Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction for failure to protect a child from sexual assault and first-degree sexual assault of a child under thirteen as a party to a crime. Contrary to Defendant’s arguments on appeal, the Supreme Court concluded that Defendant’s convictions were proper, holding (1) Defendant’s convictions were not multiplicitous and thus did not violate double jeopardy because failure to protect a child from sexual assault and first-degree sexual assault of a child under thirteen as a party to a crime are not identical in fact; (2) Defendant failed to overcome the presumption that the legislature intended cumulative punishments for her conduct, given that her conduct consistent of two separate acts; and (3) Defendant’s claim of ineffective assistance of counsel was without merit. View "State v. Steinhardt" on Justia Law

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The policy and practice of the Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ) of creating and disseminating criminal history reports in a manner that sometimes indicate that some individuals who are innocent of any criminal activity have a criminal activity violates Petitioners’ constitutional rights. Petitioners challenged the DOJ’s policy and practice of creating and disseminating criminal history reports that wrongly imply that certain individuals have a criminal activity. The circuit court granted judgment in favor of the DOJ. Petitioners argued that Wis. Stat. 19.70 requires the DOJ to correct or supplement its record production when it inaccurately ascribes a criminal history to an innocent person and that the failure to correct inaccuracies violates their right to procedural and substantive due process and their equal protection rights. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, holding that the DOJ’s criminal history search reports violate Petitioners' rights, and Petitioners are to be afforded prospective relief sufficient to protect those rights. View "Teague v. Schimel" on Justia Law

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Two motorcyclists died when Defendant’s vehicle collided with them on a highway. Defendant pleaded guilty to two counts of hit and run resulting in death. The circuit court sentenced Defendant to ten years’ imprisonment and ten years’ extended supervision for each count, with the term of imprisonment for the first count to be served consecutive to the term of imprisonment for the second count. Defendant challenged his sentences on appeal, arguing, inter alia, that he was unconstitutionally punished for two counts of hit and run resulting in death even though he only committed a single offense - fleeing from the scene. The Supreme Court affirmed the sentence, holding (1) Defendant committed two offenses when he fled from the scene of the accident, and the legislature authorized punishment for each offense; and (2) the circuit court did not impose an unduly harsh sentence. View "State v. Pal" on Justia Law

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Defendant was charged with obstructing an officer. The State Public Defender (SPD) appointed a lawyer. Thereafter, three appointed attorneys withdrew in rapid succession. The circuit court determined that Defendant had forfeited his right to appointed counsel, and the SPD denied Defendant’s request for a fourth attorney. Defendant represented himself at the one-day trial, and the jury found him guilty of obstruction. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) right-to-counsel warnings in forfeiture cases and the procedures suggested by the dissent in State v. Cummings are strongly recommended but not required; and (2) after applying the standard enunciated in State v. Cummings to this case, it is clear that Defendant forfeited his constitutional right to counsel by engaging in voluntary and deliberate conduct that frustrated the progression of his case and interfered with the proper administration of justice. View "State v. Suriano" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of the crime of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated - fourth offense. Defendant requested a new trial, arguing that his trial attorney provided ineffective assistance by failing to object to the prosecutor’s statements that Defendant had refused to submit to a breathalyzer test following his arrest for drunk driving. Specifically, Defendant claimed that he possessed a constitutional right to refuse to take a warrantless breathalyzer test such that the prosecutor was not permitted to seek an inference of guilt from the refusal, and therefore, his trial attorney should have objected to the prosecutor’s statements. The circuit court denied the postconviction motion with a hearing. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) upon Defendant’s arrest for drunk driving he had no constitutional or statutory right to refuse to take the breathalyzer test; (2) therefore, the State could comment at trial on Defendant's improper refusal to take the test; and (3) accordingly, Defendant’s attorney did not render ineffective assistance of counsel in failing to argue contrary to controlling precedent. View "State v. Lemberger" on Justia Law

