Thank you for joining us last week for the Midwest Regional Convening in Milwaukee organized by the Milwaukee Lawyer Chapter and the Marquette Law School Student Chapter. We are grateful for the co-sponsors of Thursday’s evening event: the Milwaukee National Lawyers Guild, the MSOE’s University Scholars Honors Program, the Milwaukee Turners’ Confronting Mass Incarceration Committee, and the Wisconsin Justice Initiative. We are also grateful for Marquette Law’s Public Interest Society cosponsoring Friday’s career panel.
The compelling programming on criminal justice, incorporating policy work into careers, and what’s ahead for voting rights in 2020 left a lot of us asking “what do we do now to make a difference?” We have some suggestions below for how to get involved and how to stay up-to-speed on these issues.
Look for opportunities to support your Wisconsin State Public Defenders (SPD). One point from Attorney Jarrett Adams’s talk on Thursday was that his trial lawyer was a private attorney appointed by the SPD at statutorily-set low rates, under which lawyers struggle to make enough money to practice law effectively. SPD staff attorneys – public defenders – also grapple with extremely high caseloads, again, statutorily-set, which cause them to be as efficient as possible in representing their clients while maintaining caseload requirements. Despite this, once his conviction was reversed, Jarrett was appointed a Wisconsin SPD staff attorney who played a key role in recommending that Jarrett reject a “time-served” conviction. Three weeks later, his case was dismissed. Advocacy for better pay rates and lower caseload requirements for public defenders should always be a major part of criminal justice reform discussions.
Get involved with the Wisconsin Justice Initiative, which advocates for progressive change in the Wisconsin justice system by educating the public about its real-life impacts and partnering with other organizations to achieve just outcomes.
Get involved with All Voting Is Local and TogetherWeVote. In Wisconsin, as you heard from Shauntay Nelson, All Voting is Local is working on actionable voter education, targeted campaigns on voting rights for people formerly incarcerated of a felony, direct assistance to voters without ID, training volunteers for a helpline, and poll worker recruitment. Consider becoming a poll worker! To get involved, email Shauntay at Shauntay@AllVotingIsLocal.org?.
Wisconsin Elections Commission
Atiba Ellis’s website
National Conference of State Legislatures
League of Women Voters of Wisconsin
ACS is looking for volunteers interested in upcoming research and pro bono projects. Many projects can be done remotely and access to legal research services is helpful, but not always required. Projects include providing pro bono assistance for immigrant families, teaching your network and students about the Constitution through our Constitution in the Classroom and Love Our Constitution programs, and participating in ACS’s Notice and Comment project. If you are interested in participating, please email LCEmails@acslaw.org?.
The ACS Path to the Bench Initiative is developing a highly qualified pool of legal professionals dedicated to long-term, positive change and a fair judiciary. Our chapters, working closely with their local legal communities, are identifying talented progressive lawyers at every stage in their careers, and giving them the support necessary to obtain influential legal positions at the state and federal level. More information available here. You can also learn more on Judicial Nominations here, and ACS’s “Dark Money and the Courts” report here.
These are important times for our country, and for ACS. We are grateful for your support and look forward to your help in supporting and building ACS nationally and in Wisconsin.