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Court Rules Research Guide: Interpreting Wisconsin Court Rules

Court rules govern the procedures of a court and how matters before a court are handled and processed. This guide identifies resources for locating court rules.

Interpreting Wisconsin Court 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. Ann. § 809.86 (2015) Rule (Identification of Victims and Others in Briefing) reads, 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 law research may be needed to determine how a rule has been interpreted by the courts. The application of court rules to specific situations are sometimes litigated. Listed below are sources for finding cases that interpret court rules.

Annotated Version of the Court Rules
Call Number: KFW2430 .A43
Publication Date: 1957-
Annotations include citations to court decisions construing court rules.

Case Reporters and Digests

Cases that interpret Wisconsin court rules can be found in Wisconsin case reporters and digests.

Call Number: KFW2457 .C34
Publication Date: 1950-
Combines state and federal case headnotes into the digest's topic structure. Research references include practice materials and other secondary sources.
Call Number: KFW2457 .W47
Publication Date: 1964-
Contains state and federal judicial decisions arranged according to the Key Number classifications system for points of law. Statutory references refer directly to West's Wisconsin Statutes Annotated.


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.

Call Number: KFW2445.1 .S54
Publication Date: 2007-
Includes case citations as well as citations for Wisconsin Court Rules and Wisconsin Statutes Annotated



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