Felony Appeals: A Comparison of Wisconsin’s Supreme Court with the Courts of other States

A forthcoming article (“State Criminal Appeals Revealed”) in the Vanderbilt Law Review furnishes the impetus for today’s post on felony appeals in the Wisconsin Supreme Court.  Utilizing a dataset released recently by the Bureau of Justice Statistics and the National Center for State Courts—described in the law review article as “the first and only publicly available national dataset on state criminal appeals”—the authors (Michael Heise, Nancy J. King, and Nicole Heise) derived their information from a random, “nationally representative probability sample of criminal appeals resolved in 2010” by state supreme courts and lower appellate courts across the nation.[1][Continue Reading…]

Wisconsin Supreme Court Statistics, 1982-1983

These tables are derived from information contained in 133 Wisconsin Supreme Court decisions that were turned up in a Lexis search for decisions filed between September 1, 1982, and August 31, 1983.  The total of 133 decisions does not include rulings arising from (1) disciplinary proceedings against lawyers, and (2) various motions and petitions.  Nor does the total include State ex rel. James Sykes v. Circuit Court for Milwaukee County, in which review was dismissed on grounds of mootness.

Also excluded are (1) In the Matter of Implementation of Felony Sentencing Guidelines, and (2) Report of Committee to Review the State Bar.  These were actions without case numbers, briefing, or oral argument and that resulted in per curiam decisions.

The tables are available as a complete set and by individual topic in the subsets listed below.

Four-to-Three Decisions
Decisions Arranged by Vote Split
Frequency of Justices in the Majority
Distribution of Opinion Authorship
Frequency of Agreement Between Pairs of Justices
Average Time Between Oral Argument and Opinions Authored by Each Justice
Number of Oral Arguments Presented by Individual Firms and Agencies

 

Justice Kelly a Maverick? An Update on Fourth Amendment Cases

We now have opinions by two new justices and decisions from three more terms (2014-15 through 2016-17) to add to our initial discussion of Fourth Amendment cases, so it’s time for an update.[1]   A number of recent developments are noteworthy, including the growing portion of the docket devoted to Fourth Amendment cases, which represented a larger percentage of the court’s cases during the past three years than in any other three-year period of the 22 terms under consideration.  As shown in Table 1, the 2016-17 term surpassed all others in this regard, when 18% of the court’s decisions addressed Fourth Amendment arguments, and the second highest figure (15%) was recorded in 2014-15.  In broader perspective, the six highest percentages all came during the last nine terms, when the court’s share of Fourth Amendment cases (10%) doubled the average for the previous 13 terms.[2][Continue Reading…]

Wisconsin Supreme Court Statistics, 1983-1984

These tables are derived from information contained in 118 Wisconsin Supreme Court decisions that were turned up in a Lexis search for decisions filed between September 1, 1983, and August 31, 1984.  The total of 118 decisions does not include rulings arising from (1) disciplinary proceedings against lawyers and judges, and (2) various motions and petitions.

In re Judicial Administration: Felony Sentencing Guidelines, a per curiam decision in which the court declined an invitation from the legislature to issue felony sentencing guidelines, is not included in any of the following tables.  This action had no case number, and there was no briefing or oral argument.

The tables are available as a complete set and by individual topic in the subsets listed below.

Four-to-Three Decisions
Decisions Arranged by Vote Split
Frequency of Justices in the Majority
Distribution of Opinion Authorship
Frequency of Agreement Between Pairs of Justices
Average Time Between Oral Argument and Opinions Authored by Each Justice
Number of Oral Arguments Presented by Individual Firms and Agencies

 

The Voting Records of Justices Crooks and Prosser and Justices Rebecca Bradley and Kelly: Some Comparisons

After a decade and a half of relatively frequent turnover, the supreme court’s membership did not change from 2008-09 through 2014-15.  During these seven terms, the justices were often placed along a spectrum that included two “liberals” (Justices Abrahamson and Ann Walsh Bradley) and three “conservatives” (Justices Roggensack, Ziegler, and Gableman), with the remaining justices (Crooks and Prosser) situated between these two groups, but closer to the “conservatives.”

Over the next two years, though, the death of Justice Crooks and the retirement of Justice Prosser brought two new justices (Rebecca Bradley and Daniel Kelly) to the court—and raised the question of how their voting has compared with that of the justices whom they replaced.  Have they occupied roughly the same position on the spectrum as Justices Crooks and Prosser, or has their presence contributed to significant changes in the court’s voting patterns?  Posts currently under consideration may explore this question with regard to specific issues or categories of cases, but today we offer a broader examination of the four justices’ votes.[Continue Reading…]

Wisconsin Supreme Court Statistics, 1984-1985

These tables are derived from information contained in 83 Wisconsin Supreme Court decisions that were turned up in a Lexis search for decisions filed between September 1, 1984, and August 31, 1985.  The total of 83 decisions does not include rulings arising from (1) disciplinary proceedings against lawyers and judges, and (2) various motions and petitions.

