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Toepel, M. G.; Theobald, H. Rupert (ed.) / The Wisconsin Blue Book, 1962

Judicial branch,   pp. [549]-564 PDF (4.4 MB)

Page 551

   As reorganized, Wisconsin's court system will consist of a Supreme
 Court, circuit courts, county courts, municipal justice of the peace
 courts, and constitutional justices of the peace. The jurisdiction of
 the Supreme Court and circuit courts remain unchanged. The most
 significant change in the reorganization was the abolition of the
 special statutory courts (municipal, district, superior, civil, and
 small claims). All the separate acts relating to the county courts
 were repealed and the county court was established with uniform
 jurisdiction and procedure throughout the state. Where-the special
 courts operated full-time and had a full-time judge presiding, a
 branch of county court has now been created to absorb and continue
 their function. Thus, no county should suffer a reduction in
 judicial service because of the abolition of a special court since the
 function will be carried on by a branch of the county court.
   Another major change in the reorganization was to reduce the
 jurisdiction of the justice of peace by removing such civil actions
 as recovery of property, unlawful detainer, matters of garnishment
 and attachment, and penalties and forfeitures. Criminal jurisdiction
 is limited to prosecutions for battery and disorderly conduct. While
 the jurisdiction of justice of peace may be limited, the office itself
 cannot be abolished except by constitutional amendment.
   A third important change was to provide machinery to administer
 the court system. One of the problems under the old system was
 that the case load was uneven - heavy in some areas and light in
 other areas. Sometimes, too, the work load was not evenly dis-
 tributed between the judges of a single area. Chapter 315, Laws
 1959, provides machinery to improve the efficiency of the courts.
 The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is authorized to assign cir-
 cuit and county judges to serve temporarily in either the circuit
 or county courts when needed. The 1961 Legislature took one step
 further and established the office of court administrator (Chapter
 261). The administrator is to assist the Chief Justice in the admin-
 istration of the courts and to perform such duties as are required
 by the court.
   Justices of the Supreme Court and judges of the circuit court
and county court are elected on a nonpartisan basis in April. When
3 or more candidates file nomination papers for an office of judge-
ship, a primary election is held 4 weeks prior to the April election.
All these judges must be less than 70 years old and licensed attor-
neys. In addition, the Supreme Court justices and circuit court
judges must have at least 5 years' experience as attorneys to
qualify for office. Vacancies in the offices of judges are filled by
the Governor, until a successor is elected. In elections held to fill
vacancies, judges are elected for full terms instead of the remainder
of the unexpired terms.

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