Will an Attorney Handle my Wisconsin Appeal Pro Bono?

Those who are unable to afford appellate legal services may hope to find an appeals attorney who is willing to handle their appeal pro bono. Pro bono attorneys provide their services on a voluntarily basis either without payment or at a reduced fee to those who are least able to pay for them. However, because of the enormous amount of requests for pro bono legal services, it is uncommon for people to find such representation, even with meritorious arguments.

The State Bar of Wisconsin’s Appellate Practice Section operates a pro bono program for criminal appeals within the Wisconsin Court of Appeals and Supreme Court, but they do not take any requests directly from people seeking representation. Rather, they must be referred to clients by the court where indigency and merit has already been determined, or by other organizations such as the ACLU.

Accordingly, if a defendant in a criminal matter wishes to obtain free representation, then he must comply with the process set forth in Wis. Stat. 809.30 and seek a referral from the court to the State Public Defender for indigent representation on appeal. If he was indigent during trial, unless he has come into money, then he will probably continue to be indigent. If he was not indigent during trial, then he may claim that his financial circumstances have changed due to incarceration or other events.

There are no known established programs for pro bono civil appeals. Further, as rare as pro bono representation is for criminal appeals, it is even more rare on civil appeals (almost unheard of).