In addition to the 83 cases mentioned above, there was also a 4-3 per curiam decision (State v. Gustafson).  It is included only in the opinion authorship table (because Justice Abrahamson wrote a dissent) and in the oral argument table.

The tables are available as a complete set and by individual topic according to the subsets listed below.

Four-to-Three Decisions
Decisions Arranged by Vote Split
Frequency of Justices in the Majority
Distribution of Opinion Authorship
Frequency of Agreement Between Pairs of Justices
Average Time Between Oral Argument and Opinions Authored by Each Justice
Number of Oral Arguments Presented by Individual Firms and Agencies

 

The 2016-17 Term: Some More Impressions

Last August, a SCOWstats post examined three aspects of the just-completed 2015-16 term: (1) the number of concurrences and dissents per decision, (2) the number of days between oral argument and decision filing, and (3) the number of pages per decision.  In all three instances the post reported a sizeable increase over the numbers from 2014-15, and today we return to these topics to determine how 2016-17 measures up against 2015-16.[Continue Reading…]

Wisconsin Supreme Court Statistics, 2016-2017

These tables are derived from information contained in 50 Wisconsin Supreme Court decisions filed between September 1, 2016, and the end of the court’s term in July, 2017.[1]  The total of 50 decisions does not include the following items contained in the Supreme Court’s listing of opinions and dispositional orders for this period: (1) decisions arising from bar-admission issues and disciplinary proceedings against lawyers; and (2) orders pertaining to various motions and petitions.

Maya Elaine Smith v. Jeff Anderson, which resulted in a 3-2 per curiam decision that review had been improvidently granted, is not included.

Sometimes the Court’s listing of opinions and dispositional orders contains separate entries for individual cases that were consolidated and resolved by a single decision.  If two or more cases were consolidated in this manner, the decision is counted only once for the purposes of the following tables. 

In addition to the 50 decisions noted above, a deadlocked (3-3) per curiam decision was filed in Scott Smith v. Greg Kleynerman.  This is included only in the “Number of Oral Arguments Presented” table. 

The tables are available as a complete set and by individual topic according to the subsets listed below.

Four-to-Three Decisions
Decisions Arranged by Vote Split
Frequency of Justices in the Majority
Distribution of Opinion Authorship
Frequency of Agreement Between Pairs of Justices
Average Time Between Oral Argument and Opinions Authored by Each Justice
Number of Oral Arguments Presented by Individual Firms and Agencies

 

[1] According to the Clerk’s office, no additional substantive decisions will be filed after July 7.  The decisions may be found on the Wisconsin Court System website.

Fantasy League Salutes its Stars

Now that the raucous merriment has subsided following last weekend’s Second Annual Awards Banquet, it’s time to post the season’s final reckoning—and summarize the evening’s highlights for those unable to attend the gala.  For the second year in a row, the Gavels of the State Public Defender’s Office hoisted the Commissioner’s Trophy as league champions, and attorney Kaitlin Lamb was honored as the league’s MVP.  This award is only bestowed in years when an individual clearly stands out among the members of a victorious team—as did attorney Lamb, who delivered three oral arguments and contributed 20 points to the Gavels.  No other member of the Gavels argued more than one case, except for Joe Ehmann, who had two oral arguments in connection with amicus briefs (for a total of four points).

Several individual firms on other teams also turned in impressive performances, as displayed in the following table.  For the second year in a row the Affirmed finished in second place, and this year their total of 65 points more than doubled the scores of any of the other three teams.  Axley Brynelson and Foley & Lardner each garnered 15 points for the Affirmed—nearly half the team’s total, though all but one of the team’s other members also contributed at least five points. 

Firms that delivered nothing to their teams, especially if they were also dormant during the 2015-16 season, will face scrutiny by the Selection Committee during its winter meeting.  Some may be relegated to the Developmental League in order to clear roster spots for firms that have been active recently in the Supreme Court, thereby earning call-ups for the 2017-18 season.

Fantasy League Update–and Conclusion

With the release of the Supreme Court’s last substantive decisions of the term, we’ve reached the final reckoning of the 2016-17 fantasy-league season.  The Affirmed picked up 10 points from this concluding batch of rulings—5 points from Kasdorf Lewis & Swietlik and 5 points from Axley Brynelson (for their briefs and oral arguments in Milewski v. Town of Dover)—bringing the Affirmed’s total for the season to 65. 

This is 20 points more than was required to win the league title a year ago and underscores the potency of the roster fielded by the Affirmed in 2016-17.  For over three months, deep into April, they remained atop the standings.  However, the Gavels of the Public Defender’s Office began chipping away at their lead and finally nosed ahead of the Affirmed as the calendar turned to May.  Throughout the next several weeks, the lead changed hands repeatedly between these two rivals before the Gavels dropped the hammer (as they like to say) in mid-June.  During a single week they collected a stunning 32 points and never looked back as they coasted to the wire.  The 6 points that they added from the July decisions (5 points for a brief and oral argument in State v. Asboth and 1 point for an amicus brief in State v. Floyd) pushed their season’s total to 82—far more than needed to defend their title.

Final standings