Municipal Courts -
252 municipal courts
254 municipal judges
Milwaukee has the largest municipal court and three full-time municipal judges. Madison has the only other full-time municipal court
The majority of municipal court cases involve traffic, parking, and ordinance matters, including first-time drunken driving offenses. Juvenile matters, such as truancy, underage drinking, drug offenses and curfew violations are also a significant part of municipal court caseloads. The laws governing municipal courts include Wisconsin Statutes Chapter 800, Municipal Court Procedure and Wisconsin Statutes Chapter 755, Municipal Court
Common cases include:
Traffic, First offense drunk driving, Underage alcohol, Parking, Building code violations, Disorderly conduct
Trespass, Health code violations, Animal control violations, Truancy
Circuit Courts -
Single level trial court since 1978
249 circuit judges in 72 counties.
Judges elected countywide to six-year terms in non-partisan elections
Milwaukee County is the largest jurisdiction with 47 judges
30 counties have one judge each; smaller counties share a judge
The Wisconsin circuit courts are the state’s trial courts. The circuit courts are divided into branches with at least one branch in every county, with the exception of six counties that are paired off and share judges. The paired counties are: Buffalo/Pepin, Florence/Forest, and Shawano/Menominee. The first two pairs are each staffed by a single judge who travels between the courthouses; Menominee County is a federal reservation and both judges for this circuit are located in Shawano. Of the remaining circuits, 26 have a single judge and the largest circuit is Milwaukee County with 47 judges.
Judicial administrative districts - The state’s 72 counties are grouped into 10 judicial administrative districts. In each district there is a chief judge appointed by the Supreme Court. The chief judge, who may serve up to three consecutive two-year terms, supervises and directs the administration of the district. In carrying out these duties, the chief judge is charged by Supreme Court rule to cooperate with the director of state courts.
Each chief judge appoints a deputy chief judge to act in the event of his or her absence or unavailability. A professional district court administrator and a court management assistant, both employees of the director of state courts and permanently located in the district, assist the chief judge. The chief judges meet monthly as a committee, as do the district court administrators.
Clerks of circuit court are independently elected, constitutional officers who work in close cooperation with the chief judges, district court administrators, and staff of the Director of State Courts Office. The clerks provide management and administrative leadership in each circuit and are indispensable to the effective functioning of Wisconsin’s circuit courts.
The circuit courts are funded with a combination of state and county money. State funds are used to pay the salaries of the judges, official court reporters, and reserve judges (retired judges who are assigned to hear cases when the need arises). The state also funds travel and training for the judges.
By law, the counties are responsible for all other operating costs except those enumerated by statute. For those exceptions, which include among other things the costs of providing guardians ad litem (court-appointed attorneys), court-appointed witnesses, interpreters, and jurors, the state provides assistance in the form of statutory formula grants.
Court of Appeals -
Created in 1978 and originally designed to handle 1,200 cases per year
Mostly mandatory jurisdiction, meaning that litigants have the right to appeal their cases from the circuit court to the Court of Appeals
16 judges in four districts. Judges elected district wide to six-year terms
The Court of Appeals is the state’s intermediate appellate court. The court is composed of 16 judges from four districts headquartered in Milwaukee, Waukesha, Wausau, and Madison.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court appoints the chief judge of the Court of Appeals. The chief judge handles administrative matters for the entire Court of Appeals while continuing to participate fully in deciding cases. The chief judge term lasts three years.
Each of the four districts of the Court of Appeals is managed by a presiding judge, appointed by the chief judge of the Court of Appeals. The presiding judges take on these additional duties for two-year terms.
Supreme Court -
Seven justices elected statewide to 10-year terms
Court of last resort
Court reviews approximately 1,000 petitions per year and accepts between 100 and 120
The Wisconsin Supreme Court, composed of seven justices, is the state’s highest court. Located in the state Capitol, it has appellate jurisdiction over all Wisconsin courts and has discretion to determine which appeals it will hear. The Supreme Court may also hear original actions -- cases that have not been heard in a lower court. The court selects the cases it will review based on criteria described in the Wisconsin Statutes.
In addition to its case deciding function, the Supreme Court has administrative and regulatory authority over all Wisconsin courts and the practice of law in the state.
This information is from the Wisconsin Court System Website at http://wicourts.gov.
This informational was produced by SouthWest Wisconsin Area Progressives. The Southwest Wisconsin Area Progressives is a local democracy-in-action group advocating progressive government policies that work for a sustainable future. Our commitment to this progressivism is realized through an on going education of ourselves and other fellow citizens in an effort to know truth in current events.