Bills of Note: Additional Circuit Courts

On Nov. 12, the Wisconsin Assembly passed a bill that would add an additional 12 circuit court branches to the state.

Specifically, Assembly Bill 470 would allow the director of state courts to add a total of 12 circuit court branches – four each year beginning in 2021. Counties would have to have passed a resolution requesting a circuit court branch and established the appropriate infrastructure in order to be eligible for a new branch. Under the bill, the director of state courts can require the county to establish a drug court as a condition for receiving a court branch allocation. Judges on new courts would be elected, not appointed.

The Assembly unanimously passed the bill, with one amendment. The amendment:

  • Pushes back all the effective dates in the bill by one year, so that the director of courts could add 4 courts in 2021, 4 courts in 2022, and 4 courts in 2023.
  • In accordance with moving the effective dates, removes the appropriations for circuit court judges and court reporters for the new courts in the 2019-21 budget and instead directs the director of state courts to ask for funding for those new positions in its 2021-23 and 2023-25 biennial budget requests.

The bill now heads to the Wisconsin Senate.

WDC is registered in support of AB 470.