Wisc. Legal Services Group to Use Grant Funds to Help People Sued By Collectors, Debt Buyers

Legal Action of Wisconsin, the largest non-profit free civil legal services law firm in the state, has received a grant of nearly $400,000 that it plans to use help low-income individuals who are being sued by debt collectors and debt buyers in small claims court, according to a published report.

The grant was awarded by Legal Services Corp., a non-profit legal assistance agency which receives funding from Congress to support pro bono legal efforts. It handed out 15 grants to legal services organizations across the country last week, totaling $4.75 million.

“Legal Action Wisconsin has helped fulfill the American ideal ‘justice for all’ and ensure our justice system works for all Wisconsinites,” said Sen. Tammy Baldwin [D-Wisc.], in a statement. “This grant from the Legal Services Corporation will help Legal Action Wisconsin establish a Lawyer-For-A-Day (LFAD) program and expand their innovative work defending consumers’ rights against debt collectors. The Badger State is fortunate to have Legal Action Wisconsin and their network of volunteers helping ensure our legal system is fair for those living in marginalized and underserved communities, and I am excited to see their continued impact with this investment from the Legal Services Corporation.”

In seeking to represent individuals who have been sued by collectors and debt buyers, Legal Action of Wisconsin (LAW) hopes to reduce the number of individuals who either fail to show up when sued or who appear without representation. Nearly 75% of low-income households faced at least one civil legal problem last year, according to a report, and low-income Americans receive no or insufficient legal help for 92% of their civil legal problems.

LAW plans to use the funds to seek volunteer attorneys from the consumer bar, corporate attorneys, and law students. “The project’s goal is to enforce consumers’ rights by reducing uncontested and “rubber-stamped” judgments against debtors,” it said in an announcement touting the grant. The program will be developed in Milwaukee’s small claims court.

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