Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Wisconsin Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the circuit court striking two insurance conditions from a conditional use permit (CUP) Dane County issued to Enbridge Energy Company as unenforceable under 2015 Wisconsin Act 55, holding that because Enbridge carried the requisite insurance, Act 55 rendered Dane County's extra insurance conditions unenforceable. The two conditions at issue required Enbridge to procure additional insurance prior to Enbridge expanding its pipeline pump station. Dane County approved the CUP with these insurance conditions. Thereafter, the Wisconsin Legislature passed Act 55, which prohibits counties from requiring an interstate pipeline operator to obtain additional insurance when the pipeline operating company carries comprehensive general liability insurance with coverage for "sudden and accidental" pollution liability. Dane County issued the CUP with the invalid insurance conditions. The circuit court struck the two conditions from the CUP as unenforceable under Act 55. The court of appeals reversed on the ground that Enbridge failed to show it carried the requisite coverage triggering the statutory prohibition barring the County from imposing additional insurance procurement requirements. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Enbridge carried the requisite insurance, and therefore, Dane County's extra insurance conditions were unenforceable. View "Enbridge Energy Co. v. Dane County" on Justia Law

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In this original action brought by Plaintiffs, two licensed teachers and two school board members, against the Superintendent of Public Instruction (SPI) and the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) arguing that, prior to drafting or promulgating an administrative rule, the SPI and DPI must receive written approval from the governor as required by statute, holding that the gubernatorial approval requirement for rulemaking is constitutional as applied to the SPI and DPI. The SPI and DPI argued that the statutory requirement of gubernatorial approval was unconstitutional as applied because, pursuant to Wis. Const. art. X, 1, no other officer may be placed in a position equal or superior to that of the SPI with regard to the supervision of public instruction. The Supreme Court held that it was of no constitutional concern that the governor is given equal or greater legislative authority than the SPI in rulemaking because when the SPI, through the DPI, promulgates rules, it is exercising legislative power that comes not from the constitution from from the legislature. View "Koschkee v. Taylor" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the circuit court sustaining the the Board of Review for the Town of Delafield’s reclassification of two lots of land owned by Appellants from “agricultural land” to “residential”, holding that the two lots at issue were entitled to be classified as agricultural land as a matter of law. In reversing the circuit court, the court of appeals determined that a business purpose was not necessary for land to be classified as agricultural land for property tax purposes and that the assessor’s determination of the appropriate classification was driven by his erroneous understand of the law. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) a business purpose is not required for land to be classified as agricultural land for property tax purposes; and (2) the two lots at issue were entitled to be classified as agricultural land. View "Peter Ogden Family Trust of 2008 v. Board of Review for the Town of Delafield" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals, holding that the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) did not have the authority to unilaterally amend the pier permit of Philip and Terrie Myers. After the Myers were granted a permit by the DNR and built a pier at their waterfront property. Later, the DNR issued a formal permit amendment requiring the Myers to significantly change their pier. The Myers declined to comply with the permit amendment and filed a petition for judicial review. The circuit court denied the petition, concluding that the DNR had the authority to amend the pier permit. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the DNA lacked authority to amend the Myers’ permit. View "Myers v. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources" on Justia Law

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The term “processing” in Wis. Stat. 77.52(2)(a)11. includes the separation of river segment into its component parts. The Wisconsin Department of Revenue imposed a tax on Petitioners pursuant to section 77.52(2)(a)11. for the “processing” of river sediments into reusable sand, waste sludge, and water. The Wisconsin Tax Appeals Commission upheld the Department’s determination. Petitioners filed a petition for judicial review, arguing that the term “processing” is not expansive enough to cover the separation of river sediment into its component parts. The circuit court and court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Petitioners were liable for the sales and use tax imposed by section 77.52(2); and (2) although the Court has decided to end the practice of deferring to administrative agencies’ conclusions of law, pursuant to Wis. Stat. 227.57(10), the Court will give “due weight” to the experience, technical competence, and specialized knowledge of an administrative agency as it considers its arguments. View "Tetra Tech EC, Inc. v. Wisconsin Department of Revenue" on Justia Law

