Vol. 77, No. 6, June
Locating Wisconsin Administrative Decisions Online
When you know which agency is responsible for what kind of decision,
locating the decision online becomes a snap.
by Carol J. Schmitt
How many times have you wondered if Wisconsin agency decisions are
available online or are free? Stop wondering. The answer to both of
these questions is yes.
Administrative decisions cover a variety of subjects and are issued
by several state agencies. What can be confusing is determining what
each agency is responsible for and where each agency's decisions are
located. This article provides a brief overview (arranged topically) of
several Wisconsin agency decisions Web sites and includes a few search
Labor, Employment, and Related
Several agencies issue decisions related to labor, employment,
collective bargaining, and related issues. A very good starting point is
the Wisconsin Labor
and Industry Review Commission (LIRC). The LIRC rules on
appeals in three areas: unemployment insurance (UI), worker's
compensation (WC), and equal rights (ER).
With respect to each of the three areas, the LIRC database
- access to more than 1,500 full-text LIRC UI decisions
- approximately 219 UI court decision summaries
- approximately 700 full-text WC decisions
- more than 500 full-text ER decisions
- links to Wisconsin Supreme Court and Court of Appeals decisions
related to UI, WC, and ER.
The database allows for keyword searching, uses the standard *
(asterisk) wildcard command, and uses the standard Boolean connectors
AND, OR, AND NOT, and NEAR. Additionally, the database can be searched
by UI decision digest number or date of decision. (Note: Unless
specified, the database will search all decisions. To choose your
database, from the main page select UI decisions, WC decisions, or ER
One unique feature is the ability to limit your search to the
contents of the title. This feature allows you to use the term
"@DocTitle" followed by the word or words you want to find within the
For decisions or grievance awards related to labor relations
collective bargaining, you can search either of two Web sites: the
State Bar of Wisconsin Web page, www.wisbar.org/werc;
or the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission (WERC)
Web site at http://werc.wi.gov.
WERC Decisions. The WERC Web
site database contains PDF files of the following:
- grievance awards from 1989 to the present
- interest award decisions from 1972 to the present (including
police-fire [MIA] and general employee [INT] awards)
- WERC and related court decisions for labor relations cases
(municipal sector from 1962 to date; state and private items from 1971
- digests of WERC labor relation decisions
- personnel appeals cases and digests.
The WERC Web site database incorporates the State of Wisconsin Ultra
Seek search engine, which provides an advanced search screen that allows
you to impose limits (for example, "should contain," "words in title,"
and so on). For more search tips and information, see http://werc.wi.gov/searching_werc_website.htm.
(Please note that the 1989 files will take longer to
view, download, and print. They also will not be as convenient to
search, since they had to be scanned rather than converted to PDF
In a cooperative venture with the State Bar of Wisconsin, WERC
decisions (1989 - present ) and grievance awards (1989 - present) are
offered via WisBar, the State Bar's Web site. WERC decisions are located
grievance awards are at www.wisbar.org/werc/ga/archive.html.
(A link to the individual database on WisBar also is available at the
WERC Web site.) Using the WisBar search engine, one can search for
awards or decisions by keywords or search one of four indexes (award
number, employer, arbitrator name, or date). Text can be copied,
printed, and pasted into word processing documents.
Although the Wisconsin Personnel Commission (WPC)
has been abolished by the 2003-04 budget bill, WPC decisions can still
be found at pcm.state.wi.us/home/digestentry.htm.
The site contains a Digest of Decisions, which provides
summaries of decisions from Feb. 16, 1978 through March 1, 1999. The
site also is beginning to provide direct links from case summaries to
decisions. Decisions can be searched by case name or subject matter. The
Subject Matter Index by levels listing provides the subject
area, the corresponding classification number, and highlighted links to
an expanded level of the subject index. From this expanded level, you
can link to summaries of cases on the topic of interest.
The Wisconsin Ethics Board publishes annual
summaries of its Advisory
Opinions. From this link, click on "Forms & Publications" and
then scroll down to "Advisory Opinions, Digest of..." The
digests are arranged chronologically by year.
opinions from 1982 to the present are available from the Wisconsin
Legislature/ Choose by clicking on "Opinions of the Attorney General."
The folio search engine allows you to search by keyword, attorney
general name, OAG number, and so on.
You also can find formal opinions issued by current Attorney General
Peg Lautenschlager at the Department of Justice. You also
may register to receive notification of AG opinions by sending your
email address to Kathy
Howard, or by calling (608) 226-7876, or faxing a request to (608)
You can find decisions regarding professional licenses or
disciplinary actions at Department of
Regulation and Licensing (DRL).
You can locate Reports of Decisions at drl.wi.gov/dept/decisions/decisions.htm.
license holder's last name or by searching indexes broken down by year
and month (within each year/month, the decisions are indexed by
respondent and profession). The decisions:
The State Bar of Wisconsin provides cases, decisions, and select
rules of the Wisconsin Tax Appeals Commission from 1999, available at www.wisbar.org/witaxop.
Searchers can choose within year by case number, petitioner name,
date, and category. The documents can be opened simply by clicking on
the docket number. To download a copy of the opinion, click on the "WP"
link. (This is a compressed WP5, WP 5.1, or Microsoft Word format.)
The Public Service Commission (PSC) posts orders and notices
regarding utilities, issued on or after Jan. 1, 1998, at http://psc.wi.gov/a_erf_search/default.aspx.
Searchers can locate orders or notices in any of three ways: 1) docket
number link (the first part of a docket I.D. is the utility number, the
second part is the case type code, and the third part is the sequence
number); 2) utility name; and 3) specific document type. The site also
has a Quick search for recent Orders and Notices and an
Advanced search capability.
Division of Hearings and Appeals
At the Department of Administration, Division of Hearings and Appeals
(DOA DHA), you can locate decisions of the Department of Employee Trust
Funds, Department of Public Instruction, Department of Transportation,
and Department of Natural Resources. You can also find Department of
Health and Family Services Medicaid divestment cases and MA resource
allocation cases, and Department of Justice crime victim compensation
cases. Simply choose the agency and the year you are interested in, or
to search by keyword, use the Search DHA query box at the
bottom of the page. Your search results will be listed in docket number
So the next time you need to locate a Wisconsin agency decision, look
Carol J. Schmitt is the law library
manager at Boardman Suhr Curry & Field LLP, Madison. She is a member
of the Law Librarians Association of Wisconsin, sponsor of this series
of articles on conducting efficient, effective research.