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Locating Wisconsin appellate case information & briefs

DVonDerHeide

Connie VonDerHeide

Where can you find the current status of a Wisconsin Supreme Court petition for review, or determine whether the Court of Appeals has ordered an opinion published, or quickly get parallel cites to put in your brief? And where can you access the briefs for an appellate case? For recent cases, the web is often the best starting place.

For older cases, other resources must be tapped. Read on to determine the best strategies, as well as some "insider tips" for efficiently locating what you need.

Case Information

To determine the current status of Wis-consin Supreme Court and Court of Appeals cases, use the Wisconsin Supreme Court and Court of Appeals Case Access Web site (WSCCA.i) at http://www.wicourts.gov/wscca. WSCCA.i provides public information about appeals considered "open" from the end of 1993 forward. The site is updated twice daily.

To access the search screen, click the "I Agree" button. Searches may be performed using the appeal number, circuit court case number, filing date, party and attorney names, or a case citation, including Wisconsin Reports, West’s North-western Reporter, and for cases 2000 and newer, the public domain citation. When searching by date or name for pending cases, it may be helpful to limit the search by checking the Open Cases Only box. Tip: Less is usually better; that is, filling in a minimum of search fields-one or maybe two-will generally prevent missing anything.

Detailed information about each case is listed under three tabs: Summary, Parties & Attorneys, and History. The Summary screen lists the case name, current status, classification, circuit court case number and circuit court judge. It also includes all citations to the Court of Appeals and/or Supreme Court opinions; cites are added as soon as they are known. Tip: This is a good, fast, free place to find parallel cites.

The Parties & Attorneys tab is divided into sections for direct and interested (i.e. indirect) parties. The direct parties section indicates each party’s relationship to the case (appellant or respondent), and includes attorneys’ addresses.

The History tab contains a chronological record of docket activity, with the most recent activity listed first. This is the place to see whether a petition for review has been filed and whether it’s been granted or denied; whether a court of appeals opinion has been ordered published; or whether the Wisconsin State Law Library has received the briefs yet. Tip: For cases with opinions issued since 1995, it’s also possible to link directly to the full text of the opinion. Click on the appropriate docket line ("Opinion" or "Per curiam"), and then click on "View Opinion" in the shaded box at the bottom of the screen.

For assistance in navigating the WSCCA.i database, contact the Wiscon-sin State Law Library Reference Desk at 608-267-9696, 800-322-9755, or wsll.ref @wicourts.gov. For information about cases not listed in WSCCA.i, contact the Clerk of Supreme Court & Court of Appeals in Madison at 608-266-1880.

Briefs

Briefs and appendices for Wisconsin Court of Appeals and Supreme Court cases are available in a variety of places and formats, depending on the age of the case.
Cases cited 173 Wis.2d (November 1992) and newer are now available on the University of Wisconsin Law Library’s "Wisconsin Briefs" Web page at http://library.law.wisc.edu/elecresources/databases/wb/index.php. This free database is generated from scanned images created by the Wisconsin State Law Library.

Because they are images rather than text, they are not keyword searchable. All briefs in the database are accessible by appeal number, and some are also accessible by case citation. Tip: If all you have is a citation, search the citation in WSCCA.i to find the appeal number.

Briefs for pending or recently decided cases may not be available on the UW Briefs site. For more information, consult the Wisconsin Briefs Quick Guide located on the site, or contact the Wisconsin State Law Library.

The Thomson-West company is presently creating a Westlaw Brief Bank that provides access to hundreds of thousands of appellate briefs and will include all of the Wisconsin briefs described above. As of this writing, it includes selected coverage of Wisconsin briefs beginning with 1993. Westlaw users can search either the entire Brief Bank or selected files for individual jurisdictions. For more information about the Westlaw Brief Bank, contact your Westlaw account representative or visit www.westlaw.com and click on "About Westlaw."

Just as with many other legal materials, not all Wisconsin briefs are available on the Web. The following Wisconsin law libraries contain more extensive collections of briefs and appendices.

Wisconsin State Law Library (WSLL). WSLL’s comprehensive collection begins with briefs filed in the first case heard by each court-1839 for the Supreme Court, 1978 for the Court of Appeals — and includes briefs and appendices for all cases ordered published or unpublished. It does not include briefs for cases that have been summarily disposed or otherwise terminated. Briefs for published cases are kept in hard copy, microfiche, and/or electronic format. Briefs for unpublished Court of Appeals cases are only available in microfiche or electronic format. The collection is available for in-library use, and the library can supply copies by mail, fax or email through their document delivery service. To request copies, contact the WSLL Reference Desk. More information about the collection is available on the library’s Briefs Web page at http://wsll.state.wi.us/briefs.html.

University of Wisconsin Law Library (UW). In addition to their Briefs Web page described above, UW has
briefs and appendices in paper, microfiche, or electronic format dating back to 1846. They are available for in-library use. For additional information contact the Reference Desk at 608-262-3394.

Marquette University Law Library. Marquette’s collection of paper, microfiche and CD-ROM briefs and appendices begins with 168 Wis. (1918) and is available for in-library use. For more information, contact the library at 414-288-7092.

For access to briefs and appendices not available or not yet received at the State Law Library, or to obtain other types of appellate case documents, contact the Office of the Clerk of the Supreme Court & Court of Appeals.

Connie VonDerHeide is a Reference/ Outreach Services Librarian at the Wisconsin State Law Library.

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