Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Wisconsin Supreme Court
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In this case concerning two documents created by employees of the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) that authorized municipal clerks and local election officials to establish ballot drop boxes the Supreme Court held that the documents were invalid because ballot drop boxes are illegal under Wisconsin statutes.Two Wisconsin voters brought this action challenging the validity of the documents, arguing, among other things, that, under Wisconsin statutes, drop boxes are illegal. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of Plaintiffs. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) an absentee ballot must be returned by mail or the voter must personally deliver it to the municipal clerk at the clerk's officer or a designated alternate site, not an inanimate object; and (2) therefore, the documents were invalid. View "Teigen v. Wisconsin Elections Commission" on Justia Law

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In this action contesting the merits of the Public Service Commission's (PSC) approval of the Cardinal-Hickory Creek Transmission Line the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court, holding that, the court erred in its pretrial decisions.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) in pretrial decisions, the district court erred in interpreting Wis. Stat. 227.57(1) to allow for its expansion of the record created by the PSC and to permit discovery subpoenas of Michael Huebsch; (2) the circuit court erred when it denied Huebsch's motion to quash the discovery subpoenas he received; (3) the circuit court did not apply the correct legal standard when evaluating whether a due process violation had been stated; and (4) the circuit court erroneously denied Huebsch's request for a stay pending appeal. View "County of Dane v. Public Service Commission of Wisconsin" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing orders of the circuit court dismissing challenges brought by the Friends of the Black River Forest and Claudia Bricks (collectively, the Friends) to a land exchange between J. Kohler Company and the Department of Natural Resources, holding that Friends lacked standing to challenge the land transfer decision.Friends filed an action challenging the Board's decision approving an agreement between the Department and Kohler for the land exchange. The circuit court granted Kohler's motion to dismiss, concluding that Friends lacked standing because the alleged injuries did not flow directly from the land swap decision. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that Friends alleged sufficient injuries to satisfy standing under Wis. Stat. 227.52 and 227.53. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that none of the statutes or regulations cited by Friends protected any legally protected, recognized, or regulated interests of Friends that would permit them to challenge the Board's decision as aggrieved persons. View "Friends of the Black River Forest v. Wis. Department of Natural Resources" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the circuit court declining to decide whether a letter from the Wisconsin Department of Revenue (DOR) constituted an unpromulgated rule, deferring instead to the Tax Appeals Commission to first decide that question, holding that the circuit court erroneously exercised its discretion.Wisconsin, Manufactures and Commerce, Inc. (WMC) sent a letter to the Wisconsin Department of Revenue (DOR) articulating its view that machinery, patterns and tools that are not used in manufacturing are exempt from tax under Wis. Stat. 70.111(27)(b) even if that property is "located on manufacturing property." DOR sent a letter in return explaining that the exemption does not apply to manufacturers. WMC filed a declaratory judgment action claiming that DOR's letter was an invalid umpromulgated rule and that DOR's interpretation of the exemption violated the state and federal Constitutions. The circuit court dismissed all claims under the primary jurisdiction doctrine. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that deference to the Tax Appeals Commission was not warranted under the primary jurisdiction doctrine. View "Wis. Property Tax Consultants, Inc. v. Wis. Department of Revenue" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the circuit court dismissing this action for quo warrants and declaratory judgment relief alleging that Frederick Prehn unlawfully held a position on the Wisconsin Board of Natural Resources (the DNR Board), holding that the district court properly concluded that there was no statutory or constitutional basis to remove Prehn from office without cause.On April 30, 2021, Governor Tony Evers announced the appointment of Sandra Dee E. Naas to replace Prehn on the DNR Board, but Prehn declined to step down from his position. The Attorney General, on behalf of the State, filed this action alleging that when Prehn's term expired on May 1, 2021, he no longer possessed any legal right to his position on the DNR Board. The State asked the circuit court to order that Prehn be removed from office or that the circuit court declare that the Governor can remove him without cause. The circuit court dismissed the complaint with prejudice. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the expiration of Prehn's term on the DNR Board did not create a vacancy, and Prehn lawfully retained his position as a holdover; and (2) until his successor is confirmed by the senate, Prehn may be removed by the Governor only for cause. View "State ex rel. Kaul v. Prehn" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the circuit court's dismissal of Petitioner's petition for judicial review of two letters issued by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) on the grounds that the letters were not final agency decisions subject to judicial review, holding that the letters were not subject to judicial review.On appeal, Petitioner argued that one of the letters adversely affected its substantial interests and was subject to judicial review regardless of whether it constituted DNR's final decision and that the letter was sufficiently final to warrant judicial review. The Supreme Court disagreed and affirmed, holding (1) the letter did not adversely affect Petitioner's substantial interests; and (2) therefore, the letter was not subject to judicial review. View "Container Life Cycle Management, LLC v. Wis. Dep't of Natural Resources" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the public records law's general prohibition on pre-release judicial review of decisions to provide access to public records barred the claims brought by Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and two other trade associations (WMC) seeking to stop the release of certain records.After the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel made public records requests to the Department of Health Services (DHS) for documents related to the COVID-19 pandemic WMC learned that DHS planned to respond by releasing a list of all Wisconsin businesses with more than twenty-five employees that have had at least two employees test positive for COVID-19 or that have had close case contacts. WMC brought this action seeking declaratory and injunctive relief to stop the release. The circuit court granted a temporary injunction. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that WMC's complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted because its claim was barred by Wis. Stat. 19.356(1). View "Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce v. Evers" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Board of Review for the City of Kenosha classifying certain property as residential, holding that the Board's determination to sustain the residential classification was supported by sufficient evidence.The City assessor valued the subject property at $89,800 and classified it as residential for property tax purposes. On appeal, Appellant argued that the property should be classified as residential. The Board sustained the assessor's classification. The circuit court and court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Board acted according to law when it looked for more than minimal agricultural use in evaluating whether the property was devoted primarily to agricultural use; (2) the Board did not err in considering the prospective residential use of the property; and (3) the Board's determination to sustain the residential classification was supported by sufficient evidence. View "Nudo Holdings, LLC v. Board of Review for the City of Kenosha" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals, which summarily affirmed the decision of the circuit court affirming the results of a referendum recount conducted pursuant to Wis. Stat. 9.01, holding that Wis. Stat. 7.54 does not apply when an appeal of the result of a recount by the board of canvassers is before an appellate court.On review, Petitioners - James Sewell and George Myers - argued that the Racine Unified School District Board of Canvassers mistakenly calculated the recount's vote totals and that Sewell had an absolute right under section 7.54 to have the ballots opened and reviewed in circuit court. The circuit court affirmed the Board of Canvassers' recount, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that while section 7.54 appears to provide an occasion to utilize its provisions in regard to a contested election, it did not apply in this case. View "Sewell v. Racine Unified School District Board of Canvassers" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Department of Workforce Development rejecting Eden Senior Care's application to succeed the unemployment insurance account of Friendly Village Nursing and Rehab's previous owner, holding that Eden failed to demonstrate excusable neglect for the untimely filing of its application.After purchasing Friendly Village, Eden untimely filed its successorship application. The Labor and Industry Review Commission concluded that the record was insufficient to establish that Eden's application was late because of excusable neglect. Eden appealed, arguing that the Commission erred in failing to consider whether the interests-of-justice factors supported a finding of excusable neglect. The circuit court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Commission applied the correct legal standard; and (2) there was no basis on which to excuse Eden's neglect in filing its successorship application after the statutory deadline. View "Friendly Village Nursing and Rehab, LLC v. State, Department of Workforce Development" on Justia Law