State courts' affirmance rates hold steady in 2018.

 
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Byline: Erika Strebel, erika.strebel@wislawjournal.com

In 2018, there was little change from 2017 in the rate at which the Wisconsin Court of Appeals and the Wisconsin Supreme Court affirmed trial-court judges.

That was just one of the findings of a review the Wisconsin Law Journal conducted of Supreme Court and appellate decisions handed down from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2018. (Only full Court of Appeals decisions posted on the Wisconsin Court System's website were counted.)

In 2018, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals handed down decisions in more than 700 cases and affirmed circuit court judges 85 percent of the time. The high court, for its part, handed down more than 60 decisions, affirming state trial judges 69 percent of the time.

The affirmance rates were down by 1 percentage point from what they were in 2017, when the affirmance rate was 70 percent before the high court and 86 percent before the state appeals court.

Court of Appeals Deputy Chief Judge Lisa Stark said that in all four of the state's appellate-court districts, the number of filings and dispositions has remained the same as in previous years.

Litigants also continued filing motions in large numbers.

In District 1, in Milwaukee County, trial court judges were affirmed about 89 percent of the time in 2018, down from 90 percent in 2017.

Stark said her fellow District 1 appeals-court judges saw an increase in parental-rights cases that were terminated by a single judge, a trend they were at a loss to explain.

Meanwhile, trial judges in counties in District 2, which includes Waukesha County, were affirmed about 83 percent of the time, down from 86 percent in 2017.

In District 3, which includes Eau Claire County, circuit-court judges were affirmed 84 percent of the time, up from 82 percent in 2017. Appellate judges in that district saw more cases involving land-use questions dealing with zoning, restrictive covenants and challenges of state Department of Natural Resources decisions involving water use, Stark said.

In District 4, which includes Dane County, the court of appeals affirmed trial court judges 81 percent of the time, down from 85 percent in 2017.

Appeals judges in this district saw an increase in cases involving implied consent and unconscious drivers, Stark said. She noted that some of the pending cases of those sorts were put on hold to give the Wisconsin Supreme Court time to decide if it will take the case of State v. Hawley. The appeals court certified that case to the justices in November, asking it to definitively weigh in on whether drawing blood from unconscious drivers violates the 4th Amendment.

Stark also noted that the U.S. Supreme Court granted certification on Jan. 11 to a Wisconsin case, State v. Mitchell, involving blood draws from unconscious drivers. The dispute in that case centers on whether a statute authorizing a blood draw from an unconscious motorist provides an exception to the 4th Amendment's warrant requirement.

How trial court judges fared at the Wisconsin Supreme Court

The Wisconsin Law Journal has compiled a comprehensive review of every circuit-court decision the Wisconsin Supreme Court took up in 2018. Below is a complete listing showing both the judges who initially ruled on the cases that went before the justices and the outcomes before the high court.

Data gathered by Erika Strebel

Judge

County

Affirmed

Reversed

% Affirmed

Albert, John

Dane

1

0%

Anderson, John

Bayfield

1

0%

Anderson, Peter

Dane

1

0%

Bauer, Steven

Dodge

1

100%

Bendix, Gary

Manitowoc

1

0%

Berz, Ellen

Dane

1

100%

Bjerke, Todd

La Crosse

1

100%

Bohren, Michael

Waukesha

1

0%

Borowski, David

Milwaukee

1

100%

Bourke, Terence

Sheboygan

1

100%

Brash, William

Milwaukee

1

100%

Brostrom, Ellen

Milwaukee

1

0%

Colas, Juan

Dane

1

0%

Conen, Jeffrey

Milwaukee

1

1

50%

Dallet, Rebecca

Milwaukee

1

100%

Dee, Christopher

Milwaukee

1

100%

DiMotto, John

Milwaukee

2

0%

Donald, Joseph

Milwaukee

1

100%

Dorow, Jennifer

Waukesha

1

100%

Dreyfus, Lee

Waukesha

1

100%

Dugan, Timothy

Milwaukee

1

1

50%

Eagon, Thomas

Wood

1

100%

Ehlers, D.T.

