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Unmined gold: Finding Wisconsin local legal resources (68033)

Maybe you know where to find your local ordinances, but what about all the other resources produced by local governments that could assist you in your practice? This handy guide will walk you through what’s available and where to find local legal resources across the state. All web links worked as of the time of writing.

Ordinances: County and Municipal

If a municipality has put their ordinances online, the State Law Library links to them from their Web site: wsll.state.wi.us/ ordinances.html.

Most public libraries, city or county clerks offices, or local law libraries will have local ordinances available in print. The State Law Library has many municipal ordinance volumes available in print.

Court Rules

The State Bar links to any Circuit Court Rules that are available online: www.wisbar.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Circuit_court_rules2.

Clerk of courts offices, local law libraries, and some public libraries will have print copies of local rules available in print. The State Law Library collects the Circuit Court Rules as well.

OWI Sentencing Guidelines

The State Bar links to the ten judicial districts’ OWI sentencing guidelines:


The district court administrator’s offices will have print copies of these guidelines as well.

Circuit Court Resources

The Court System links to any Circuit Court that has a Web site: www.wicourts. gov/contact/ccsites.htm.

Some clerk of courts offices offer informational resources in print. Sub-stantial Dane or Milwaukee County Circuit Court information can be found at the respective staffed county law libraries in each county as well. Dane County Legal Resource Center is located in the Dane County Courthouse at 210 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, Room 315, in Madison or call (608) 266-6316. They will be moving into the new Dane County Justice Center in January 2006. Milwaukee Legal Resource Center is located in the Mil-waukee County Courthouse at 901 North 9th Street, Room 307A, in Milwaukee, or call (414) 278-4900.

Circuit Court Case Information

Wisconsin Circuit Court Access (WCCA, also known as CCAP) supplies searchers with docket and court record event information. wcca.wicourts.gov/ index.xsl.

Finding older circuit court cases can be difficult without complete case information, such as a case number or party names. Supreme Court Rule 72 (available at: www.wicourts.gov/sc/scrule/Display Document.pdf?
) regulates how long circuit court records must be retained by the courts. If you cannot access a case file directly through the court records office (often in the Clerk of Courts office), here are some other options that you might try:

1. Was the case appealed? If so, there’s a good chance that the circuit court decision is included in an appendix to the briefs on appeal. The State Law Library has a large number of briefs in print and the UW Law Library has made several years worth available online. More information is at: http://wsll.state.wi.us/ briefs.html.

2. You can check the collection of the WI Historical Society at www.wisconsinhistory.org/libraryarchives/readroom/locrecs.asp for local records and cases.

3. Looking for a Dane County court decision? Check the index of cases donated to the Dane County Legal Resource Center from the Dane County Circuit Court judges. They are located on the DCLRC’s Web site at: wsll.state.wi.us/branch/dclrc/pub/decisions.pdf.

Court Forms and Procedures

Check the local clerk of circuit court’s office Web site. For example, Dane County Clerk of Courts office has extensive Web resources, such as FAQ’s, forms, and fact sheets: http://www.countyofdane.com/clrkcort/clrkhome.htm that are designed for the lay user.

The State Bar also links to circuit court forms and information at: www.wisbar.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Wisconsin_courts1#cc.

Municipal Court Resources

The Court System has information on their Web site: www.wicourts.gov/about/organization/municipal/index.htm. In addition, they link to municipal court Web sites across the state at www.wicourts.gov/about/organization/municipal/links.htm.

Contact the municipal court clerk’s office for more information in print. The State Law Library also has municipal court print resources, such as the Municipal Court Benchbook, in their collection.

Police/Sheriff Web Resources

The State of Wisconsin links to police department Web sites across the state:


Many departments offer resources on their Web site, such as policy and procedure manuals. Here’s an example from the City of Milwaukee’s Police Depart-ment: www.city.milwaukee.gov/display/ router.asp?docid=5011.

Other Local Web Resources

The Wisconsin Counties Association offers many resources for local governments on their Web site: www.wicounties.org/ and links to each county’s Web site. On county Web sites will be resources for local departments or agencies.

The League of Wisconsin Municipalities has a Web site of legal resources, facts about municipalities, and legislative and lobbying information: www.lwm-info.org/.

The State of Wisconsin links to municipal Web sites across the state at: www.wisconsin.gov/state/core/wisconsin_cities_towns_and_villages.html.

Explore the local municipality’s Web site for more information on its agencies, departments, boards, or councils. Some offer extensive resources, such as the Online City Hall from the City of Madison: http://legistar.city ofmadison .com/mattersearch/home. aspx.

Local Bar Associations

The State Bar links to local bar association information that is available online: www.wisbar.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Local_and_specialty_bars.

Historical Local Legal Resources

Many county and city ordinances have history notes that are a good place to start to track changes or histories of local laws. You can usually find superceded pages of laws, rules, or ordinances in the city or county clerk’s office, the city attorney’s office, or the corporation counsel’s office for the city or county. If there is no history note, it may be difficult to track changes, especially if the clerk’s office doesn’t keep old laws. A person would most likely need to track the law back through the county board or city council proceedings.

More local historical resources are available through historical societies. The State Historical Society links to local societies on their Web site at: www.wisconsinhistory.org/localhistory/directory/regionsearch.asp and offers tips for the local historian or history buff: www.wisconsinhistory.org /localhistory/help.asp.

Paula Seeger, is a librarian for the Dane County Legal Resource Center, Madison.

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