Court rules govern the procedures of the court and how matters before a court are handled and processed. Some Wisconsin court rules originate with the Wisconsin Legislature while other court rules are court orders. The Wisconsin Legislature might enact legislation for a specific appellate procedure rule while the Wisconsin Supreme Court might issue a court order regarding a Rule of Appellate Procedure. Notes following rule text can be helpful in identifying the origin of a court rule.
In Wisconsin the Rules Enabling Statute (Wis. Stat. §751.12) authorizes the Wisconsin Supreme Court to promulgate rules regulating "pleading, practice and procedure in judicial proceedings in all courts, for the purposes of simplifying the same and of promoting the speedy determination of litigation upon its merits."
The Wisconsin Judicial Council is an advisory, 21-member body responsible for studying and making recommendations relating to court pleading, practice and procedure and the organization, jurisdiction and methods of administration and operation of Wisconsin courts.
Wisconsin court rules can be found in print and electronic formats. Generally, Wisconsin rules can be found in the statute section applicable to the topic, such as evidence (Chapters 901-911). Collections of rules on a specific topic may also be published. Evidence, Volume 7 of the Wisconsin Practice Series is one example. Similarly, the Wisconsin Supreme Court Rules can be found in the Wisconsin Statutes, are published in a separate pamphlet, are included in the Wisconsin Court Rules and Procedures pamphlets, can be found online and by searching commercial databases such as Lexis and Westlaw. Access is restricted to members of the Marquette University Law School community.
The information below is a selective list of resources available for locating Wisconsin court rules and procedural information for various jurisdictions and topics.
Court rules and related resources on practice and procedure govern the conduct of all actions and proceedings brought before Wisconsin courts. The court rules together with procedural information combine to create a guide to the requirements for practice in the courts. The following resources cover civil and criminal procedure as well as evidentiary rules.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court Rules can be found in print resources, on free Internet sites and in fee-based commercial databases such as Lexis and Westlaw. Access may be restricted to members of the Marquette University Law School community..
The Wisconsin circuit courts are the state's trial courts. The local rules for the circuit courts in Wisconsin can be found online on the State Bar of Wisconsin website and, for selected circuits, are available in print in Wisconsin Court Rules and Procedure, Volume III - Local. It is important to locate the most current set of rules. The local court may need to be contacted to determine when the rules were last updated and where to find the most current version. The Wisconsin Court System Directories page provides contact information for the circuit courts.
Wisconsin is divided into the Eastern and Western federal court districts. The district courts are the trial courts of the United States court system. The federal bankruptcy courts in Wisconsin are also divided into Eastern and Western districts. These federal court districts have their own local rules. In addition, Wisconsin, along with Illinois and Indiana, comprise the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit which handles appellate court matters.
Federal local rules are available on free websites, in print and in commercial databases such as Lexis and Westlaw. Access is restricted to members of the Marquette University Law School community. See also the Federal Court Rules section of this research guide.
An important part of researching court rules is knowing how to update the rules and how to find proposed and new amendments to the rules.
It is sometimes necessary to determine how a court rule is to be interpreted or has been interpreted. There are a number of methods to accomplish this task, depending on the situation.
Citations to court decisions interpreting the rules may be included in West's Wisconsin Statutes Annotated. In addition to checking the annotated statutes, case law research may be necessary to determine if or how a rule has been interpreted by the courts. Check digests such as West's Wisconsin Key Number Digest and Callaghan's Wisconsin Digest for cases. Databases such as Lexis or Westlaw should also be searched. Access is restricted to members of the Marquette University Law School community.
The Wisconsin Judicial Council, an advisory body, will sometimes provide notes following the rule text in a "Notes" section. Insight into why a rule was drafted or amended may be included. This may serve as persuasive authority for how a rule is to be interpreted. In addition, the Judicial Council's notes are included in West's Wisconsin Statutes Annotated.
To illustrate, in the Rules of Appellate Procedure the Judicial Council Notes for Wis. Stat. § 809.86 (2015) Rule (Identification of Victims and Others in Briefing) read, in part: "The proposed rule is intended to protect victims' constitutional and statutory rights...The proposed rule is not a rule of confidentiality or privilege. It is not intended to limit a defendant's right to a public trial, to limit the availability of any potential appellate argument or remedy..."
Case Reporters and Digests
Cases that interpret Wisconsin court rules can be found in Wisconsin case reporters and digests.
A citator lists cases, statutes and other sources of law that show their history. Citators are used to determine whether a case or other authority is still "good law" and to find other authorities that have cited to a particular case, statute, regulation, etc.The two best-known electronic citation services are KeyCite (Westlaw) and Shepard's (Lexis). Access may be restricted to members of the Marquette Law School community. Using either of these services will provide citations to court cases that have interpreted court rules and to secondary sources that provide analysis and commentary. Lexis also publishes print Shepard's citations.