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A majority of the Supreme Court held that the Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Evers, may select his own lawyer to represent him in an action in which he has been sued in his official capacity, thus rejecting Petitioners’ argument that the Wisconsin Constitution and applicable statutes require the Department of Justice (DOJ) to represent Evers. Petitioners sought a declaratory judgment that Evers and the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) must comply with the REINS Act, 2017 Wis. Act 57. A dispute arose between DPI and DOJ regarding which entity would provide representation for Evers and DPI in this case. Evers and DPI claimed that they would not refer the matter to DOJ for representation. DOJ moved to strike the appearance by DPI’s in-house counsel. The Supreme Court held (1) Evers and DPI were entitled to counsel of their choice and were not required to be represented by DOJ; and (2) the governor was not a necessary party to this action. View "Koschkee v. Evers" on Justia Law

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In this challenge to the legislatively-enacted cap of $750,000 on noneconomic damages for victims of medical malpractice set forth in Wis. Stat. 893.55, the Supreme Court held that section 893.55 is facially constitutional and constitutional as applied to Plaintiffs. Plaintiffs were awarded noneconomic damages of $16,500,000 in a medical malpractice action. The defendant moved to reduce the jury’s noneconomic damage award to $750,000, as required by the cap. Plaintiffs moved for entry of judgment on the verdict as well as for declaratory judgment that Wis. Stat. 655.017 and 893.55(4) are unconstitutional facially and as applied to Plaintiffs. Relying on Ferdon ex rel. Petrucelli v. Wisconsin Patients Compensation Fund, 701 N.W.2d 440 (Wis. 2005), the circuit court held that the cap was unconstitutional as applied to Plaintiffs on equal protection and due process grounds. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that the statutory cap on noneconomic damages was unconstitutional on its face because it violated the principles articulated in Ferdon. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the $750,00 cap on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice judgments and settlements is constitutional both facially and as applied to Plaintiffs; and (2) Ferdon is overruled because it erroneously invaded the province of the legislature and applied an erroneous standard of review. View "Mayo v. Wisconsin Injured Patients & Families Compensation Fund" on Justia Law

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Wis. Stat. 157.067(2) and 445.12(6) (the anti-combination laws), which prohibit the joint ownership or operation of a cemetery and a funeral home, do not violate the equal protection or due process clauses of the Wisconsin and United States Constitutions. The circuit court concluded that the anti-combination laws are constitutional because they are rationally related to a number of legitimate government interests. On appeal, the parties disagreed on the proper scope of rational basis review and whether the anti-combination laws have a rational basis. The court of appeals concluded that, regardless of the scope of rational basis review employed, the anti-combination laws were not unconstitutional. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, applying the standard set forth in Mayo v. Wisconsin Injured Patients & Families Compensation Fund, __ N.W.2d __ (Wis. 2018), the anti-combination statutes do not violate the equal protection or due process clauses of the state and federal Constitutions because they are rationally related to the legitimate government interests of protecting the welfare of vulnerable consumers and limiting the manipulation of funds required to be held in trust by funeral directors and cemetery operators. View "Porter v. State" on Justia Law

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The term “processing” in Wis. Stat. 77.52(2)(a)11. includes the separation of river segment into its component parts. The Wisconsin Department of Revenue imposed a tax on Petitioners pursuant to section 77.52(2)(a)11. for the “processing” of river sediments into reusable sand, waste sludge, and water. The Wisconsin Tax Appeals Commission upheld the Department’s determination. Petitioners filed a petition for judicial review, arguing that the term “processing” is not expansive enough to cover the separation of river sediment into its component parts. The circuit court and court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Petitioners were liable for the sales and use tax imposed by section 77.52(2); and (2) although the Court has decided to end the practice of deferring to administrative agencies’ conclusions of law, pursuant to Wis. Stat. 227.57(10), the Court will give “due weight” to the experience, technical competence, and specialized knowledge of an administrative agency as it considers its arguments. View "Tetra Tech EC, Inc. v. Wisconsin Department of Revenue" on Justia Law