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In this dispute over unemployment compensation benefits, the Supreme Court held that the plain language of Wis. Stat. 108.04(5)(e) allows an employer to adopt its own absenteeism policy that differs from the policy set forth in the statute. Further, termination for the violation of the employer’s absenteeism policy will result in disqualification from receiving unemployment compensation benefits even if the employer’s absenteeism policy is more restrictive than the policy set forth in section 108.04(5)(e). Employee was denied unemployment compensation on the ground that she was terminated for “misconduct” - namely, absenteeism, as defined by section 108.04(5)9e). The circuit court concluded that an employer’s violation of the employer’s absenteeism rules constitutes “misconduct” under section 108.04(5)(e) barring unemployment compensation benefits. The court of appeals disagreed, holding that an employee who is terminated for violating an employer’s absenteeism rules is not barred from obtaining unemployment benefits unless the employee’s conduct violates the statutory definition of misconduct based on absenteeism. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Employee was properly denied benefits under the circumstances of this case. View "Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development v. Wisconsin Labor & Industry Review Commission" on Justia Law

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The classification of real property for tax purposes is based on the actual use of the property, and an injunction prohibiting agricultural use of a residentially-zoned property, which is based on a restrictive covenant, does not control the property’s tax assessment classification. However, the record before the Board in this case contained no evidence that the property was used agriculturally within the meaning of Wisconsin tax law. Donald Thoma and Polk Properties LLC (collectively, Thoma) challenged the Village of Slinger’s 2014 property tax assessment for land Thoma attempted to develop into a residential subdivision. The property previously operated as a farm and received an agricultural classification for tax assessment purposes. Thoma and the Village later entered into an agreement that contained a restrictive covenant prohibiting Thoma from using the land for agriculture. The Village then obtained an injunction prohibiting any agricultural use on the property. The Board voted to uphold the assessor’s assessment, which the assessor reached by changing the use classification from agricultural to residential. The circuit court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Board’s decision upholding the tax assessment was lawful and supported by a reasonable view of the evidence; and (2) the circuit court did not err in denying Thoma’s request to vacate the original order. View "Thoma v. Village of Slinger" on Justia Law

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The DNR appealed the circuit court’s decision restoring contested Wisconsin Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (WPDES) permit conditions that the DNR had rejected. The DNR selected District II as the appellate venue. A single court of appeals judge issued an order sua sponte transferring venue from District II to District IV, noting that District IV was the proper venue because it encompassed the circuit court that issued the judgment from which the DNR appealed. The DNR then petitioned the Supreme Court for a supervisory writ requiring the court of appeals to transfer venue back to District II. The Supreme Court granted the petition for a supervisory writ, holding (1)Wis. Stat. 752.21(2) gave DNR the right to select appellate venue under the circumstances of this case; (2) it was the court of appeals’ plain duty to hear the DNR’s appeal in District II; and (3) the DNR met the requirements for the issuance of a supervisory writ. View "State ex rel. Department of Natural Resources v. Wisconsin Court of Appeals, District IV" on Justia Law

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Applying Wis. Stat. 70.47(7)(aa) and Wis. Stat. 74.37(4)(a) in a manner that required submission to a tax assessor’s search as a precondition to challenging the revaluation of their property violated Plaintiffs’ due process rights. Plaintiffs brought this case claiming that the assessment of their real property was excessive and that sections 70.47(7)(aa) and 74.37(4)(a), as applied, were unconstitutional because they conditioned their right to challenge the assessor’s valuation of the property on submission to a search of the interior of their home. The circuit court granted summary judgment for the Town. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that sections 70.47(7)(aa) and 73.37(4)(a) were unconstitutionally applied to Plaintiffs. View "Milewski v. Town of Dover" on Justia Law

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An employee is not eligible for benefits under Wis. Stat. 102.42(1m) if the disability-causing treatment was directed at treating something other than the employee’s compensable injury. Plaintiff suffered from a soft-tissue strain, which was work-related, and a degenerate disc disease, which was not work-related. In the belief that it was necessary to treat her soft-tissue strain, Plaintiff underwent surgery, which, in actuality, was treating the unrelated degenerative disc disease. The procedure left Plaintiff with a permanent partial disability. Plaintiff filed a workers’ compensation claim, which the * Commission denied. The circuit court affirmed. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that, based on its interpretation of section 102.42(1m), an employee need only have a good faith belief that the treatment was required. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals and affirmed the Commission’s order dismissing Plaintiff’s claim for disability benefits, holding that Plaintiff’s claim must be allowed because her surgery treated her pre-existing condition, not her compensable injury. View "Flug v. Labor & Industry Review Commission" on Justia Law