Supreme court will hear case involving life sentence of 14-year-old
boy, among others
Oct. 13, 2010
– Among the 18 new cases slated for review by the Wisconsin
Supreme Court is a high-profile case in which the court will decide
whether sentencing a 14-year-old to life imprisonment constitutes cruel
and unusual punishment.
In 1998, 14-year old Omar Ninham pushed a 13-year-old boy off the fifth
story of a parking ramp and was later convicted and sentenced to life
without parole. After arrest, Ninham threatened a judge and three
witnesses, including a woman he threatened to rape.
The court of appeals in State v. Ninham, 2001AP716-CR (Dec. 4,
2001) ruled that “[a] sentence to life without the possibility of
parole for a crime committed by a 14-year-old does not per se
violate the constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual
Ten years later, Ninham argues that the U.S. Supreme Court case of
Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551 (2005) warrants a revised
sentence. In that case, the high court ruled that the Eighth Amendment
prohibits execution of juveniles.
Ninham, represented by the Equal Justice Initiative, asserts that U.S.
Supreme Court precedent under Roper requires a specialized
inquiry into the constitutionality of sentencing a 14-year old to life
without possibility of parole. This specialized inquiry, Ninham argues,
should take into consideration the offender’s age and level of
development at the time of the offense.
In addition, Ninham argues that new scientific evidence relating to
adolescent brain development is highly relevant in considering a revised
sentence, an argument the court of appeals rejected.
The decision could clarify the constitutionality of sentencing a
juvenile to life imprisonment in light of recent U.S. Supreme Court
The supreme court will also review 17 other cases in various areas of
law. The cases, and the issues presented, are listed below.
Rasmussen v. General Motors Corp., 2007AP35
E-Z Roll Off v. County of Oneida, 2009AP775
Issue 1: Whether the notice requirements mandated by Wis. Stat.
§893.80(1) and §59.07 apply to Plaintiff-Respondent E-Z Roll
Off LLC’s action for declaratory relief under Wis. Stat.
§133.03 and damages alleged?
Issue 2: Whether the notice of injury was timely?
Issue 3: Whether Oneida County had actual notice of the injury and
was it prejudiced because it was not timely served with the notice of
Issue 4: Whether the continuing violations doctrine applies to
Wis. Stat. §893.80(1)?
Emjay Inv. Co. v. Village of Germantown, 2009AP1714
Issue 1: Whether Wis. Stat. Ch. 66 permits a “contingent”
special assessment, rendering the 90-day limitation inapplicable?
Issue 2: Whether the the Village’s failure to adopt a final
resolution in compliance with § 66.0703(8)(c) precludes application
of the the 90-day limitation?
Issue 3: Whether Emjay can challenge the special assessment by means
not barred by the 90-day limitation?
Property and land use law
Ottman v. Town of Primrose, 2008AP3182
Issue 1: Whether the current judicial rule on deference to land use
decisions by smaller units of government overly insulates the balancing
of community interests and individual property rights from judicial
Issue 2: Whether, if the town is engaged in regulation of the use of
land such that statutory certiorari applies and the judicial rule
limited the scope of statutory certiorari should be overruled?
Issue 3: Whether the decision by the town fails to withstand
conscientious judicial scrutiny of the basis for deference and the
customary standard of judicial review?
Boerst v. Henn, 2009AP1559
Kilian v. Mercedes Benz, 2009AP538
Issue 1: Whether a consumer is entitled to an award of attorney fees
where the consumer sues for rescission of a motor vehicle lease to stop
the lessor’s enforcement of the lease but the consumer did not
suffer a separate pecuniary loss?
Issue 2: Whether a consumer suffers damages where attorney fees are
incurred to block the enforcement of a motor vehicle lease?
Issue 3: Whether a consumer can recover damages for defamation that
is a direct result of enforcement of a motor vehicle lease?
DeBoer Transp. v. Swenson, 2009AP564
Issue 1: Whether Wisconsin statute requires employers to provide
injured workers special accommodations for personal obligations not
provided to uninjured workers?
Issue 2: If Wisconsin statute requires employers to provide injured
workers special accommodations for personal obligations, what standard
should the Commission apply when determining which special
accommodations should be granted?
State v. Beauchamp, 2009AP806-CR
Brown County DHS v. Brenda B., 2010AP321
Polsky v. Virnich, 2007AP203
Issue 1: Whether the holding of Beloit Liquidating prohibits
receivers from asserting claims, on the corporation’s behalf, of
breach of fiduciary duty to the corporation?
Issue 2: Whether officers and directors, who self deal against the
corporation’s interests, enjoy a “unity of interest”
with the corporation, mandating application of the intracorporate
Issue 3: Whether a conspiracy claim is actionable without an
underlying actionable violation of an independent right?
Issue 4: Whether a corporation’s tort claim accrues before the
claim is capable of enforcement when the tortfeasors are the only
individuals who can enable the corporation to assert the claim?
Day v. Allstate Indemnity, 2008AP2929
Issue 1: Whether the Allstate family exclusion provision
unambiguously precludes coverage in the context of a wrongful death
claim brought by someone other than an insured person?
Issue 2: Whether public policy precludes application of a family
exclusion provision in the context of a wrongful death claim brought by
a plaintiff who is not a family member, is not an insured person, and
who does not have any family ties with the insured tortfeasor, against a
tortfeasor who is not partial to the plaintiff based on family ties,
under circumstances where the insured tortfeasor will certainly
cooperate and assist the insurer in defending the claim?
Fischer v. Steffen, 2009AP1669
Stupar River v. Town of Linwood Board of Review, 2009AP191
State v. Harbor, 2009AP1252
State v. Burris, 2009AP956-CR
State v. Funk, 2008AP2765-CR
State v. Rhodes, 2009AP25-CR
Issue 1: Did the court of appeals correctly apply the constitutional
principles of law governing confrontation and compulsory process when it
concluded that the circuit court impermissibly limited the
defendant's cross examination of a state witness?
Issue 2: if the answer to issue 1 is “yes,” was the
circuit court’s error harmless?