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Toepel, M. G.; Kuehn, Hazel L. (ed.) / The Wisconsin Blue Book

The state government: judicial branch,   pp. [527]-540 PDF (3.4 MB)

Page [529]

  Even in territorial days Wisconsin had a Supreme Court and also
district courts, probate courts, and justices of the peace. Then,
with the adoption of the Constitution in 1848, judicial power was
vested in a Supreme Court, circuit courts, courts of probate, and
justices of the peace. In addition the legislature was granted power
to grant jurisdiction to municipal and inferior courts. The judges
of the 5 judicial districts created by the Constitution were required
to meet once a year in Madison as a Supreme Court. In 1852 a
separate Supreme Court consisting of 3 judges was created by the
legislature, and in November 1877 the number of judges was in-
creased to 5, and in 1903 to 7, its present number.
   In 1849 pursuant to constitutional authority the legislature
created a county court in each county, conferred probate jurisdic-
tion on them and abolished the probate courts as such. By later
individual acts municipal and inferior courts were created and
county courts were given varying amounts of civil and criminal
jurisdiction by special acts. The text of these individual acts as
amended through 1949 are printed in the 1950 Wisconsin Annota-
tions. By legislative act in 1951 the texts as printed in the Annota-
tions were made the law and given 1951 chapter numbers in the
session laws.
   The 1955 legislature approved for first consideration a con-
stitutional amendment which would reorganize the present court
system and eliminate all courts except the Supreme Court, circuit
court and justices of the peace (Jt. Res. 51). This amendment was
referred to the 1957 legislature for its second consideration.
   All judges are elected on a nonpartisan basis in April. A primary
election for judges of the Supreme Court, circuit and county courts
is held whenever 3 or more candidates file nomination papers for
these offices. This primary election is held 4 weeks prior to the
April election. A Supreme Court Justice and a circuit court judge
must be less than 70 years old and an attorney with at least 5 years
experience to qualify for office, in accordance with a constitutional
amendment adopted in April 1955. Vacancies in the offices of judge
of the Supreme Court, circuit courts, county and municipal courts are
filled by the Governor until a successor is elected. A constitutional
amendment was approved in 1953 and Chapter 606, Laws of 1953,
was passed providing that Supreme Court Justices and circuit
judges be elected for full terms instead of the remainder of the
unexpired terms in elections held to fill vacancies. By Chapter 299,
Laws of 1955, a similar provision was enacted for judges of the
county, municipal, superior, district, civil and other special courts.
   The 1951 legislature, by Chapter 475, Laws of 1951, made it pos-
sible for judges of the Supreme Court and circuit courts to join the

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