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High court kicks off first round of oral arguments

The Wisconsin Supreme Court kicked off its first round of oral arguments Thursday with two criminal cases and a new seating chart.

Justices Rebecca Bradley, Annette Ziegler and Shirley Abrahamson sat to Chief Justice Pat Roggensack’s right, and Justices Ann Walsh Bradley, Michael Gableman and Dan Kelly sat to her left.

Kelly is the newest addition to the court. He was recently appointed by Gov. Scott Walker to fill the vacancy Justice David Prosser left when he retired in July.

Abrahamson immediately jumped in with questions at Thursday’s oral arguments, followed by Kelly.

The justices first heard arguments from counsel in State v. Scruggs, which asks whether a DNA surcharge was properly applied in the case of Racine woman who had committed a crime before the surcharge was mandatory.

Not all statutes are presumed unconstitutional if applied retroactively. Rather, it’s only statutes that are punitive that may not apply to previous cases.

Abrahamson was the first to fire a question at Dustin Haskell, the public defender representing Scruggs. Among the things, she noted that lower courts have already found the statute was punitive when it was applied to someone with more than convictions.

“So what’s your gripe? You don’t have multiple convictions,” said Abrahamson.

Kelly jumped in after Abrahamson, also noting that Scruggs only had one conviction.

“Why do we have to look at this as if there are multiple charges?” he said.

The counsel for the state, Jeffrey Kassel, was also in the hot seat. Rebecca Bradley noted that the surcharge is $250 for each felony conviction and $200 for each misdemeanor.

“Does the higher felony charge mean it was punitive?” she asked.

About Erika Strebel, [email protected]

Erika Strebel is the law beat reporter for the Wisconsin Law Journal and a law school student at UW-Madison. She can be reached at 414-225-1825.

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