Public Interest Law Section | State Bar of Wisconsin​

The Public Interest Law Section provides a forum for public interest lawyers statewide to discuss and promote public interest issues and concerns. Members are involved in issues affecting low-income and underrepresented persons; government benefits; consumer protection; housing; disability rights; elder law; access to health care; constitutional/civil rights; environmental justice; fair employment/labor; women’s rights; violence against women, and reproductive health care. The section monitors and proposes legislation, sponsors CLE programs, works closely with law students, and has a listserv.

The State Bar of Wisconsin offers its members the opportunity to network with other lawyers who share a common interest through its 24 sections. Learn more at http://www.wisbar.org/groups.

The core benefit of Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) – tax-free forgiveness after 120 qualifying payments with a qualifying employer – is well and widely known. Because of the tax-free forgiveness, PSLF borrowers are incentivized to maximize the amount of their forgiveness by minimizing the dollar amount of their qualifying monthly payments. In other words, because PSLF is tax-free, the borrower is not penalized by a loan balance that grows each month.1 One of the ways a borrower can lower their monthly payment is reducing their adjusted gross income (AGI) by making contributions to their retirement plan.2 Enrollment…
March 31, 2021, brings the end of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s eviction moratorium – which means that rental assistance will be more important than ever to keeping tenant housing secure from eviction.1 Here’s how you can help your clients who need rental assistance. Tips on Rental Assistance Tenants should be prepared to provide details about themselves and their situation. It can be jarring for those new to assistance programs to have to provide personal information, such as household and income details, as well as documentation to prove those details. Frequently, the state or federal government is…
As public interest attorneys, we recognize the problems for which our clients seek our help are often just one part of a much bigger issue or issues. For example, a client who seeks help with divorce, custody, and placement may also need help obtaining a restraining order and/or applying for public benefits if their household income has changed. As a section, PILS endeavors to provide training and resources to our members so we can, when appropriate, approach our client representation in a holistic way. This is particularly true when the resource is one of which a PILS member may not…
As we enter a new year, many of us, myself included, are hopeful for a better 2021. And in having hope for 2021, we also bear the pain and grief of 2020. Grief and loss are not new concepts for 2020. However, in 2020, grief and our ability to address, confront, and manage it changed. Because of COVID-19, we have been denied many of our usual rituals and support systems to address grief. These include in-person funeral or other celebrations of life, gathering in person with friends and family, or meeting in person with a therapist, chaplain, or trusted friend.…
As pure and abstract as we’d like the operation of justice to be, we all know the practice of law is embedded within an inherently unequal society, and that our work is exacerbated by and perpetuates severe systemic, institutional, and interpersonal inequity. Conversations around power, inequality, and oppression can sometimes be difficult and uncomfortable, but they are valuable and necessary, in order to examine the theories of social interaction and change that underlies our work. The Interactions of Status, Rank, and Power I recently participated in community lawyering training offered by the Shriver Center on Poverty Law in Chicago. One…
Approximately 37,000 people in Wisconsin who were previously deemed ineligible for an Economic Impact Payment (EIP) may now be entitled to one.1 A recent ruling in a class-action lawsuit means that people in jail or prison cannot be denied a stimulus payment based solely on their incarceration status.2 It’s important to understand who is affected by this court order and what steps, if any, they need to take in order to receive their payment. The deadline was Oct. 30, 2020, for those filing by mail, but those filing online may do so by Nov. 21, 2020. About the…
Public Interest Law Section Blog October 30 2020 Working with Domestic Abuse Survivors: What Advocates Want You to Know Megan L. Sprecher and Araceli Wence Domestic abuse is a serious societal problem, the ramifications of which are felt in every community. Megan Sprecher and Araceli Wence provide tips for working with survivors of domestic abuse. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the perfect time for attorneys and other legal professionals to commit to learning more about the issue and consider ways to make their practice more welcoming and less re-traumatizing to survivors. Domestic abuse advocates at programs across the state…