Door

1

100%

Ehlke, Stephen

Dane

1

100%

Fox, Jerome

Manitowoc

1

100%

Gonring, Andrew

Washington

1

100%

Grimm, Peter

Fond du Lac

1

100%

Hammer, Marc

Brown

1

100%

Hansher, David

Milwaukee

1

0%

Haughney, Patrick

Waukesha

1

100%

Hue, William

Jefferson

1

100%

Isaacson, James

Chippewa

1

100%

Johnston, William

Lafayette

2

100%

Jorgensen, John

Winnebago

1

0%

Kelley, Kendall

Brown

1

100%

Koschnick, Randy

Jefferson

1

100%

Koss, Phillip

Walworth

1

0%

Kremers, Jeffrey

Milwaukee

1

0%

Lanford, Rhonda

Dane

1

100%

Lenz, Paul

Eau Claire

2

100%

Madden, Patrick

Price

1

0%

Malloy, Paul

Ozaukee

2

100%

Marik, Wayne

Racine

1

100%

Martens, Todd

Washington

1

1

50%

McAdams, Thomas

Milwaukee

1

100%

Moroney, Dennis

Milwaukee

1

100%

Muehlbauer, James

Washington

1

100%

Mueller, Emily

Racine

1

100%

Needham, Scott

St. Croix

1

100%

Niess, Richard

Dane

1

100%

Noonan, Daniel

Milwaukee

1

100%

Paulson, David

Racine

1

100%

Protasiewicz, Janet

Milwaukee

1

100%

Rice, David

Monroe

1

0%

Rosborough, Michael

Monroe

1

1

50%

Sankovitz, Richard

Milwaukee

1

100%

Schumacher, Michael

Eau Claire

1

0%

Seifert, Karen

Winnebago

1

100%

Smith, Amy

Dane

1

100%

Thimm, Kelly

Douglas

1

0%

Torhorst, Allan

Racine

1

100%

Williams, Sandy

Ozaukee

1

100%

Yackel, John

Sawyer

1

0%

49

22

69%

[divider]

How trial court judges fared at the Wisconsin Court of Appeals

In compiling this data, we counted only full decisions that were both handed down by the Wisconsin Court of Appeals and that were listed on the Wisconsin Court System website. Summary decisions were excluded.

Also important to note is that judges could be listed here as presiding judges who were reversed, even though all they really did was enter an order that was consistent with case law established by another judge.

Similarly, a judge's decision could be reversed by the Court of Appeals but ultimately affirmed by the state Supreme Court. In a case of this sort, the previous reversal would still count as a reversal by the Court of Appeals.

It's also worth pointing out that as the law changes, so can a judge's holding. When a holding was issued, it could be entirely consistent with binding precedent and yet later be reversed because a subsequent decision had changed the law.

