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Chief justice: Increasing private bar rate, review of ‘evidence-based’ decision making among priorities

Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Pat Roggensack recently announced that the high court’s priorities this term will include not only working with the Legislature on increasing the private bar rate and increasing the ranks of state prosecutors, but also reviewing the work of the state’s court system.

Delivering her State of the Judiciary Address on Oct. 31 at the Annual Wisconsin Judicial Conference at the Grand Geneva Resort in Lake Geneva, Roggensack said she and her colleagues had hired Michael Thompson to be the director of research and justice statistics for the state court system.

“Dr. Thompson will engage in many projects designed to assess whether Wisconsin courts are doing the best we can for those who come before our courts,” she said, according to a transcript of her speech. “One broad area he will consider, in many different contexts, is whether our ‘best practices’ accomplish what we all hoped when ‘evidence based decision making’ was implemented as the best practice.”

She noted that a statistical review of the court system’s work has been a priority of hers for a long time. She cited research she conducted with a University of Wisconsin-Madison statistician involving black criminal defendants, work whose results were published in Marquette Lawyer in 2016.

Roggensack also said that the court would be working with State Public Defender Kelli Thompson and the state Legislature to increase compensation for private bar attorneys who take appointments from Thompson’s office.

“Increasing those rates is necessary to ensure that every defendant in a criminal trial has accessible, competent counsel,” she said.

Roggensack also said that she will be working on getting more assistant prosecutors for district attorneys offices around the state.

The chief justice also discussed her business-court project, the status of e-filing in trial courts and additional training for the state’s 86 treatment courts.

Following Roggensack, Director of State Courts Randy Koschnick gave his own address, saying that there would no longer be a policy banning state-paid, out-of-state travel for judicial instruction. He also said his office is simplifying the approval process used for judicial instruction in other states, saying the changes will let judges apply for credit as well as travel reimbursement.

Koschnick also noted that the court had issued 140 laptops to judges and that those judges had received their conference materials on a USB drive.

“We are well on our way to killing one of the time-honored traditions of this conference, and that is lugging around large binders of materials,” he said, according to a transcript.”Maybe some of you will miss that; I will not.”

About Erika Strebel,

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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