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2011 Year in Review: Conen fares best at Court of Appeals

By: WISCONSIN LAW JOURNAL STAFF//January 25, 2012//

2011 Year in Review: Conen fares best at Court of Appeals

By: WISCONSIN LAW JOURNAL STAFF//January 25, 2012//

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Milwaukee County Circuit Court judge leads in affirmed decisions

Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey Conen stands in his courtroom at the county’s Safety Building. Conen had 30 of his decisions reviewed by state courts in 2011, and all were affirmed. (Photo by Kevin Harnack)

For the second year in a row, Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey Conen led the courts when facing review on appeal.

In 2011, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals affirmed Conen’s decisions 30 times without a single reversal. In 2010, Conen led the courts alongside his colleague, Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey Wagner. Both were reviewed 23 times in 2010 and affirmed 23 times, without reversal.

“I must have some friends at the Court of Appeals,” Conen joked. “But I’m sure my day is coming.”

In all seriousness, he said, he takes his responsibility as a judge to heart.

“I try to work hard and make decisions as fairly as possible,” Conen said.

Two other circuit court judges, both from Milwaukee County, were reviewed more than 20 times without reversal.

Judge Daniel Konkol was reviewed and affirmed 26 times, and Judge Rebecca Dallet was reviewed and affirmed 22 times.

The accompanying charts show not only how the state’s circuit court judges fared when their decisions were reviewed in the Court of Appeals, but how the judges fared if their decisions were later reviewed by the Wisconsin Supreme Court, as well.

Of state circuit court judges with cases ultimately considered by the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 2011, four judges were reviewed twice and affirmed both times: Brown County Judge Timothy Hinkfuss, Oneida County Judge Patrick O’Melia, Milwaukee County Judge William Sosnay and Walworth County Judge Robert Kennedy.

Separate charts note judges with the highest number of decisions affirmed by the Court of Appeals in 2011 and judges with the highest number of decisions affirmed by the Court of Appeals in the past 11 years.

Methodology

Only full decisions, not summary decisions by the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, included on the Wisconsin Court System’s website were counted in the compilation of data.

Despite efforts to avoid errors, a judge could be listed in the decision as the presiding judge being reversed, even if he or she merely entered an order consistent with the law of the case as established by another judge.

A judge could be reversed in the Court of Appeals and ultimately be affirmed in the Supreme Court, but the earlier reversal would nevertheless remain counted as a reversal in the Court of Appeals.

It also is important to note that as the law changes, so can a judge’s holding. At the time it was issued, a judge’s holding could be entirely consistent with binding precedent and later be reversed only because a subsequent decision changed the law.

Nevertheless, the project has been continued over the last 12 years in the belief that the effect of potential occasional errors in the methodology in any given year will be minimal relative to individual judges’ performance over an extended period of time.

Click here for 2011 Year in Review charts

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