Tag Archives: Wisconsin Supreme Court

DOJ Files Brief in Wisconsin Carry v. City of Madison

Remember that this is one of the cases on the docket for the Supreme Court this session.

Today, in Wisconsin Carry, Inc. v. City of Madison, Attorney General  Brad Schimel filed a motion supporting Wisconsin Carry’s argument that state law preempts certain municipal gun regulations, namely, Madison’s Transit and Parking Commission’s rule banning all weapons from its Madison Metro buses.

Attorney General Schimel argues, contrary to Madison’s claims, that a municipality cannot delegate power that it does not have, and that municipalities do not have the power to regulate firearms in ways more stringent than state law.  Since state law allows people to possess and transport firearms in vehicles, Madison may not ban them from its buses.

Voters to determine Supreme Court’s direction

My column for the West Bend Daily News is online. Here you go:

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has agreed to review eight cases ranging from guns on public buses to open records to how low-income properties are assessed to how far a police officer’s “hot pursuit” can extend into a citizen’s home. With less than a month before Wisconsin voters head to the polls to choose a Supreme Court justice, the variety and reach of the court’s chosen case load reminds us how important voters’ choice is.

For example, in State v. Weber, an officer turned on his lights to pull over Weber for a busted taillight. Weber proceeded to ignore the officer, pull into his attached garage and head into his house. The officer entered the garage without a warrant and detained Weber. Weber subsequently pled no contest to felony drunk driving (it was not his first time driving drunk).

The question the court will decide is whether the officer should have obtained a warrant before entering Weber’s garage. Even though he was drunk driving, the officer did not know that at the time and was only pursuing him for the minor offense of a broken taillight. Should law enforcement be permitted to enter private property without a warrant for such a minor offense?

In Democratic Party of Wisconsin v. Wisconsin Department of Justice, the court will decide on the appropriate balance between the public interest in keeping a record hidden versus the public’s right to know under Wisconsin’s open records laws. In this case, the Democratic Party sought videos in which Attorney General Brad Schimel, who was a candidate at the time, conducted training regarding victims of sensitive crimes and how to prosecute internet sexual predator cases.

The Democratic Party wanted the videos because they thought there might be some embarrassing things in the video that could be twisted against Schimel during the campaign. The DOJ refused to release the videos, saying the public interest in protecting the identities of the victims and the techniques used by investigators and prosecutors of internet sexual predator cases outweighed the public’s interest in seeing the videos. The Democratic Party disagreed and appealed. The court must decide where the appropriate balance lies between these competing public interests.

In Wisconsin Carry Inc. v. City of Madison, the court will decide if the city of Madison violated the state’s concealed carry law when implementing a ban on guns on public buses. Wisconsin’s concealed carry statute prohibits local units of governments from enacting an ordinance or resolution regulating the ownership, transportation, taxation or carrying of firearms.

The city of Madison has banned people from carrying firearms on city buses, but claims the statute does not apply because it is a “bus rule” and not an ordinance or resolution and that the rule was enacted by the city of Madison’s Transit and Parking Commission — not the city itself. Wisconsin Carry sued the city, arguing — rightly — the statute is designed to prevent local governments from enacting gun laws more restrictive than the state as a whole.

The Supreme Court must decide how the statute must be applied. Of course, in this case, the Legislature could have easily clarified the statute before now, but they must certainly do so next year if the Supreme Court rules in favor of the city of Madison.

As the highest court in the state, the Supreme Court decides cases that govern how the laws apply to us, how far our government can reach into our lives, how transparent our government must be and countless other important matters. As such, the selection of each justice on that court is of critical importance. On April 5, Wisconsin’s voters will choose between two drastically difference candidates.

Wisconsin Court of Appeals Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg is running for the Supreme Court for the second time after being rejected by the voters five years ago. She is proudly a liberal’s liberal with a decidedly activist perspective regarding the role of a Supreme Court justice.

Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Bradley was appointed to the court in 2015 and is on the other end of the judicial philosophy spectrum. She has demonstrated a healthy understanding that judges must act according to how the law is and not how they would like it to be.

Unlike the United States Supreme Court, the voters decide who sits on the state Supreme Court. Vote wisely.

Supreme Court Says (Again) Shut Down Doe

How many times do they have to say it?

The state Supreme Court today rejected a request to reconsider its July order shutting down John Doe II and rescinded the special prosecutor’s ability to continue overseeing the case.

The court ruled Francis Schmitz’s appointment as special prosecutor was invalid. But it made that order effective with the release of today’s decision, leaving him only limited powers to carry out the court’s order to return evidence seized in the probe into coordination between conservative groups and Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign during the recalls.

The ruling noted Justice David Prosser’s concurring opinion in the July decision also reached the conclusion that Schmitz’s appointment was invalid. But that view did not carry an order for Schmitz to cease his work.

RIP Justice Patrick Crooks

Sad news for Wisconsin.

