Justia Wisconsin Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law
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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 affirmed the decision of the Board of Review for the City of Kenosha classifying certain property as residential, holding that the Board's determination to sustain the residential classification was supported by sufficient evidence.The City assessor valued the subject property at $89,800 and classified it as residential for property tax purposes. On appeal, Appellant argued that the property should be classified as residential. The Board sustained the assessor's classification. The circuit court and court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Board acted according to law when it looked for more than minimal agricultural use in evaluating whether the property was devoted primarily to agricultural use; (2) the Board did not err in considering the prospective residential use of the property; and (3) the Board's determination to sustain the residential classification was supported by sufficient evidence. View "Nudo Holdings, LLC v. Board of Review for the City of Kenosha" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals, which summarily affirmed the decision of the circuit court affirming the results of a referendum recount conducted pursuant to Wis. Stat. 9.01, holding that Wis. Stat. 7.54 does not apply when an appeal of the result of a recount by the board of canvassers is before an appellate court.On review, Petitioners - James Sewell and George Myers - argued that the Racine Unified School District Board of Canvassers mistakenly calculated the recount's vote totals and that Sewell had an absolute right under section 7.54 to have the ballots opened and reviewed in circuit court. The circuit court affirmed the Board of Canvassers' recount, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that while section 7.54 appears to provide an occasion to utilize its provisions in regard to a contested election, it did not apply in this case. View "Sewell v. Racine Unified School District Board of Canvassers" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Department of Workforce Development rejecting Eden Senior Care's application to succeed the unemployment insurance account of Friendly Village Nursing and Rehab's previous owner, holding that Eden failed to demonstrate excusable neglect for the untimely filing of its application.After purchasing Friendly Village, Eden untimely filed its successorship application. The Labor and Industry Review Commission concluded that the record was insufficient to establish that Eden's application was late because of excusable neglect. Eden appealed, arguing that the Commission erred in failing to consider whether the interests-of-justice factors supported a finding of excusable neglect. The circuit court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Commission applied the correct legal standard; and (2) there was no basis on which to excuse Eden's neglect in filing its successorship application after the statutory deadline. View "Friendly Village Nursing and Rehab, LLC v. State, Department of Workforce Development" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the circuit court's order that allowed the City of Waukesha to seek certiorari review of a tax assessment determination of the City of Waukesha Board of Review, holding that Wis. Stat. 70.47 did not allow the City to seek certiorari review of a decision of the Board.At issue on appeal was whether a municipality can seek certiorari review of a determination of the municipality's board of review. The Supreme Court answered the question in the negative, holding that section 70.47 does not allow the City to seek certiorari review of a decision of the Board. View "City of Waukesha v. City of Waukesha Board of Review" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court deciding that the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) had the explicit authority to impose and animal unit maximum condition and an off-site groundwater monitoring condition upon a Wisconsin Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (WPDES) it reissued to Kinnard Farms, Inc. for its concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO), holding that the circuit court did not err.On review, the circuit court concluded that the DNR had the explicit authority to impose the animal unit maximum and off-site groundwater monitoring conditions on Kinnard's reissued WPDES permit pursuant to Wis. Stat. 283.31(3)-(5) and related regulations. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the DNR had the explicit authority to prescribe the animal unit maximum condition and the off-site groundwater monitoring condition. View "Clean Wisconsin, Inc. v. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources" on Justia Law

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In this case concerning eight applications to operate high capacity groundwater wells the Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court with a modification that the circuit court remand all eight well applications to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), holding that the DNR erroneously interpreted the law in concluding that it had no authority to consider the environmental effects of the wells at issue.The eight well applications did not require a formal environmental review, but the DNR had information that the wells would negatively impact the environment. The DNR, however, approved the applications, concluding that it had no authority to consider the proposed wells' environmental effects. The circuit court vacated the DNR's approval of the wells. The Supreme Court affirmed as modified, holding that the DNR erred in interpreting Wis. Stat. 227.10(2m) as a bar to considering a proposed high capacity well's potentially adverse environmental effects for which an environmental review was not otherwise required. The Court modified the circuit court's order with instruction that it remand all eight applications to the DNR. View "Clean Wisconsin, Inc. v. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the order of the circuit court that reversed the Department of Administration's approval of a cooperative plan (Plan) between the Village of Kekoskee and the Town of Williamstown and remanded the matter back to the Department, holding that the Department erroneously interpreted Wis. Stat. 66.0307(2) in approving the Plan.The circuit court concluded that section 66.0307(2), the cooperative plan statute, did not permit municipalities to use cooperative plans to absorb and entire town into a village. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that the Plan changed the City of Mayville's boundary line such that Mayville was required to be a party to the Plan. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Mayville had standing to seek judicial review of the Plan; (2) the Plan changed Mayville's boundary line, and therefore, section 66.0307(2) required that Mayville be a party to the Plan; and (3) because Mayville was not a party to the Plan, the Department erred in approving the Plan. View "City of Mayville v. State of Wisconsin Department of Administration" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the circuit court denying The Mix Up's motion for temporary injunctive relief challenging Emergency Order 3 issued by the Department of Health Services (DHS) Secretary-designee, Andrea Palm, holding that the order met the definition of a rule and should have been promulgated according to statutory rulemaking procedures.Emergency Order 3 was issued as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic and limited the size of indoor public gatherings. Plaintiffs initiated this lawsuit, alleging that the order was a rule and that DHS did not undertake proper rulemaking procedures. The circuit court granted Plaintiffs' motion for an ex parte temporary injunction. The Mix Up was granted intervention and moved for a temporary injunction. The circuit court vacated the ex part order denying The Mix Up's motion for temporary injunctive relief. The court of appeals reversed, holding that the order was invalid and unenforceable as a matter of law. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Emergency Order 3 met the definition of a rule, and therefore, the order should have been promulgated according to rule making procedures set forth in Wis. Stat. ch. 227; and (2) therefore, Emergency Order 3 was not validly enacted and was unenforceable. View "Tavern League of Wisconsin, Inc. v. Palm" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the circuit court's writ of mandamus and contempt orders in this case, holding that Wis. Stat. 6.50(3) does not place a positive and plain duty on the Wisconsin Elections Commission to change the registration status of eligible voters when receiving reliable information that the elector moved out of their municipality.Petitioners sought a writ of mandamus against the Commission and its commissioners to carry out the instructions set forth in section 6.50(3) and change the registration of electors who may have moved. The circuit court granted the writ and later found several commissioners in contempt after the Commission failed to comply. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the writ was erroneously granted. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court erred by issuing a writ of mandamus ordering the Commission to carry out the requirements of section 6.50(e) because the Commission has no statutory duty, and therefore, no plain and positive duty, to carry out the requirements of the statute. View "Zignego v. Wisconsin Elections Commission" on Justia Law