Free legal advice available for students

 

As college students, there are many times when a lawyer could be helpful. Disagreements with a landlord, underage drinking tickets and traffic tickets are all common occurrences among students.

But lawyers can be expensive, and college students do not usually have money readily available for a lawyer. So what options do college students have?

That’s where Craig Johnson comes in.

“Most young men and young women have never been exposed to the police, the legal system, landlords and tenants, signing contracts, etc., so they don’t know what their rights are,” he said.

Johnson is a lawyer contracted by Whitewater Student Government to provide free legal advice to UW- Whitewater students.

UW-Whitewater junior Mjay Bouska believes this is a valuable asset for students. “I know I’ve personally had an issue with a landlord,” Bouska said. “If students know about the free legal advice it can be a lot easier for them to save some money or some hassle.”

His advice usually consists of what the individual can expect in court, what Johnson thinks their chances are of beating or amending a criminal charge and what he advises they should do with their issue.

Johnson cannot take cases for the students, but will offer his advice to their problems and recommend them to a lawyer if they need further assistance. If an issue is still unresolved, he will meet with a person more than once.

“A lot of students come back to me a number of times until it does get resolved,” he said.

Johnson has been advising UW-W students for the last two years. WSG contracts a lawyer for three years at a time, and takes bids when the contract is expired to choose a new lawyer or keep the old one.

WSG pays the fees for the lawyer as well.

WSG business and financial services director Justin Murphy believes the service is beneficial to students.

“This is a viable service to them, because it’s free,” Murphy said. “They can find out different avenues they can go to lessen their penalties or get them dropped or just to see their options.”

Students can schedule an appointment through Career and Leadership Development, in person or by telephone. Johnson is on campus every week, alternating between Tuesday and Wednesday, from 3 to 5 p.m. Time slots for appointments are 20 minutes long.

This free service is being utilized more than ever.

“In last year’s report, he set a record number of people coming,” Murphy said. “So it is being used.”

Outside of providing advice for students, Johnson practices law in Madison at Loniello, Johnson & Siomoni. According to their website, he has 33 years of legal experience.  Some of his experience includes time in traffic court and misdemeanor court, Johnson said.

He said the most common things students come in for is traffic tickets, underage drinking tickets, possession of marijuana, issues with their landlord or roommates and understanding contracts they are signing.

Johnson will be available until the week of finals, and will be available next school year beginning in September.

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