There are many factors that go into making a decision regarding health care coverage. With the Open Enrollment beginning soon, it is important to know what changes there are, given both issues stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic and changes in the Health Insurance Marketplace during 2020. Open Enrollment The Health Insurance Marketplace Open Enrollment Period runs from Sunday, Nov. 1 through Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020.1 Coverage begins Jan. 1, 2021.2 If you do not enroll in a plan by Dec. 15, 2020, enrollment is not available at any other time of the year unless you qualify for a…
Just like you cannot judge a book by its cover, you cannot judge the contents of an executive order by its title. President Donald Trump’s Memorandum for the Secretary of Education issued August 8, 2020, is titled: Memorandum on Continued Student Loan Payment Relief During the COVID-19 Pandemic At first blush, you may assume this is just a continuation of the legislature’s previously enacted CARES Act, which allows for deferred student loan payments to count toward Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) through Sept. 30, 2020, so long as you would have otherwise qualified for the payment to count. However,…
During the Covid19 pandemic, there is uncertainty as to what will happen with the start of the 2020-21 school year in approximately three months. Parents may have unease about their children returning to a classroom as we wait for the development of a vaccine. Wisconsin offers the option of attendance with a virtual charter school. Charter Schools in Wisconsin All charter schools in Wisconsin are “public, nonsectarian schools created through a business-like contract of ‘charter’ between the charter governance board and the sponsoring school board or other chartering authority.”1 Charter schools are created with the best elements of regular…
In a victory for public interest lawyers, the U.S. Department of Education recently settled a 2016 lawsuit brought by the American Bar Association (ABA) regarding the Department’s retroactive changes to the standards governing what qualifies as a “public service organization” under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF). Background The issue and settlement stem from a December 2016 lawsuit, filed by the ABA and four other public servants, regarding the department’s new standards governing whether non-501(c)(3) not-for-profit organizations like the ABA qualified as “public service organizations” under PSLF. The plaintiffs worked in public service and were initially approved for loan…
Public Interest Law Section Blog April 06 2020 Federal Student Loans and the CARES Act Elizabeth A. Groeschel The current COVID-19 pandemic impacts everyone and everything, including federal student loans. In this Tip of the Month, Liz Groeschel details Section 3513 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which provides temporary relief for federal student loan borrowers. The current COVID-19 pandemic has impacted everyone and everything, including federal student loans. Section 3513 of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, enacted on March 27, 2020, provides temporary relief for federal student loan borrowers.…
The start of a new year is a great time to get hold of your finances and think about where you can save money. It’s also a great time to think about taxes (or procrastinate until April when you have no choice but to think about your taxes). So, how does the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program fit into your tax plan?1 About the Program The PSLF program has a number of requirements that must be followed exactly in order to take advantage of the program. The PSLF program is a loan forgiveness program for individuals, including attorneys,…
Attorneys and others seeking to use the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program must comply with several requirements to have their student loans forgiven. The Public Interest Law Section will continue to provide information and resources on PSLF in the coming months to help our members. If you missed it, the first post on PSLF was in the October Tip of the Month post by Susan Lund, addressing the Employer Certification Form. org arabe judicare Amanda Rabe, Marquette 2012, is lead attorney with the civil unit of Wisconsin Judicare in Wausau, and chair of the Public Interest Law Section…
It is common knowledge that childhood impacts adulthood. There is strong evidence showing that activities such as engaging in play or reading to your child will have long-term positive effects on brain development and social functioning. However, the studies into the darker aspects of childhood have been slower to emerge. This might be because of the content matter, or it might be because of the “bootstrap” ethos that permeates our culture. As a society we are quick to associate successes with positive upbringing, yet slower to correlate failures with negative upbringing. While research continues to advance, the data overwhelmingly shows…
Borrowers working toward Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) should do all they can to ensure that they are on track for loan forgiveness. The best way to do that is to submit the Employment Certification Form (ECF) annually and at other strategic times. To qualify for PSLF, borrowers must work for a government agency or for certain types of nonprofit organizations; work full time for that agency or organization; have Direct Loans (or consolidate1 other federal student loans to qualify); repay their loans on an income-driven repayment plan; and make 120 qualifying payments. The Employment Certification Form Borrowers working toward…