Wisconsin: bills to require municipal court judges be attorneys re-introduced

Wisconsin legislators are once again considering the question of whether or not municipal court judges in the state should be required to be attorneys.

AB 33 filed in January 2017 and SB 294 filed in mid-June both provide that a person may not qualify for election or appointment as a municipal court judge unless he or she is an attorney licensed to practice in Wisconsin and a member in good standing of the State Bar of Wisconsin.

The is the latest effort to mandate that municipal court judges be attorneys. In the 2011/2012 session, AB 101 was heard in committee be failed to advance; Gavel to Gavel coverage of that effort and hearing can be found here. The identical SB 318 was never even taken up on committee.

There the matter lay for almost 4 years until AB 230 of 2015/2016. It too was never taken up in committee.

Wisconsin: judicial recusal bills reintroduced; mandatory recusal for contributions over $1000; supreme court could force fellow justice to recuse

Several bills were introduced in the last session of the Wisconsin legislature to change the way recusal would be handled in Wisconsin courts (discussed here). Those bills have now been reintroduced.

  • AB 132 creates an “objective standard” for recusal and requires a judge or justice to disqualify himself or herself from presiding over or deciding a legal proceeding or action if a reasonable person would question whether the judge or justice could act in an impartial manner.
  • AB 133 requires a judge or justice who does not disqualify himself or herself after a motion for disqualification is filed by a party in the action to file in writing the reasons he or she did not disqualify himself or herself. The bill further provides a judge or justice must file the reasons for disqualification or for deciding against disqualification within 60 days after a final judgment or final order has been issued in the action.
  • AB 135 requires a judge of any court to disqualify himself or herself from an action if, as a candidate for judicial office and within the past four years, the judge received campaign financial support of $1,000 or more from a party to the action. Moreover, the definition of “financial support” is defined broadly to include not only campaign contributions but independent contributions made on behalf of the judge, and independent contributions made against the judge’s opponent.
  • AB 136 is limited to the Wisconsin Supreme Court and provides if a justice denies a motion to disqualify himself or herself from an action, the other members of the court may review that decision to deny the motion, and may either affirm or reverse the justice’s decision.
  • AB 137 focuses on the contributors to judicial campaigns rather than the judges. Under the plan an “interested contributor” who makes a political contribution to the campaign of a judge/justice before whom he or she has a pending civil or criminal action must disclose the contribution within 5 days to the judge and all other parties.

All five bills have been referred to the Assembly Judiciary Committee.

Wisconsin: Governor’s budget ends Judicial Council, moves judicial disciplinary commission $$$ under Supreme Court, changes way judicial salaries handled

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has submitted his proposed budget and the bill includes several big changes to the state’s judiciary. AB 64 of 2017 as filed repeats several items proposed in the governor’s 2015 budget (AB 21 of 2015). Media coverage of the 2017 plan here.  The budget:

  1. Deletes every statutory reference to the Judicial Council and removes all its appropriations.
  2. Moves the appropriations for administering the state’s judicial disciplinary body (Judicial Commission) to the Supreme Court.
  3. Provides the legislature’s Joint Committee on Employment Relations is to review and establish annual salaries for judges and justices under a proposal
    submitted by the director of state courts. Under current law, annual salaries for judges and justices are reviewed and established in the state compensation plan in the same manner as positions in the state classified service. The 2015 budget plan would have had a Judicial Compensation Commission consisting of members appointed by the supreme court to review judicial salaries and submit a written report and make recommendations on the judicial salaries.

Wisconsin Senate: mandatory judicial recusal for contributions over $1000; limit includes independent expenditures

I mentioned last month the raft of legislation filed in the Wisconsin Assembly dealing with judicial recusal, including proposals to require recusal for certain campaign contributions as well as giving the supreme court the ability to force a justice off a case. Members of the Wisconsin Senate have now taken one of those bills (AB 588) and introduced it in their chamber as SB 647.

The bills require a judge to disqualify himself or herself from an action if, as a candidate for judicial office and within the past four years, the judge received campaign financial support of $1,000 or more from a party to the action. Moreover, the definition of “financial support” is defined broadly to include not only campaign contributions but independent contributions made on behalf of the judge and independent contributions made against the judge’s opponent.

SB 647 has been placed in the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee.

Wisconsin: judicial recusal bills introduced; mandatory recusal for contributions over $1000; supreme court could force fellow justice to recuse

Several bills were introduced in December to change the way recusal would be handled in Wisconsin courts.

  • AB 585 requires a judge or justice to disqualify himself or herself from presiding over or deciding a legal proceeding or action if a reasonable person would question whether the judge or justice could act in an impartial manner.
  • AB 586 requires a judge or justice who does not disqualify himself or herself after a motion for disqualification is filed by a party in the action to file in writing the reasons he or she did not disqualify himself or herself. The bill further provides a judge or justice must file the reasons for disqualification or for deciding against disqualification within 60 days after a final judgment or final order has been issued in the action.
  • AB 588 requires a judge to disqualify himself or herself from an action if, as a candidate for judicial office and within the past four years, the judge received campaign financial support of $1,000 or more from a party to the action. Moreover, the definition of “financial support” is defined broadly to include not only campaign contributions but independent contributions made on behalf of the judge, and independent contributions made against the judge’s opponent.
  • AB 589 is limited to the Wisconsin Supreme Court and provides if a justice denies a motion to disqualify himself or herself from an action, the other members of the court may review that decision to deny the motion, and may either affirm or reverse the justice’s decision.
  • AB 590 focuses on the contributors to judicial campaigns rather than the judges. Under the plan an “interested contributor” who makes a political contribution to the campaign of a judge/justice before whom he or she has a pending civil or criminal action must disclose the contribution within 5 days to the judge and all other parties.

All five bills have been referred to the Assembly Judiciary Committee.

Wisconsin Legislative Year in Review: changing the way the chief justice is selected

On ballot

SJR 2 Ends practice where chief justice is most senior justice of the Supreme Court. Directs the Supreme Court to elect a chief justice as the first order of business each time a justice is elected or reelected. Approved voters in Spring 2015 election.

Wisconsin: bill would place text of proposed Supreme Court rules changes online rather than in newspapers

Like most state courts of last resort, the Wisconsin Supreme Court can exercise rulemaking authority over the courts. How that power is exercised is spelled out, in part, in state law (751.12(3)) which provides in operative part that notices of the rules changes, including the entire text of the rules change, be published in newspapers and the State Bar’s official publication.

Under AB 443 and SB 346 filed this week, however, the full text would be provided on the Court’s website.

Proposed rules, including changes, if any, in existing rules, shall be set forth in full in the notice placed on the Internet site maintained by the director of state courts for the supreme court.

The Assembly version of the bill was heard yesterday (10/29) in the State Affairs and Government Operations Committee, while the Senate version cleared that chamber’s Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety yesterday as well.