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Defendant was charged with burglary, possession of burglarious tools, criminal damage to property, and criminal trespass, each as a repeater. Defendant filed a motion to suppress seeking to prevent the prosecution from using at trial Defendant’s statement, “they caught me,” that Defendant made to detectives at the county jail. The circuit court denied the motion, concluding that there was no violation of Defendant’s right to be free from self-incrimination. Thereafter, a jury found Defendant guilty on all four counts. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that the question that preceded Defendant’s statement did not constitute interrogation, and therefore, Miranda warnings were not required. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the State did not compel Defendant to be a witness against himself. View "State v. Harris" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of operating while intoxicated and operating with a prohibited alcohol concentration, both as third offenses. Defendant appealed the denial of his motion to suppress all evidence obtained during a traffic stop, claiming that the arresting officer lacked reasonable suspicion. Before the court could hold a suppression hearing, the officer died. The court of appeals affirmed the denial of Defendant’s motion to suppress, concluding that the use of the deceased officer’s recorded statements at the suppression hearing did not violate Defendant’s rights under the Confrontation Clause or the Due Process Clause. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Confrontation Clause protects a defendant’s right to confrontation at trial but not at suppression hearings; and (2) in this case, the admission of the deceased officer’s recorded statements during the suppression hearing did not deprive Defendant of due process. View "State v. Zamzow" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of three counts of first-degree sexual assault of a child. Defendant filed a motion for postconviction relief, alleging that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. The circuit court denied the motion. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that testimony given by Catherine Gainey, the social worker who conducted a cognitive graphic interview with the child victim, violated the Haseltine rule and that Defendant’s counsel was ineffective for failing to object. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Gainey’s testimony did not violate the Haseltine rule and was therefore admissible, and accordingly, Defendant’s counsel was not ineffective for failing to object to Gainey’s testimony; and (2) Defendant’s remaining claims of ineffective assistance of counsel were without merit. View "State v. Maday" on Justia Law

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Universal Processing Services of Wisconsin, LLC, d/b/a Newtek brought a lawsuit against one of its independent sales agents, Samuel Hicks, and his Idaho company, Merchant Card Services (collectively, Hicks). Here, Newtek petitioned the Supreme Court for a supervisory writ, asking the Court to exercise its constitutional authority to vacate an order of the circuit court appointing a retired judge as the referee and to vacate purportedly unlawful orders of the referee issued pursuant to the reference. In support of its petition, Newtek argued that the circuit court’s order appointing the referee expanded the role of the referee into the role of de facto circuit court judge in violation of the Wisconsin Constitution and Wis. Stat. 805.06. The Supreme Court reversed the orders of the circuit court and remanded, holding that the order of reference impermissibly delegated to the referee judicial power constitutionally vested in Wisconsin’s unified court system and infringed on the legislature’s authority to define a circuit court’s appellate jurisdiction. View "Universal Processing Services v. Circuit Court of Milwaukee County" on Justia Law

Posted in: Constitutional Law

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Madison, Wis., Gen. Ordinances 3.14(4)(h) created the City of Madison’s Department of Transportation and Transit and Parking Commission and empowered the Commission to establish rules and procedures. In 2005, The Commission adopted a Rule prohibiting passengers from bearing weapons on the Metro Transit. Petitioners sought to harmonize the Rule with the Concealed-Carry Statute, Wis. Stat. 175.60, which authorized Wisconsin residents to carry concealed weapons upon obtaining the required license. Petitioners filed an amended complaint arguing that Madison, Wis., Gen. Ordinances 3.14(4)(h) offended the Local Regulation Statute, Wis. Stat. 66.0409. The circuit court dismissed the amended complaint, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the Local Regulation Statute has withdrawn authority from the City, either through its governing body or its sub-units, to regulate the subjects identified in the statute in a manner more stringent than an analogous state statute; and (2) the Concealed-Carry Statute preempts the City’s authority to restrict a licensee’s right to carry concealed weapons on the City’s buses so long as the licensee complies with the statute’s requirements. View "Wisconsin Carry, Inc. v. City of Madison" on Justia Law