About Wisconsin Civil Justice Council

The Wisconsin Civil Justice Council’s (WCJC) mission is to promote fairness and equity in the Wisconsin civil justice system, with the ultimate goal of making Wisconsin a better place to work and live. WCJC achieves this objective through policy development, legislative lobbying, and our appellate programs.

The Challenge

The purpose of the litigation reform bill (2017 Assembly Bill 773) was to align Wisconsin’s civil procedures for discovery and class actions to the corresponding federal rules. The modernization of these court procedures, mostly aimed at costly discovery practices, sought to reduce litigation costs for small and large businesses, as well as state and local governments who must spend taxpayers’ dollars responding to abusive discovery practices.

In addition, the legislation aimed to shine much needed light on third-party litigation funding– the practice in which companies “invest” in litigation. There is a growing consensus that these arrangements should, at the very least, be disclosed at the outset of a civil action in order to avoid conflicts of interest and other ethical dilemmas.

Approach

As the executive director of the Wisconsin Civil Justice Council, Hamilton Consulting’s Andy Cook helped lead a large coalition of business groups to pass the important and complex piece of legislation. Hamilton Consulting helped in the drafting of the legislation, as well provide the research and talking points for its members with legislators. Mr. Cook, who was the former Deputy Attorney General for the state of Wisconsin, has the expertise and technical background to take complex legal issues and present them to the legislature. The key, however, to passing such important legislation is building a large coalition of associations and business groups to help lobby the legislation with the legislature. Without a large coalition, it is much less likely this legislation would have been enacted and signed into law.

Results

Despite strong opposition by plaintiff attorneys and large third-party litigation financiers, Hamilton Consulting Group was successful in passing the bill into law as 2017 Wisconsin Act 235. As a result, Wisconsin became the first state in the nation to require mandatory disclosure of third-party litigation financing. In addition, Wisconsin updated its antiquated law discovery and class action laws to reflect the growing trend of electronic discovery. This landmark legislation received considerable media attention (see below).

 

Gov. Scott Walker signs AB 773 into law as 2017 Wisconsin Act 235.

 

Wisconsin Forward: State enacts groundbreaking litigation funding transparency law
Lisa Rickard, U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform

Small business applauds legal reforms signed by governor
National Federation for Independent Business, Wisconsin Chapter

Wisconsin Governor Walker signs into law new reforms
Federalist Society

Who is paying for that lawsuit?
John Beisner, Federalist Society

Litigation funding deals must be disclosed under groundbreaking Wisconsin law
National Law Journal

Wisconsin becomes first state to mandate disclosure of litigation funding arrangements
D&O Diary

La Croix: It’s time to talk about third party litigation funding
U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform

ILR’s Rickard: Hope “other states will follow” Wisconsin’s lead on TPLF
U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform

Wisconsin Governor signs first-in-the-nation TPLF transparency bill
U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform

PA small business advocate sees hurdles to legal reform that targets litigation funders.
NFIB Pennsylvania says Wisconsin is “blazing a trail” for improved business climate.
Penn Record

Legal experts: TPLF transparency likely to catch on
U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform

Landmark bill would pull back curtain on secretive lawsuit funding deals
U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform

2018-19 ATRA Judicial Hellholes report highlights Wis. accomplishments
American Tort Reform Association, WCJC

ATRA Tort Reform Record recognizes Wisconsin legislation
American Tort Reform Association, WCJC

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