Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Wisconsin Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming both Defendant's judgment of conviction and the circuit court's denial of his motion to suppress evidence, holding that police officers' warrantless entry in Defendant's fenced-in back yard was not a valid "knock and talk" investigation and that the entry was not permissible under the exigency of hot pursuit.On appeal, Defendant argued that the police officers lacked an implicit license to enter his backyard, and therefore, the entry violated the Fourth Amendment. The Supreme Court agreed and reversed the decision of the court of appeals, holding (1) the "knock and talk" investigation was not valid because the officers did not have an implicit license to enter Defendant's backyard; and (2) because the officers did not immediately or continuously pursue Defendant from the scene of the crime, the officers' entry into Defendant's backyard was not permissible under the exigency of hot pursuit and therefore violated the Fourth Amendment. View "State v. Wilson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of operating while intoxicated (OWI) sixth offense, in violation of Wis. Stat. 346.63(1)(a), holding that Defendant's constitutional right to be free from abusive governmental searches was satisfied in this case, and therefore, the circuit court did not err in denying Defendant's motion to suppress.On appeal, Defendant argued that the warrant compelling him to submit to a blood draw was constitutionally defective because, when the affiant signed the affidavit that accompanied the warrant petition, the affiant was not placed under oath or affirmation. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the affidavit fulfilled the oath or affirmation requirement under the state and federal Constitutions; and (2) therefore the circuit court did not err in denying Defendant's motion to suppress. View "State v. Moeser" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the circuit court requiring disclosure of Plaintiffs' identities to opposing attorneys while allowing Plaintiffs to keep their names sealed and confidential as to the public and a school district, holding that this Court declines to adopt new standards modeled after federal law.Plaintiffs, a group of parents, sued a school district alleging that a policy adopted by the school district entitled "Guidance & Policies to Support Transgender, Non-binary & Gender Expansive Students" violated their constitutional rights to parent their children and to exercise their religious beliefs. Plaintiffs then moved to proceed using pseudonyms. The circuit court granted in part Plaintiffs' motion to proceed anonymously. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court properly exercised its discretion in allowing Plaintiffs to proceed pseudonymously but not preventing opposing attorneys from knowing Plaintiffs' identity. View "Doe v. Madison Metro School District" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order and judgment of the circuit court in this case concerning whether local health officers may lawfully issue public health orders, holding that local health officers have statutory authority to issue orders and that no state law preempted the local health ordinance in question.At issue was Dane County Ordinance 46.40 regarding the prevention, suppression, and control of communicable diseases. Plaintiffs bought this action against the County and the Health Department and its director challenging their authority to issue and enforce such orders. The circuit court granted summary judgment against Plaintiffs' claims. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Wis. Stat. 252.03 grants local health officers the authority to issue public health orders; (2) the ordinance at issue, which makes such orders enforceable by civil citations, was not preempted by state law; and (3) a local health officer's authority to issue enforceable public health orders pursuant to section section 252.03 and ordinance 46.40 does not run afoul of constitutional separation of powers principles. View "Becker v. Dane County" on Justia Law

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In this case concerning two documents created by employees of the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) that authorized municipal clerks and local election officials to establish ballot drop boxes the Supreme Court held that the documents were invalid because ballot drop boxes are illegal under Wisconsin statutes.Two Wisconsin voters brought this action challenging the validity of the documents, arguing, among other things, that, under Wisconsin statutes, drop boxes are illegal. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of Plaintiffs. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) an absentee ballot must be returned by mail or the voter must personally deliver it to the municipal clerk at the clerk's officer or a designated alternate site, not an inanimate object; and (2) therefore, the documents were invalid. View "Teigen v. Wisconsin Elections Commission" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the circuit court denying Defendant's postconviction motion but reversing the denial of Defendant's request for an evidentiary hearing, holding that the circuit court properly exercised its discretion in denying an evidentiary hearing.After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of one count each of felony murder and possession of a firearm by a felon. In his motion for postconviction relief Defendant argued that the trial judge's ex parte contact with one juror violated his Sixth Amendment right to counsel and that his counsel rendered ineffective assistance by failing to object to hearsay testimony. The circuit court denied the motion without holding an evidentiary hearing. The court of appeals affirmed the denial of the motion but reversed and remanded on the ground that Defendant was entitled to a hearing on his claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. View "State v. Spencer" on Justia Law