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In this dispute over unemployment compensation benefits, the Supreme Court held that the plain language of Wis. Stat. 108.04(5)(e) allows an employer to adopt its own absenteeism policy that differs from the policy set forth in the statute. Further, termination for the violation of the employer’s absenteeism policy will result in disqualification from receiving unemployment compensation benefits even if the employer’s absenteeism policy is more restrictive than the policy set forth in section 108.04(5)(e). Employee was denied unemployment compensation on the ground that she was terminated for “misconduct” - namely, absenteeism, as defined by section 108.04(5)9e). The circuit court concluded that an employer’s violation of the employer’s absenteeism rules constitutes “misconduct” under section 108.04(5)(e) barring unemployment compensation benefits. The court of appeals disagreed, holding that an employee who is terminated for violating an employer’s absenteeism rules is not barred from obtaining unemployment benefits unless the employee’s conduct violates the statutory definition of misconduct based on absenteeism. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Employee was properly denied benefits under the circumstances of this case. View "Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development v. Wisconsin Labor & Industry Review Commission" on Justia Law

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The Labor and Industry Review Commission’s version of the “inference method” of finding discriminatory intent is inconsistent with Wis. Stat. 111.322(1) because it excuses the employee from his burden of proving discriminatory intent. Employee argued that Employer intentionally discriminated against him when it terminated his employment because of his disability. LIRC agreed and concluded that Employer violated the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act (WFEA). The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) LIRC’s version of the “inference method” impermissibly allows imposition of WFEA liability without proof of discriminatory intent, which is inconsistent with the requirements of section 11.322(1); and (2) the record lacked substantial evidence that Employer terminated Employee’s employment because of his disability. View "Wisconsin Bell, Inc. v. Labor & Industry Review Commission" 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 negligent handling of a dangerous weapon and denying Defendant’s postconviction motions. Post-conviction, Defendant filed two motions challenging the sufficiency of the evidence and the jury instructions relating to Defendant’s defenses of accident and self-defense. The circuit court denied the motions. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the jury instructions, taken as a whole, accurately stated the law, and therefore, there was no basis for Defendant’s claim of ineffective assistance of counsel and no due process violation; and (2) there was sufficient evidence to support the jury’s verdict. View "State v. Langlois" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court ordering Defendant to be involuntarily medicated to competency for purposes of participating in postconviction proceedings. Several years after being convicted of several crimes, Defendant sought to pursue postconviction relief. Defendant’s counsel asked for a competency evaluation. After a competency evaluation, the circuit court found that Defendant was not competent to proceed with his postconviction motion for relief and was not competent to refuse medication and treatment. The court then ordered Defendant to be involuntarily medicated to competency for purposes of participating in postconviction proceedings. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that because the circuit court did not follow the mandatory procedure set forth in State v. Debra A.E., 523 N.W.2d 727 (Wis. 1994), the involuntary medication order was issued prematurely and was invalid. View "State v. Scott" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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A right to visibility of private property from a public road is not a cognizable right giving rise to a protected property interest. Adams Outdoor Advertising Limited Partnership brought a takings claim against the City of Madison, asserting that its property was taken when the City constructed a pedestrian bridge over the Beltline Highway that blocked the visibility from the highway of the west-facing side of Adams’ billboard. The court of appeals affirmed the circuit court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the City, concluding that Adams failed to demonstrate a cognizable right underlying its asserted protected property interest. On appeal to the Supreme Court, Adams argued that a taking occurred because the City deprived it of all economically beneficial use of the west-facing side of its billboard. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that Adams’ taking claim failed. View "Adams Outdoor Advertising Limited Partnership v. City of Madison" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals reinstating Defendant’s conviction for sexually assaulting a young girl after the circuit court set the conviction aside on the grounds that Defendant received constitutionally ineffective assistance of counsel. The Court held (1) the court of appeals properly conducted the analysis required under Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984), and found that Defendant’s counsel performed as required by the Constitution; (2) expert testimony at a Machner hearing regarding the reasonableness of trial counsel’s performance is not admissible; and (3) the circuit court did not improperly rely on Defendant’s lack of remorse when it fashioned his sentence. View "State v. Pico" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law