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New year, new fixture at high court

The Wisconsin Supreme Court kicked off oral arguments this year with a new fixture in the hearing room – a uniformed Capitol Police officer.

Officers are not typically present during oral arguments, which are public, or the public conferences and hearings the justices hold when they are considering matters such as rules changes.

An officer will be present going forward for all of the court’s hearings, said Steve Michels, communications director for the state Department of Administration, which oversees the Capitol Police.

“As with all of the more than 800 state facilities they provide law enforcement services to throughout the state, the Capitol Police are present to ensure the safety of Wisconsin residents and government officials,” he said Wednesday.

Court Information Officer Tom Sheehan said Wednesday that the presence of the Capitol Police in the Supreme Court Hearing Room is part of a mutual agreement between the court and the police.

“I don’t think you can say with any certainty it hasn’t happened before,” he said. “The arrangement is likely to continue as long as the court and police see it as a prudent measure.”

The court on Wednesday heard oral arguments in three cases. They were the first ones the court heard this year.

About Erika Strebel, erika.strebel@wislawjournal.com

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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