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In this case regarding the interpretation of Wis. Stat. 939.46(1m) and the scope of the "affirmative defense for any offense committed as a direct result" of human or child sex trafficking the Supreme Court held that the statute is a complete defense to first-degree intentional homicide.Defendant was charged with first-degree intentional homicide, arson, and several other offenses in connection with the death of the man she says trafficked her. At issue was whether Defendant was entitled to a jury instruction on the defense provided in section 939.46(1m) at trial as to some or all of the charges against her. The Supreme Court declined to answer this question because it would be available to Defendant at trial only if she put forth some evidence to support its application. The Court then held that if Defendant does provide such evidence, it will be the State's burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defense does not apply. View "State v. Kizer" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the decision of the circuit court convicting Defendant on the charge of first-degree intentional homicide with use of a dangerous weapon and being a felon in possession of a firearm, holding that Defendant's Sixth Amendment right to counsel was not violated.At issue was whether Defendant's constitutional right to counsel was violated when a jail inmate secretly recorded conversations with Defendant and when the State admitted those recordings into evidence. The court of appeals reversed on grounds of ineffective assistance of counsel, concluding that trial counsel's failure to seek suppression of the recording fell below an objective standard of reasonableness. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Defendant's Sixth Amendment right to counsel was not violated because Defendant was not acting as a State agent when he recorded his conversations with Defendant. View "State v. Arrington" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the circuit court declining to decide whether a letter from the Wisconsin Department of Revenue (DOR) constituted an unpromulgated rule, deferring instead to the Tax Appeals Commission to first decide that question, holding that the circuit court erroneously exercised its discretion.Wisconsin, Manufactures and Commerce, Inc. (WMC) sent a letter to the Wisconsin Department of Revenue (DOR) articulating its view that machinery, patterns and tools that are not used in manufacturing are exempt from tax under Wis. Stat. 70.111(27)(b) even if that property is "located on manufacturing property." DOR sent a letter in return explaining that the exemption does not apply to manufacturers. WMC filed a declaratory judgment action claiming that DOR's letter was an invalid umpromulgated rule and that DOR's interpretation of the exemption violated the state and federal Constitutions. The circuit court dismissed all claims under the primary jurisdiction doctrine. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that deference to the Tax Appeals Commission was not warranted under the primary jurisdiction doctrine. View "Wis. Property Tax Consultants, Inc. v. Wis. Department of Revenue" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the circuit court dismissing this action for quo warrants and declaratory judgment relief alleging that Frederick Prehn unlawfully held a position on the Wisconsin Board of Natural Resources (the DNR Board), holding that the district court properly concluded that there was no statutory or constitutional basis to remove Prehn from office without cause.On April 30, 2021, Governor Tony Evers announced the appointment of Sandra Dee E. Naas to replace Prehn on the DNR Board, but Prehn declined to step down from his position. The Attorney General, on behalf of the State, filed this action alleging that when Prehn's term expired on May 1, 2021, he no longer possessed any legal right to his position on the DNR Board. The State asked the circuit court to order that Prehn be removed from office or that the circuit court declare that the Governor can remove him without cause. The circuit court dismissed the complaint with prejudice. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the expiration of Prehn's term on the DNR Board did not create a vacancy, and Prehn lawfully retained his position as a holdover; and (2) until his successor is confirmed by the senate, Prehn may be removed by the Governor only for cause. View "State ex rel. Kaul v. Prehn" on Justia Law