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Supreme Court adopts rules amendments

The Wisconsin Supreme Court unanimously approved a pair of administrative amendments on Oct. 5 to rules regarding appendices and appellate briefs, and continuing legal education for judges.

One amendment clarifies the rules regarding appendix submissions and the other one addresses judicial sanctions for failing to meet legal education requirements.

Chief Justice Shirley S. Abrahamson casually called the revisions “softballs” in terms of complexity, but noted that both were important changes.

“It was simple and straightforward,” said Abrahamson of the proposed changes. “Corrections were made to existing rules, which amplified them and made them better understood.”

Appendices and Briefs

Two revisions to Wis. Rule 809.19 were adopted. The first modified cross-appellant requirements when submitting an appendix to closely coincide with those of an appellant’s. The other eliminated a requirement that respondents include certification of content in every supplemental index.

Both are aimed at streamlining the filing process in the state’s appellate courts.

Initially developed by then-Court of Appeals Chief Judge R. Thomas Cane, the adopted modifications came from Barbara Janaszek, Chairman of the State Bar’s Appellate Practice Section who proposed revisions to subsections 3(b) and 6(f).

The 3(b) change allows a respondent to file a supplemental appendix to a brief, which would comply with confidentiality requirements and contain a signed certification.

“If a respondent chooses to file a supplemental appendix, which they don’t have to, then the certification that’s adopted requires them to certify the confidentiality aspect of it,” said Margaret A. Carlson, chief staff attorney for the Wisconsin Court of Appeals.

Abrahamson said the change will minimally affect the filing procedure, but it will eliminate confusion as to what is being certified in appendices.

“It’s not a change that is going to create great stress in the bar and increase their burdens,” said Abrahamson. “It’s a clarification and makes it cleaner as stated. They don’t want to certify the wrong things.”

The revision to 6(f) simply requires a cross-appellant’s appendix to comply with the same rules as an appellant, except a cross-appellant does not have to submit materials already contained in an appellant’s appendix.

The change eliminates overlap and allows for easier reading for appellate judges according Carlson.
“Judges tend to read the briefs away from the office, away from the record,” said Carlson, who added that there had been no opposition to the petition.

Judicial Education

Also adopted was a consolidation of SCR 32.09 regarding continuing legal education for the Wisconsin judiciary. The rule clarified that SCR 32.02 – a judicial requirement to obtain 60 credits of CLE in a six-year period – be subjected to sanctions.

Original language in the rule only referred to SCR 32.04 – attendance of judicial college, prison tours – and SCR 32.05 – annual five-credit requirement for in-state activity.

“It added a step that was inferred by the rules and we realized that step wasn’t explicitly there,” said Abrahamson.

Although the 60-credit requirement had not explicitly been under the sanctioning umbrella of SCR 32.09, Abrahamson was not aware of any judge not completing the requirement in the allotted time, more or less.

“It’s always been in the six years, or in a slight extension,” said Abrahamson.

Director of State Courts A. John Voelker, who submitted the petition, was also unaware of any sanctions ever having been imposed on a judge for failing to meet legal educations hours.

“Quite honestly on all those requirements, we don’t have a lot of issues,” said Voelker. “If it comes to me that someone doesn’t meet their requirement, they get that first step of an extension and it always gets resolved. I have not witnessed it ever getting to that hearing state before.”

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