, filed a similar request in April last year only to see the court return it with various suggestions for changes.

About Erika Strebel, [email protected]

Erika Strebel is the law beat reporter for the Wisconsin Law Journal and a law school student at UW-Madison. She can be reached at 414-225-1825.

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