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Municipalities turn to Riffle

By: David Ziemer, [email protected]//February 16, 2011//

Municipalities turn to Riffle

By: David Ziemer, [email protected]//February 16, 2011//

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H. Stanley Riffle – Arenz, Molter, Macy & Riffle

Photo by Kevin Harnack
Photo by Kevin Harnack

When a municipality in southeast Wisconsin gets involved in litigation, of whatever nature, there’s a good chance that H. Stanley Riffle will be representing the government.

Riffle’s firm, Arenz, Molter, Macy & Riffle, represents more than 50 municipal bodies in the area, including more than half of all municipalities in Waukesha County. And Riffle oversees all of their litigation and appeals.

After practicing personal injury law for a few years after law school, Riffle started his own general practice firm in 1984, with only a handful of municipal clients. But the municipal practice has grown since then to become what is now the premier boutique municipal law firm in the state.

But although municipal law constitutes 99 percent of the firm’s practice, the work is definitely not routine.

Of course, the firm does a lot of prosecution of traffic offenses. But the firm must also draft, enforce, and defend cities’ sex offender ordinances; defend takings for public purposes; enforce zoning ordinances; and even deal with citizens’ vicious dogs.

One area of the law Riffle cites with particular pride is incorporation. Under Wisconsin law, villages and cities have much more power than towns, in terms of extraterritorial zoning and county oversight, but the requirements for incorporation are not easy to meet. Towns are also subject to being gobbled up by other municipalities.

“Few attempts at incorporation as a city or village get through the process, and you have to be resourceful,” Riffle says.

Riffle even works as a mediator of disputes when municipalities he doesn’t represent come into conflict with each other.

Riffle also does extensive appellate work, and has successfully won several cases in the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Among them are City of Muskego v. Godec, 167 Wis.2d 536, 482 N.W.2d 79 (1992), in which the court held that a BAC obtained for diagnostic reasons is admissible for prosecutorial purposes, and City of Pewaukee v. Carter, 2004 WI 131, where the court held that a municipality can get a new trial in circuit court after a case is dismissed in its own municipal court.

And while a municipal law practice may not seem conducive to doing pro bono work, Riffle does that, too.

He currently represents the Waukesha YMCA in its efforts to tear down an abandoned gas station on property it owns, against opposition claiming the gas station is a landmark.


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