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Judicial Council mulling open-record request

By: Erika Strebel, [email protected]//January 31, 2019//

Judicial Council mulling open-record request

By: Erika Strebel, [email protected]//January 31, 2019//

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The Judicial Council has received a wide-ranging open-records request from the Wisconsin Civil Justice Council concerning recent changes to the state’s civil-litigation rules.

The Wisconsin Civil Justice Council, an organization of businesses and professional groups that bills itself as working to promote fairness in the state’s civil justice system, is requesting all records related to 2017 Act 235, including emails between council members and drafts. Act 235, enacted last yer, made a slew of changes to the state’s civil-litigation rules, including its rules of civil procedure.

Those changes ranged from modifying the state’s scope-of-discovery provision so that it includes a proportionality requirement found in the federal rules of procedure to letting losing parties in lawsuits stay all court proceedings when they challenge class-action-certification orders.

The Wisconsin Civil Justice Council was one of the biggest supporters of Act 235. Andrew Cook, executive director of the justice council and a lobbyist at Hamilton Consulting Group, made the open-records request on Wednesday.

Taking the opposite stance on Act 235, at least over the way the law was passed, has been the Judicial Council,  a 21-member body that studies and recommends changes to court procedures, rules and policies. When lawmakers were considering the legislation that became Act 235, the Judicial Council had asked for more time to study the proposed civil-procedure changes so it could make a well-thought-out recommendation.

But after making some modifications, both the Assembly and Senate passed the legislation early last year, and Gov. Scott Walker signed it in April.

The Judicial Council has been studying the new laws since then and is considering either proposing technical revisions or calling on the state to simply adopt provisions now found in federal rules.

Members of the Judicial Council’s executive committee met in a teleconference on Thursday morning to discuss how the Wisconsin Civil Justice Council’s open-records request might affect its budget.

Some committee members noted that that the state’s open-records law requires state agencies take into account their resources when responding to requests. The Judicial Council itself was left with next to no resources nearly two years ago after it was stripped of its budget after approving a raise for the staff attorney April Southwick, who is no longer with the organization.

Bill Gleisner, a member of the Judicial Council and a retired Brookfield lawyer, has since volunteered to take on some of Southwick’s duties. The council recently submitted a proposed budget that would help the council get back some of what it has lost.


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