Justia Wisconsin Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Constitutional Law
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In this original action requesting a declaration that the governor exceeded his constitutional authority in partially vetoing appropriation bills the Supreme Court declared that the vetoes to the school bus modernization fund, the local roads improvement fund, and the vapor products tax were unconstitutional and invalid.Petitioners asserted that four series of partial vetoes in 2019 Wis. Act 9 - the state's 2019-21 biennial budget bill - were unconstitutional. While no rationale had the support of a majority of the Supreme Court, a majority reached a conclusion with respect to the constitutionality of each series of vetoes. The Supreme Court declared rights such that the vetoes to the school bus modernization fund, local roads improvement fund, and vapor products tax were unconstitutional and granted relief such that the portions of the enrolled bills that were vetoed are in full force and effect as drafted by the legislature. View "Bartlett v. Evers" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed this original action challenging whether two partial vetoes in the 2017-19 biennial budget exceeded the governor's constitutional authority, holding that this action was barred by the equitable doctrine of laches.Two of the governor's vetoes struck individual digits from dates written in numeral form. Petitioners argued that the digit vetoes violated the constitutional prohibition against creating new words by striking individual letters in words. The biennial budget was enacted in September 2017, and Petitioners waited until October 2019 to file this action. Respondents urged the Supreme Court not to reach the merits in Petitioners' petition for original action and instead to bar the action pursuant to the doctrine of laches. The Supreme Court dismissed the original action, holding that where the 2017-19 biennium has closed and a new biennial budget as since been enacted relying in part on the law enacted in 2017, Respondents established the elements of laches and demonstrated that application of the equitable doctrine was appropriate in this case. View "Wisconsin Small Businesses United, Inc. v. Brennan" on Justia Law

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In this case arising from the enactment of 2017 Wis. Act 369 and 2017 Wis. Act 370 the Supreme Court held that Plaintiffs did not meet their high burden to demonstrate that the challenged provisions were unconstitutional in all of their applications, and therefore, the motion to dismiss the facial challenges to these claims should have been granted.The acts at issue were passed by the legislature and signed by the governor after the 2018 election but before the legislature, governor, and attorney general were sworn into office. Plaintiffs - several labor organizations and individual taxpayers - filed suit against the leaders of both houses of the legislature, the Governor, and the Attorney General, claiming that many of the enacted provisions violate separation of powers principles. The legislative defendants filed a motion to dismiss, which the circuit court denied. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding that for all provisions where arguments were sufficiently developed, the legislative defendants successfully showed that the motion to dismiss the facial challenge to these laws should have been granted. View "Service Employees International Union, Local 1 v. Vos" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming Defendant's conviction for possession with intent to deliver cocaine, holding that the Wisconsin Constitution permits law enforcement to ask drivers stopped for a traffic violation to exit the vehicle, inquire about the presence of weapons, and request consent to search the driver.Defendant moved to suppress the evidence found during the search of the vehicle, contending that it was fruit of an unlawful search because the arresting officer's actions unlawfully extended the stop, and he lacked reasonable suspicion. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the officer did not impermissibly extend Defendant's traffic stop beyond constitutional boundaries because his actions were negligently burdensome directly related to officer safety and therefore part of the stop's mission. View "State v. Brown" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming Defendant's conviction of homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle, holding that the circuit court did not err in its evidentiary rulings.On appeal, Defendant argued that the circuit court (1) improperly excluded the expert testimony of Dr. Lawrence White, and (2) erred in denying his motion to suppress statements that he made to law enforcement because he was not read the Miranda warnings or, in the alternative, because his statements were not voluntarily made. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court properly excluded Dr. White's exposition testimony on the grounds that it did not fit with the facts of Defendant's case; (2) Defendant was subject to custodial interrogation and was not read the Miranda warnings, but the admission of those statements was harmless error; and (3) all of Defendant's statements were voluntary. View "State v. Dobbs" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the circuit court's denial of Defendant's suppression motion, holding that the deputies in this case were not acting as bona fide community caretakers when they seized Defendant's vehicle without a warrant, and therefore, the seizure and ensuing inventory search were both unconstitutional.Defendant was stopped for speeding and had been driving with a suspended operators license. The deputies told Defendant that department policy required them to take the vehicle to an impound lot. Prior to the tow, the deputies