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Judicial Council strategizes response to Walker’s budget proposal

By: Erika Strebel, [email protected]//February 20, 2015//

Judicial Council strategizes response to Walker’s budget proposal

By: Erika Strebel, [email protected]//February 20, 2015//

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The Wisconsin Judicial Council is preparing its course of action over how to react to Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to eliminate it.

Walker’s budget proposal, released Feb. 4, cuts the Judicial Council out of the budget but does not restrict the state Supreme Court from creating a similar body if it chose to do so.

The proposal also eliminates the statute requiring the council’s existence, David Schultz, professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School and council member, said.

In 1951, the state Legislature created the Wisconsin Judicial Council as an independent agency. The 21-member body is responsible for studying and making recommendations relating to court practices, procedures and administration of state courts.

Staff Attorney April Southwick pointed out that the state Supreme Court taking over would solve one problem, but create another one.

“If we lose independence,” she said, “Does that affect what we do?”

Tom Shriner, council member and partner with Foley & Lardner LLP, said at the meeting Friday that he thinks the budget proposal shows how the council and its role is misunderstood and that the council must take steps to educate legislators and others about its responsibilities.

Part of the misunderstanding, he said, is the council’s name.

“We need a name change,” he said. “This is the second time that someone has mistaken us as part of the judicial branch.”

State Sens. Jim Ott, R-Mequon, and Van Wangaard, R-Racine, both members of the council, urged members to reach out to their legislators to inform them about what the Judicial Council and why it must continue.

The council reached a consensus that it will be issuing a letter addressed to the Joint Finance Committee about why the council should continue to exist.

• In other business Friday, a bill drafted to update the state’s criminal procedure was turned over to legislators. The council in 2014 had put forth the 350-page bill to rewrite the state’s criminal code, but it stalled after two public hearings. The code has not been updated since 1969.

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