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High court partially grants financial disclosure proposal

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has issued an order eliminating requirements that call for certain court employees to disclose financial relationships.

State statute requires state officials and candidates for various court offices to file “statements of economic interests” that identify connections such as investors in their business interests and creditors.

The governor, district attorneys, municipal judges and constitutional officers such as Court of Appeals judges and Supreme Court judges must file those statements with the Wisconsin Ethics Commission.

Wisconsin’s judicial code also requires certain state court employees to file statements of economic interests, including the director of state courts, circuit-court commissioners, supplemental court commissioners, Supreme Court commissioners and staff attorneys for the Court of Appeals.

In a rule-change petition filed last year with the high court, Deputy Director of Court Operations Diane Fremgen called for a plan to eliminate the filing requirements for those court employees.

Fremgen also suggested that if the justices chose not to grant her proposal, they should increase the threshold at which supplemental court commissioners must financial disclosure statements.

The justices discussed the petition in closed conferences in January and February. On Feb. 25, they issued an order partially granting Fremgen’s request.

The justices granted the part of the proposal that eliminates the requirement for court staff members who do not make judicial decisions. Those staff members include Court of Appeals staff attorneys and Supreme Court commissioners.

On the other hand, the justices did not adopt the part of the proposal that would have eliminated the filing requirement for supplemental court commissioners and court commissioners appointed under Supreme Court Rule 75.02, noting that their work is similar to judicial duties and therefore should be required to file statements of economic interest.

The court’s order does not affect the filing requirements for judges and candidates for judicial office; they still must file an annual statement of economic interest.


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