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Dane County courts to limit in-person proceedings starting Monday

The Dane County Courthouse is just a block away from the state Capitol. (Staff photos by Kevin Harnack)

The Dane County Courthouse (File photo by Kevin Harnack)

The Dane County Circuit Court is temporarily suspending many of its in-person proceedings because of coronavirus concerns.

The court issued an order regarding emergency temporary measures on Thursday. The guidelines, listed below, will be in effect from March 16 to April 17.

The Dane County courthouse will remain open during the temporary emergency period. Criminal proceedings will go on as scheduled, unless parties have been reached out to by the courts. For juvenile, civil, small-claims and family cases, the courts will use video and phone conferencing to keep cases moving.

The order said the guidelines are to ensure the court’s essential functions and operations can be carried out, while minimizing risk to employees, lawyers, litigants and jurors.

Guidelines for specific branches are as follows:


  • Video or phone appearances for initial custody and plea hearings, emergency custody and plea hearings, revisions of disposition orders before circuit court commissioners.
  • Custody reviews will be done case by case.
  • Jury trials and hearings before a judge for a plea or disposition are at the discretion of judges. Reach out to individual branches for direction.
  • Requests for extensions of disposition orders will be granted for as many as 30 days without a hearing and rescheduled during the 30-day extension period.
  • Court trials and hearings for change of placement and sanctions will be set over unless otherwise ordered.

Civil, small claims and family cases

  • All contested matters requiring in-person appearances, including jury trials, civil-court trials, small-claims, contested custody and placement hearings, hearings in which evidence will be taken by other than phone, and de novo hearings are suspended. Clerks will schedule as the court’s calendar permits. Contact the individual branch if parties will to have evidentiary hearings by phone.
  • Any hearing that can be done by phone will proceed as scheduled, including but not limited to stipulated divorces, name changes, scheduling conferences, status conferences and motion hearings.
  • Some courts will allow in-person name changes and stipulated divorces. Check with the branch for individual policies.
  • Parent-education sessions are canceled through April 30

Criminal cases and proceedings

  • Individual branches will reach out to case parties if proceedings will be rescheduled or done by phone or video conference.
  • If not reached out to, parties are required to appear for proceedings as scheduled.
  • Proceedings involving in-custody defendants will occur as scheduled.

Circuit-court commissioners

  • Juvenile matters follow the guidelines above.
  • Only family and paternity cases that can be handled by phone or video will proceed. No personal appearances will be allowed. Cases that are not possible by phone or video will be rescheduled.
  • Mental commitment and guardianship hearings will be by video or phone. The court commissioner will not travel to any institution.
  • Bail hearings held at the jail for “must go” criminal and traffic matters will be held by video if a jail can arrange it.
  • Bench-warrant hearings will be held case by case.
  • No hearings will be held in 1A. All 1A hearings will be rescheduled.
  • Call the Court Commissioners’ Center at 608-266-9146 to reschedule.

Get in touch with branch offices for information on specific cases.

About Michaela Paukner, mpaukner@wislawjournal.com

Michaela Paukner is the legal reporter for the Wisconsin Law Journal. She can be reached at (414) 225-1825 or by email at mpaukner@wislawjournal.com.

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