Venue Statute Tested in Recall Lawsuit

One of the major civil justice reforms passed by the Wisconsin Legislature and signed by Governor Walker in 2011, was 2011 Wisconsin Act 61, which modified Wisconsin’s venue statutes in cases where the sole defendant is the state, a state board or commission, or certain state officers, employees, or agents. The new law was recently utilized in Friends of Scott Walker v. The Government Accountability Board, which was filed in Waukesha County Circuit Court on December 15, 2011.

The complaint in the case sought a declaratory judgment from the court that the procedures of the Government Accountability Board, whereby the GAB accepts duplicative signatures on recall petitions, violates the Equal Protection clauses of the United States and Wisconsin constitutions, Article XIII, Section 12(7) of the Wisconsin Constitution, and Wisconsin law.

The case, which under previous law would have been venued in Dane County, was able to be filed in Waukesha County because of the statutory change passed in 2011 Wisconsin Act 61. The only defendants in the case were the GAB, and GAB officials in their official capacities, so the new law applied, allowing the plaintiffs to select appropriate venue.

On January 5th, Waukesha County Judge J. Mac Davis, agreeing with the plaintiffs, ruled that the GAB must take reasonable, affirmative steps to identify and strike duplicate, fictitious or unverifiable signatures from recall petitions.

This post, which originally appeared on the Wisconsin Civil Justice Council’s blog, was authored by Emily Kelchen of the Hamilton Consulting Group.