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    When you know which agency is responsible for what kind of decision, locating the decision online becomes a snap.

    Carol Schmitt

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    Wisconsin Lawyer
    Vol. 77, No. 6, June 2004

    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 tips.

    Labor, Employment, and Related Decisions

    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 provides:

    • 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 decisions).

    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 document title.

    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 to date)
    • 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 files.)

    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 at www.wisbar.org/werc/cd/archive.html; 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.

    Ethics Decisions

    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.

    Attorney General 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) 267-2779.

    Licensing Decisions

    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. After agreeing to the site's terms of use, one can find decisions by 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:

    • are updated monthly
    • contain information (for example, telephone number, contact people, address, and so on) "...as it exists at a specific point in time in the Department of Regulation and Licensing database." The DRL does not assume responsibility for subsequent entries that update, correct, or delete any existing data
    • can be searched using the indexes, by choosing Reports for Current Year or Prior Years from the main screen.
    • Decisions dated before December 1998 must be searched by using the "License Lookup" feature or by searching on an individual's name in the "prior" page.

      You also can locate information on an individual at Individual License Lookup.This information:

    • is available for health or business (for example, real estate, appraiser, barber, and so on) professionals
    • can be searched by credential types (a complete listing of credentials can be found at http://drl.wi.gov/drl/drllookup/LicenseLookupServlet? page=list_credentials)
    • is updated daily.

    Tax 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.)

    Utility Decisions

    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 order.

    So the next time you need to locate a Wisconsin agency decision, look online first.


    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.