Supreme Court Justice Patrick Crooks died today at the state Capitol, Chief Justice Pat Roggensack confirmed this afternoon.

Crooks, 77, had announced last week that he would not run for re-election next year.

Crooks Won’t seek Reelection for Supreme Court

This was expected, but not it is for sure. It will be an open seat.

Supreme Court Justice Pat Crooks announced today he will not seek re-election.

The 77-year-old justice noted today is the 38th anniversary of his swearing in for the Brown County bench following an appointment by then-Acting Gov. Martin Schreiber. He won his first term on the state Supreme Court in 1996 and was unopposed as he sought re-election in 2006.

“I have been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to serve as a judge and justice and to have had the support of the voters of Brown County and Wisconsin over the years,” Crooks said.

Appeals Court Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg and Milwaukee County Judge Joe Donald have already announced plans to seek Crooks’ seat next year, and Appeals Court Judge Rebecca Bradley has filed paperwork to run as well. Madison attorney Claude Covelli has said he is considering a bid.

Bradley is a good conservative candidate. It’s going to be a heated race.

Wisconsin Supreme Court Ends John Doe Investigation

In a long ruling settling several cases at once, the Wisconsin Supreme Court has forcefully and completely ended the John Doe investigation as unconstitutional and outrageous.

To be clear, this conclusion ends the John Doe investigation because the special prosecutor’s legal theory is unsupported in either reason or law.  Consequently, the investigation is closed.  Consistent with our decision and the order entered by Reserve Judge Peterson, we order that the special prosecutor and the district attorneys involved in this investigation must cease all activities related to the investigation, return all property seized in the investigation from any individual or organization, and permanently destroy all copies of information and other materials obtained through the investigation.  All Unnamed Movants are relieved of any duty to cooperate further with the investigation.

Good. Now the rogue prosecutors need to be held accountable.

Wisconsin Supreme Court to Rule on John Doe

On Thursday

Unnamed petitioners have filed two lawsuits seeking to halt the John Doe proceeding, Wisconsin’s version of a grand jury investigation where information is tightly controlled. Prosecutors have filed their own action seeking to reinstate quashed subpoenas in the probe. The high court is expected to rule in all three lawsuits.

It is widely expected that the court will put a stop to the investigation as both a state and federal judge have already ruled. Let’s hope so. Then, let’s hope that the prosecutors see some punishment for abusing their power as they have.

One thing though… it is completely unacceptable that the Supreme Court has taken this long to act. This has been a hot legal and political issue for months and months. The court has shown that it can act quickly when it needs to and chose not to do so in this case until not. One wonders if it was former Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson holding up the process and the new Chief Justice got things moving along. In any case, it took far too long for the court to act on a case that has caused so much turmoil in the state.

Chief Justice Patience Roggensack

Huzzah, huzzah.

MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin Supreme Court justices moved quickly Wednesday to elect a new chief following certification of a constitutional amendment that ended seniority as the sole determinant, even as a federal lawsuit was pending seeking to delay replacing longtime Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson.

Abrahamson objected to the email vote making Justice Patience Roggensack the chief justice, and Abrahamson continues to believe she still holds the position, her attorney Robert Peck said in a letter filed with U.S. District Court late Wednesday.

Four justices voted via email to replace Abrahamson with Roggensack as chief justice, Peck said. Roggensack accepted the position, even though Abrahamson and Justices Ann Walsh Bradley and Patrick Crooks objected, Peck said in the letter.

Judge Allows New Chief Justice Selection Process to Proceed


MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Wisconsin Supreme Court could have a new chief justice soon, after a federal judge on Tuesday refused to block a voter-approved change in how the head of the court is selected.

While the judge recommended that Abrahamson stay chief until her case is fully adjudicated in order to avoid switching chiefs again should she win. I disagree. They should elect a new chief ASAP.

It is funny that nobody – Abrahamson, Judge Peterson, etc. – thinks that Abrahamson’s peers would elect her to be their chief. That’s telling.


Supreme Court Elections

As often happens in Wisconsin elections, the races regarding the Supreme Court is a mixed bag, but overall positive.

Supreme Court

99% reporting
Name Votes Vote %
Ann Walsh Bradley (inc) 468,322 58%
James Daley 338,655 42%

Elect Chief Justice

99% reporting
Name Votes Vote %
Yes 430,507 53%
No 380,518 47%

Bradley’s win is not a surprise. Daley was a flawed candidate for a variety of reasons and the conservatives had a hard time getting behind him. He was the better choice than Bradley, but couldn’t get the support to overcome such a strong incumbent.

The constitutional change to make the chief justice elected by his or her peers instead of being a mark of tenure is a wonderful win. It’s not a huge thing, but it injects a bit more sense into that institution. While it will be gratifying to see Chief Justice Abrahamson ousted from her perch, the long term positive effect of the change is more important.

As a whole, the Bradley win is a wash. It was a vote for the status quo and nothing changes there. The constitutional change is a good thing, so as a whole, it’s a net positive.