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  • WisBar News
    December 20, 2013

    Wisconsin Supreme Court Adds 13 Cases, Including Challenges to Voter ID Law

    Dec. 20, 2013 – The Wisconsin Supreme Court recently added 13 new cases to its docket, including two related cases that challenge a state law, enacted in 2011, requiring Wisconsin citizens to show photo identification to vote in elections.

    The law, 2011 Wisconsin Act 23, faced numerous legal challenges in both federal and state courts after it was enacted in 2011. Litigation has halted enforcement of Act 23.

    In Milwaukee Branch of the NAAC v. Walker, Dane County Circuit Court Judge David Flanagan temporarily stopped the Government Accountability Board form enforcing Act 23. A permanent injunction was later issued to stop enforcement pending litigation.

    In a separate suit, League of Women Voters v. Walker, Dane County Circuit Court Judge Richard Niess concluded that Act 23’s photo ID requirements were unconstitutional “to the extent they serve as a condition for voting at the polls.”

    This decision was later reversed by a state appeals court, which decided the case after the supreme court refused to hear it on certification. The supreme court denied numerous attempts to fast-track both cases before the November 2012 elections.

    Now, however, the supreme court will hear both cases under the backdrop of Art. III, section 2 of the Wisconsin Constitution, which allows the Legislature to regulate election procedure. But the challengers say Act 23 unconstitutionally burdens the right to vote.

    Two cases in federal court challenged the law on the basis that requiring photo ID violates numerous provisions of the U.S. Constitution, as well as the Voting Rights Act of 1965. A trial in those cases concluded last month, and a decision is pending.

    Other Cases Accepted for Review

    The supreme court also accepted review in 12 other cases involving employment law, wrongful death, search and seizure, expungment, OWI law, torts, contracts and consumer law, criminal procedure, and worker’s compensation. Here’s the list:

    Employment Law

    In Masri v. LIRC and Medical College of Wisconsin, the supreme court will examine whether an unpaid intern is considered an “employee” who is protected from employer retaliation by Wisconsin’s health care worker protection statute. A doctoral candidate, Asma Masri, was working a 40-hour, unpaid internship at the Medical College of Wisconsin but was terminated soon after reporting possible ethics violations.

    Wrongful Death

    In Force v. American Family, the supreme court will decide whether the children of a man killed in car accident can recover for wrongful death when there is a surviving spouse but the surviving spouse has been estranged for more than 10 years.

    In Warenka v. Wadena Ins. Co., the supreme court may determine whether Wisconsin or Michigan wrongful death law applies in a case that stems from a snowmobile accident that occurred in Michigan but killed a Wisconsin resident.

    Contracts, Consumer Law

    In Williams v. Valued Services, the court will examine issues related to short-term loans under the Wisconsin Consumer Act. Specifically, the court may decide if high-interest loans become unconscionable when they a certain interest level.

    Search and Seizure

    In State v. Wantland, the court will examine if police violated constitutional protections against warrantless searches and seizures when they searched a briefcase. The defendant had given general consent to search his car, but when police came upon his briefcase, the defendant asked: “Got a warrant for that?” Police found morphine.

    Torts, Worker’s Compensation

    Brandenburg v. Luethi is a neighbor dispute. The plaintiffs say their neighbor hired an independent contractor to spray herbicides on the neighbor’s lawn. But the plaintiff’s trees and plants were damaged as a result of negligent spraying, they say. The supreme court may decide whether the worker was engaged in an “inherently dangerous” activity. A principal (in this case, the insured neighbor) is not liable for the torts of independent contractors, unless the activity is inherently dangerous.

    In Adams v. Northland Equipment Co., the supreme court may clarify whether an individual who receives worker’s compensation benefits can be compelled to accept a statutory settlement offer from an alleged tortfeasor and their insurer. Russell Adams, a public worker, was permanently injured in a snow plowing incident. He sued the snow plow seller, a company that had done repair work on the plow prior to the accident.

    Criminal Procedure

    In State v. Purtell, the supreme court will examine whether the court of appeals overstepped its authority in reversing the child pornography convictions of Jeremiah Purtell. The state says the appeals court improperly engaged in appellate fact finding and decided the case on an argument never presented to the trial court. Purtell’s probation agent found child porn on his computer after searching it without a warrant.

    In State v. Matasek, the court will determine whether circuit courts have discretion to withhold judgments on expungment until after a defendant successfully completes probation, or whether that decision must be made at sentencing. Matasek pleaded no contest to manufacture or delivery of THC. The sentencing judge refused to order expungment of his record if and when he completed all sentence requirements.

    OWI Cases

    In State v. Rocha-Mayo, the supreme court will examine whether the results of a preliminary breath test (PBT) were properly admitted into evidence, even though the breath test was not approved for evidential use in Wisconsin and was not administered by a police officer. Luis Rocha-Mayo was convicted for killing a motorcyclist while driving drunk. A nurse performed the PBT test. Rocha-Mayo says this evidence should have been excluded because the PBT testing did not meet breath test protocols.

    In State v. Williams, the supreme court may decide whether a drunk driving statute imposes a mandatory minimum period of confinement for an OWI seventh offense or more, and whether the statute prohibits the court from ordering probation.

    Summaries derived from full summaries on

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