Wisconsin Supreme Court Accepts Six New Cases, Including Issue of Inherent Authority of Wisconsin Appellate Courts to Grant a New Trial in the Interests of Justice

Supreme Court sealOn March 2, the Wisconsin Supreme Court accepted six new cases for review, five criminal cases and one civil case.

The first case, State v. Henley, 2008AP697, presents an interesting issue regarding the authority of the courts of appeal, or the supreme court, to grant a new trial to a criminal defendant in the interests of justice, without regard to the passing of the time for appeal.  As Judges Vergeront, Lundsten, and Bridge explained in their certification of the questions in the case,

This case is significant because the circuit court has granted a form of relief that does not appear to have been recognized previously in Wisconsin law. There is no authority cited by the parties, and none that we know of, that expressly permits a circuit court to grant a new trial in the interest of justice after the time for direct appeal under WIS. STAT. RULE 809.30 has passed. If such a remedy is available, it has implications for finality of criminal convictions and for the interplay with other forms of postconviction relief, such as WIS. STAT. § 974.06. However, availability of this remedy would also improve the ability of courts to consider unusual circumstances and do what justice requires in individual cases. These competing concerns are implicated in the entire series of legal issues discussed in this certification.

The issues in the next case, State v. Carroll, 2007AP1378, surround whether police violated the defendant’s rights in obtaining photographic evidence from his cell phone. 

The next case, Ehlinger v. Hauser, 2007AP477, arose from a business dispute regarding a disability buyout provision that was invoked after one of the principals in the shared business developed Parkinson’s disease. The court of appeals determined that the buyout provisions were unenforceable but that the circuit court properly exercised its discretion in determing that the shared business could pay the litigation expenses of the party who had been seeking the dissolution.  Both parties are dissatisfied with the outcome in the court of appeals, so the case includes a petition and a cross-petition.

In the next case, State v. Arends, 2008AP52, the court has been asked to clarify certain procedural questions presented by section 980.09 of the Wisconsin statutes, regarding committment of a sexually violent person. 

In the next case, State v. Fischer, 2007AP1898, also criminal, the court of appeals affirmed a circuit court order to exclude the testimony of a defense expert regarding his blood alcohol level, when the defense expert relied in part on results of a preliminary breath test (results that are not admissible at an OWI trial). The petition asks the court to decide whether the exclusion of the expert testimony violated Fischer’s constitutional or statutory rights.

Finally, in the last case, State v. Artic, 2008AP880, the Petitioner argues that that police officers’ alleged violations of his rights (invasion of the curtilage, manufacture of exigent circumstances, and forced entry) were not sufficiently attenuated from the consent to search.  Further, he argues that, per se, the fruits of a search or seizure are inadmissible if police created the exigent circumstances (fear of destruction of evidence) by knocking and announcing before entry.

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