Justia Wisconsin Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the circuit court's dismissal of Petitioner's petition for judicial review of two letters issued by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) on the grounds that the letters were not final agency decisions subject to judicial review, holding that the letters were not subject to judicial review.On appeal, Petitioner argued that one of the letters adversely affected its substantial interests and was subject to judicial review regardless of whether it constituted DNR's final decision and that the letter was sufficiently final to warrant judicial review. The Supreme Court disagreed and affirmed, holding (1) the letter did not adversely affect Petitioner's substantial interests; and (2) therefore, the letter was not subject to judicial review. View "Container Life Cycle Management, LLC v. Wis. Dep't of Natural Resources" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the decision of the circuit court denying Defendant's motion to suppress evidence, including a handgun, obtained as a result of an investigative stop, holding that, based on the totality of the circumstances, the officers had reasonable suspicion to believe Defendant was involved in criminal activity.Defendant was charged with being a felon in possession. Defendant filed a motion to suppress, arguing that the investigative stop leading to the discovery of the handgun violated his Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable seizure. The circuit court denied the motion, but the court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the officers did not violate Defendant's Fourth Amendment rights because they reasonably suspected Defendant was involved in criminal activity presenting an imminent threat to public safety. View "State v. Nimmer" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals dismissing as moot S.A.M.'s appeal of the order extending his voluntary commitment (recommitment) and affirmed the recommitment order, holding that the appeal of the expired recommitment order was not moot and that S.A.M.'s due process and insufficiency of the evidence claims were without merit.Sauk County successfully petitioned to have S.A.M. involuntary committed to its care for compelled treatment. Before the initial commitment order expired, the County petitioned to extend S.A.M.'s commitment. After a trial, the circuit court found grounds for a recommitment order. S.A.M. appealed, but the court of appeals dismissed the appeal because the recommitment order expired before the court could decide the merits of the appeal. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) two collateral consequences raised here rendered the appeal of the expired recommitment order not moot; but (2) on the merits, S.A.M.'s arguments were unavailing. View "Sauk County v. S.A.M." on Justia Law

Posted in: Health Law
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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming an order of the circuit court that granted partial summary judgment to Riverworks City Center, LLC after determining that Great Lakes Excavating, Inc. fully waived its construction lien, holding that the waiver document satisfied Wis. Stat. 779.05(1).Before signing the form lien waiver document the owner of Great Lakes cross of the words "To Date" in the document's title of "Waiver of Lien to Date" and replaced them with the handwritten word "Partial" with initials next to the change. On appeal, Great Lakes argued that the change limited the lien waiver to the amount received under Wis. Stat. 779.05(1) and that extrinsic evidence showed that all parties intended the waiver to be partial. The Supreme Court agreed and reversed, holding that the waiver document "specifically and expressly" limited the waiver under the statute. View "Great Lakes Excavating, Inc. v. Dollar Tree Stores, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Construction Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction for one count of second-degree sexual assault and one count of misdemeanor bail jumping, holding that the circuit court erred in admitting the victim's testimony regarding her lack of sexual intercourse the week prior the sexual assault but that the error was harmless.At issue was whether the victim's lack of sexual intercourse was prior "sexual conduct" pursuant to Wis. Stat. 972.11(2)(a)-(b) (the "rape shield" statute). The Supreme Court held (1) the brand language use to define "sexual conduct" in the rape shield statute's prohibition includes evidence regarding the victim's lack of sexual intercourse; and (2) while the victim's testimony regarding her lack of sexual intercourse was improperly admitted, the error in admitting the testimony was harmless. View "State v. Mulhern" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing Defendant's convictions on fifteen counts of sexual assault, fourteen of which consisted of first-degree and second-degree sexual assault of a child and one count of repeated sexual assault of a child, holding that sufficient evidence supported the convictions.The court of appeals affirmed Defendant's convictions for six counts but reversed his convictions for the remaining counts, concluding that the evidence was insufficient to find Defendant guilty on those counts. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the sufficiency of the evidence should be evaluated according to the jury instructions; and (2) there was sufficient evidence for a jury to find Defendant guilty on all fifteen counts at issue. View "State v. Coughlin" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals summarily affirming the judgment of the circuit court granting the State's motion to dismiss the operating while intoxicated (OWI) count against Defendant and entering judgment against Defendant on the count of operating with a prohibited alcohol concentration (PAC), holding that there was no error.The circuit court issued a search warrant to draw Defendant's blood based on the affidavit of a police officer. Defendant's blood was drawn, revealing a blood alcohol level of an amount well above the legal limit. The State charged Defendant with fourth offense OWI, fourth offense PAC, and resisting an officer. After the circuit court denied Defendant's motion to suppress a jury found Defendant guilty of OWI and PAC. The circuit court dismissed the OWI count and entered judgment on the PAC count. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the warrant was supported by probable cause. View "State v. Green" on Justia Law

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M.W. has been under Wis. Stats. ch. 51 mental health commitment orders since 2006. In August 2020, Sheboygan County again filed a petition to extend her commitment and sought an order for involuntary medication and treatment. The circuit court held a hearing at which three witnesses testified: a doctor, who examined M.W., a case worker assigned to M.W., and M.W. The circuit court granted the County's petition. The court of appeals reversed and remanded.The Wisconsin Supreme Court reversed. The court has previously announced that "going forward circuit courts in recommitment proceedings are to make specific factual findings with reference to the subdivision paragraph of Wis. Stat. 51.20(1)(a)2. on which the recommitment is based." The court of appeals here determined that the circuit court failed to make such findings. M.W. argued that outright reversal is the proper remedy for the violation. The Wisconsin Supreme Court concluded that the recommitment order at issue has expired, so the circuit court lacks the competency to conduct any proceedings on remand. Therefore, reversal is the appropriate remedy. View "Sheboygan County v. M.W." on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure
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The Supreme Court held that the public records law's general prohibition on pre-release judicial review of decisions to provide access to public records barred the claims brought by Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and two other trade associations (WMC) seeking to stop the release of certain records.After the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel made public records requests to the Department of Health Services (DHS) for documents related to the COVID-19 pandemic WMC learned that DHS planned to respond by releasing a list of all Wisconsin businesses with more than twenty-five employees that have had at least two employees test positive for COVID-19 or that have had close case contacts. WMC brought this action seeking declaratory and injunctive relief to stop the release. The circuit court granted a temporary injunction. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that WMC's complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted because its claim was barred by Wis. Stat. 19.356(1). View "Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce v. Evers" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that Wisconsin's operating while intoxicated (OWI) graduated-penalty scheme is unconstitutional to the extent it counts prior revocations for refusing to submit to a warrantless blood draw as offenses for the purpose of increasing the criminal penalty.When Defendant was convicted of his sixth OWI offense the court counted as one of his six prior offenses a 1996 temporary revocation of Defendant's driving privileges for refusing to submit to a warrantless blood draw, which led to Defendant receiving a longer sentence. On appeal, Defendant argued that Wisconsin's graduated-penalty scheme for OWI offenses is unconstitutional because it threatens criminal penalties for those who exercise their Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that Wis. Stat. 343.307(1) and 346.65(2)(am) are unconstitutional to the extent that they count as offenses prior revocations resulting solely from a person's refusal to submit to a warrantless blood draw for the purpose of increasing the criminal penalty. View "State v. Forrett" on Justia Law