Bill would create crime victims' legal clinic at UW Law School

Bill would create crime victims'...

MADISON, Wis. - A bill scheduled to be discussed at the Capitol on Tuesday would establish a legal clinic at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to help local crime victims. 

The Committee on Colleges and Universities will hold a public hearing on the bill at 1 p.m.

The way the bill is written is broad, but supporters believe that is a good thing. It would allow the law school to determine which services would help the public the most.

A spokesperson for Rep. Cody Horlacher (R), the primary author of the bill, said they have been talking about one of the main services being helping clients with temporary restraining orders, but services could also include child custody issues, veterans services and access to public benefits.

The clinic would be supported by possible grants from the Department of Justice, making services available at little or no cost to the client.

The clinic would also give students hands-on experience with crime victims who are having trouble navigating the legal system.

"I think that it makes sense to have the students working through law school, who have that immediate connection to these issues, (work the clinic). And then hopefully as they continue to move out into the state and to other areas, they're able to take that experience," said Anna Schwarz, research assistant in Horlacher's office.

Other representatives who are sponsoring the bill said it would teach students how to be better lawyers.

"I think it's really important to have lawyers that are going to be able to guide someone who has been the victim of a violent crime to not just understand the law and how these proceedings are going to work, but be a supportive person when someone really needs it," said Rep. Jimmy Anderson (D).

Anderson was a victim of a violent crime in 2010. His family was hit by a drunken driver and killed. He was paralyzed by the crash.

Because of that experience, he said he understands why crime victims would need help walking through the legal process.

"I know how much it hurt, and I can imagine someone being not in the most stable place after going through something like that," said Anderson.

The UW Law School has multiple clinics, including the Wisconsin Innocence Project and the Immigrant Justice Clinic. 

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