conducted an inventory search of the vehicle and discovered a firearm. Defendant was arrested for possession of a firearm by a felon. Defendant moved to suppress the firearm, arguing that the "community caretaker" exception to the Fourth Amendment's warrant requirement did not justify seizure of the vehicle. The circuit court denied the motion. Defendant filed a motion for postconviction relief challenging the denial of his suppression motion. The circuit court denied the motion, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the deputies were not acting as community caretakers when they decided to impound Defendant's vehicle; and (2) therefore, the seizure and ensuing inventory search were unconstitutional. View "State v. Brooks" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals denying Appellant's petition for habeas corpus after Appellant previously sought Wis. Stat. 974.06 postconviction relief without success, holding that the circuit court is the appropriate forum for Appellant's claim that postconviction counsel was ineffective for failing to assert an ineffective trial counsel claim and that the language in State v. Starks, 833 N.W.2d 146 (Wis. 2013), is withdrawn to the extent it contradicts this conclusion.In both his habeas petition and postconviction motion, Appellant claimed that he received ineffective assistance of counsel for alleged errors that took place after his conviction. In ruling on Appellant's postconviction motion, the circuit court concluded that Appellant had sought relief in the wrong forum and should have instead filed a habeas petition. Appellant filed a habeas petition, which the court of appeals denied on the grounds that appellant should have instead filed an appeal of the circuit court's denial of his postconviction motion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the Knight/Rothering framework remains the correct mythology for determining the appropriate forum for a criminal defendant to file a claim relating to ineffective assistance of counsel after conviction; and (2) Appellant's original section 974.06 motion in the circuit court was properly filed. View "Warren v. Meisner" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the decision of the circuit court denying Defendant's motion to suppress evidence obtained from a warrantless search of Defendant's vehicle incident to his lawful arrest for operating while intoxicated (OWI), holding that the search was lawful because the police had reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.In affirming the denial of Defendant's motion to suppress, the court of appeals concluded that the lawful arrest for OWI, in and of itself, supplied a sufficient basis to search the passenger compartment of Defendant's vehicle and, specifically, a bag located behind the driver's seat that contained marijuana. The Supreme Court affirmed but on other grounds, holding (1) Defendant's lawful arrest for OWI, in and of itself, did not supply a sufficient basis to search the passenger compartment of Defendant's vehicle; but (2) based on the totality of the circumstances, the police had reasonable suspicion that the passenger compartment, and specifically, the bag might contain evidence of OWI. View "State v. Coffee" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that Wis. Stat. 51.61(1)(g), which permits the involuntary medication of an incompetent but non-dangerous inmate, is facially unconstitutional for any inmate who is involuntarily committed based on determinations that he was mentally ill and in need of treatment when the inmate is involuntarily medicated based merely on a determination that the inmate is incompetent to refuse medication.At issue before the Supreme Court was the circuit court's order of extension of commitment, order for involuntary medication and treatment, and order denying C.S.'s postcommitment motion. C.S., who suffered from schizophrenia, was committed while he was an inmate. Because he was determined incompetent to refuse medication pursuant to section 51.61(1)(g) he was the subject of multiple involuntary medication court orders. C.S. was committed not based upon a determination of dangerousness but, rather, on determinations that he was mentally ill and in need of treatment. C.S. argued that section 51.61(1)(g)(3 is unconstitutional when it permits the involuntary medication of any inmate committed under Wis. Stat. 51.20(1)(ar) without a determination that the inmate is dangerous. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that incompetence to refuse medication alone is not an essential or overriding State interest and cannot justify involuntary medication. View "Winnebago County v. C.S." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals rejecting Defendant's assertion that his second criminal prosecution violated the constitutional proscription of double jeopardy, holding that the State's second prosecution of Defendant for sexual assault did not violate the double jeopardy provisions of the Fifth Amendment or Article I, Section 8 of the Wisconsin Constitution.A jury acquitted Defendant of the charge of repeated sexual assault of a child for engaging in sexual intercourse with the victim, M.T., in "late summer to early fall of 2012." Thereafter, paternity tests revealed that Defendant was the father of M.T.'s child. The State subsequently charged Defendant with sexual assault of a child under sixteen years of age occurring "on or about October 19, 2012," the date it was determined the child was conceived. Defendant was convicted. Defendant moved for postconviction relief, asserting that his second prosecution violated the constitutional proscription of double jeopardy. The circuit court denied the motion, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the two cases against Defendant did not involve the "same offense" under the Double Jeopardy Clause. View "State v. Schultz" on Justia Law