The Wisconsin Supreme Court granted an extension Wednesday allowing the state’s business court pilot project, started in 2017, to continue through July 2024.
The court majority ruled in favor of granting the extension petition, which was filed in February by Laura Brenner, chair of the Wisconsin Business Court Advisory Committee. The high court also clarified the interim rule language to stipulate that local input will be considered before judges are appointed to the docket. The petition was reviewed and granted in a closed administrative conference, the court determining that no public hearing was required given the project’s status as a pilot. If the committee moves to permanently instituting the court, a public hearing and public comment will be required.
The project established a separate court for large-claims business and commercial cases and appointed a required minimum number of judges from various counties and judicial districts throughout the state.
Justice Ann Walsh Bradley dissented from the decision, echoing her initial concerns from 2017 that the special court was sending the wrong message about the court system.
“The wrong message was that most circuit court judges were not capable of handling these cases,” she said. “And, that businesses with large claims deserve special treatment, entitling them access to the most efficient, fair, and cost-effective treatment available in the court system. All people deserve a system that is accessible, efficient, cost-effective and fair.”
Justice Bradley argued that the committee has yet to provide Wisconsin-specific data or evidence to justify the extension. In the original Supreme Court Order from 2017, the committee was to monitor the program for the first three years and make annual reports to the court. Bradley alleged the reports never happened, stating “I have never received, either directly or forwarded, the required report for 2018 or 2019.” Bradley also contented a public hearing and public comment were necessary during the petition review.