Attorney Lindsey Anderson Receives 2019 Jack DeWitt Pro Bono Award

Jul 31, 2019 | Michelle M. Friedman
MADISON | MILWAUKEE | MINNEAPOLIS – DeWitt LLP announced today its attorney, Lindsey Anderson, received the firm’s 2019 Jack DeWitt Pro Bono Award for her efforts in advancing the rights of crime victims within the state of Wisconsin.

Anderson was instrumental in a ground-breaking victims’ rights victory across Wisconsin.  As the attorney on the case, she filed a complaint with the Crime Victims’ Rights Board (“CVRB”), through the Department of Justice, alleging a victim’s privacy and protection rights were violated when the Clerk of Courts disclosed the victim’s full name in multiple CCAP entries. The Complaint also alleged the Clerk of Courts violated the victim’s rights when the Clerk of Courts required the victim to disclose her full legal name and address in a written request to view her perpetrator’s court file.  Extremely concerning was that this document became public record and was accessible by the offender.

 “What is most concerning is that the crime was a sexual assault of a child, and the perpetrator was such a danger to society that he was sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison.  That type of sentence is atypical. The minor victim later changed her name and the perpetrator did not know her new name,” Anderson explains.  “The timing of the results was imperative because, despite being a 15+ year old case, the perpetrator requested information regarding his appeal rights (for the underlying sexual assault case) in the middle of our complaint process with the DOJ.  The next step for the perpetrator would likely be to request the entire court file for review before filing an appeal.  We needed to get certain documents sealed immediately.”

The CVRB determined the Clerk of Courts violated the victim’s rights on both claims.  Ultimately, the victim’s name was removed from CCAP and every document in the court file, including the criminal complaint, that had the victim’s identifying information, were all sealed without notice to the perpetrator.

The Report, in part stated:

Everyone with contact with the victim from the first interaction knew she feared for her safety if the offender could locate her. . . The [Clerk of Court’s] policy led directly to unnecessarily posting the victim’s personally identifying information on a public website accessible to the offender.   [The Clerk of Court] regretted that the victim’s name was entered into CCAP but still endorsed the practices that resulted in the disclosure and did not offer a solution that would be protective of victims in similar situations in the future.  Her conclusion appeared to be that the only course of action is to correct such errors after the fact, if they are brought to the attention of the office.  
The state – public employees, public agencies and public officials – all share in the responsibility to enact and promote policies that ensure the protections enumerated in the state constitution in a manner that treats crime victims with fairness, dignity and respect for their privacy. . . All too often, the rights of victims are an afterthought or incorrectly viewed as a suggestion or “best practice” or even a courtesy to provide if possible.  It is imperative that those with authority over policies that impact victims are cognizant of, and take action to protect, victims’ rights with a sense of purpose befitting a constitutional mandate.

“This CVRB determination paves a way for future victims to receive the privacy and protection that, to me, seems like common sense.  The Board correctly determined that the Clerk of Court, and other State actors must take proactive measures to ensure a victim’s constitutional and statutory rights are protected,” says Anderson.  “A retroactive approach is no longer acceptable.” The CVRB Report will be dispersed to all 72 counties in Wisconsin and posted on the DOJ website for training and precedence value.

About Anderson:

Anderson assists clients in two main areas of law – Family Law and Trademarks.  In her family law practice, her primary focus is to help individuals in all walks of life, whether retired and involved in a long-term marriage, or a young couple seeking a divorce, to navigate family law issues including separation, divorce, custody and placement, child support and maintenance. In particular, she has a great deal of admiration for Military Veterans and has found it very rewarding to assist them in what can sometimes be contentious divorce battles. Her tenacity, intuition and professionalism have been strengths her clients rely upon.  She earned her J.D., magna cum laude, From Marquette University Law School, and her B.A. from the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee.  She is admitted to practice in the Eastern and Western Districts of Wisconsin.