Data gathered by Erika Strebel

Judge

County

Affirmed

Reversed

% Affirmed

Anderson, Jeffery

Polk

3

0

100%

Anderson, John

Bayfield/Sawyer

1

0

100%

Anderson, Peter

Dane

2

3

40%

Aprahamian, Michael

Waukesha

4

1

80%

Atkinson, William

Brown

3

0

100%

Babler, James

Polk

2

1

67%

Bailey-Rihn, Valerie

Dane

2

0

100%

Bates, Alan

Rock

1

0

100%

Bauer, Steven

Dodge

3

0

100%

Beer, James

Green

3

0

100%

Bendix, Gary

Manitowoc

2

0

100%

Berz, Ellen

Dane

6

4

60%

Biskupic, Vincent

Outagamie

2

0

100%

Bissett, Daniel

Winnebago

6

0

100%

Bitney, Michael

Barron

1

1

50%

Bjerke, Todd

La Crosse

1

0%

Boles, Joseph

Pierce/Buffalo

3

0

100%

Borowski, David

Milwaukee

9

3

75%

Bourke, Terence

Sheboygan

2

0

100%

Boyle, Timothy

Racine

2

0

100%

Brash, William

Milwaukee

2

0

100%

Brazeau, Nicholas

Clark/Wood

0

1

0%

Brostrom, Ellen

Milwaukee

12

0

100%

Bult, Bernard

Marquette

2

0

100%

Cameron, Roderick

Chippewa

1

0

100%

Carlson, James

Walworth

1

0

100%

Carter, Lloyd

Waukesha

2

0

100%

Cimpl, Dennis

Milwaukee

12

1

92%

Clussman, Vicki

Waupaca/Outagamie

2

1

67%

Colas, Juan

Dane

3

0

100%

Colon, Pedro

Milwaukee

1

0

100%

Conen, Jeffrey

Milwaukee

6

1

86%

Conley, Jay

Oconto

2

1

67%

Counsell, Jon

Clark

3

0

100%

Cray, Steven

Chippewa

2

1

67%

Curran, Paul

Adams/Juneau

5

0

100%

Daley, James

Rock

2

0

100%

Dallet, Rebecca

Milwaukee

6

1

86%

Davis, Cynthia

Milwaukee

2

0

100%

Davis, Mac

Jefferson

1

0

100%

Day, Craig

Grant

2

1

67%

Dee, Christopher

Milwaukee

3

0

100%

Des Jardins, John

Outagamie

4

0

100%

DeVries, Martin

Dodge

1

0

100%

Diltz, Peter

Door

1

0

100%

DiMotto, Jean

Milwaukee

1

0

100%

DiMotto, John

Milwaukee

0

2

0%

Domina, William

Waukesha

0

1

0%

Donald, Joseph

Milwaukee

13

1

93%

Doyle, Gloria

Jackson

0

1

0%

Drettwan, Kristine

Walworth

2

0

100%

Dreyfus, Lee

Waukesha

4

0

100%

Dugan, Hannah

Milwaukee

3

1

75%

Dugan, Timothy

Milwaukee

5

1

83%

Duket, Tim

Marinette

1

0

100%

Dutcher, Guy

Waushara

2

0

100%

Duvall, James

Pepin/Pierce

3

0

100%

Dwyer, Michael

Milwaukee

1

0

100%

Eagon, Thomas

Portage

1

0

100%

Eaton, Robert

Ashland

1

0

100%

Ehlers, D. Todd

Door/Brown

2

0

100%

Ehlke, Stephen

Dane

5

1

83%

English, Dale

Fond du Lac

1

0

100%

Falstad, Jill

Marathon

2

0

100%

Feiss, David

Milwaukee

2

1

67%

Feltes, Charles

Trempealeau

2

0

100%

Fiorenza, Clare

Milwaukee

4

2

67%

Fitzpatrick, Michael

Rock

2

0

100%

Flanagan, Mel

Milwaukee

2

0

100%

Flancher, Faye

Racine

2

0

100%

Flugaur, Thomas

Portage/Clark

6

1

86%

Foley, Christopher

Milwaukee

17

0

100%

Forbeck, Kenneth

Rock

1

0

100%

Foster, Kathryn

Waukesha

7

2

78%

Fox, Jerome

Manitowoc

2

0

100%

Froehlich, Jeffrey

Calumet

2

1

67%

Gabler, William

Eau Claire/Chippewa

5

2

71%

Gage, Michael

Outagamie

2

0

100%

Gasiorkiewicz, Eugene

Racine

3

1

75%

Genovese, Julie

Dane

2

0

100%

Gibbs, Steven

Chippewa

0

1

0%

Gill, Gregory

Outagamie

2

0

100%

Glonek, George

Douglas

1

1

50%

Gonring, Andrew

Washington

2

0

100%

Goodman, Mark

Jackson

2

0

100%

Grady, Lindsey Canonie

Milwauk...

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