For Immediate Release: Wednesday, October 19, 2011
For More Information, Contact: Jane Garrott, (608) 257-5741

Governor's Legislation to Limit Attorney Fees Would Restrict Consumers’ Access to Court  

MADISON, WI – Two Wisconsin Senate and Assembly committees will hold hearings today and Friday on legislation that would severely reduce access to legal representation for low and middle income Wisconsin citizens.

Special Session Bill 12 would limit the fees charged by attorneys who assist consumers with “lemon law” cases, landlords and tenants with housing claims, and workers with employment discrimination claims, among other cases.

“The Governor is proposing to cap the fees of attorneys who represent the ‘little guy’ in lawsuits against larger interests,” said Ed Vopal, president-elect of the Wisconsin Association for Justice (WAJ).  “This bill would simply act as a deterrent to seeking justice for many who have no other options.”

SS-SB & AB 12 will limit attorney fees for certain cases to three times the award, effectively limiting Wisconsinites’ ability to be represented in court.  It would reduce the already limited pool of lawyers who are willing to represent consumers in small cases.

“The award of attorney fees often provides the ‘teeth’ in enforcement of consumer law in Wisconsin,” Vopal said. “Landlords, employers and others who may otherwise attempt to intimidate an individual from seeking a security deposit or a fair treatment on the job know they may be subject to those fees.”
 
Wisconsin judges already have standards set through court rules that allow them to set reasonable attorney fees.  This bill would restrict that discretion and discourage citizens from seeking justice in court.

“Many of these cases involve out-of-state businesses,” Vopal added.  “If an absentee landlord, for example, decides to arbitrarily withhold tenants’ security deposits, Wisconsin would be encouraging unfair business practices if the tenant had limited ability to hire a lawyer.”

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The Mission of the Wisconsin Association for Justice is to promote a fair and effective justice system - one that ensures justice for all, not just a privileged few.

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