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Revocation of driving privileges upheld despite pro se litigant’s efforts to comply with statute

Ozaukee County v. Michael T. Sheedy, 2015AP172, 6/3/15, District 3 (1-judge decision, ineligible for publication); click here for docket and briefs

Sheedy was arrested for OWI and refused to submit to a blood test.  A few weeks later, the circuit court entered a default judgement against him. On appeal, Sheedy, pro se, argued that he in fact wrote to the circuit court and asked to reopen his case within the 10 days required by §343.305(2).  His appeal failed.

Although Sheedy wrote to the circuit court within the prescribed 10 days, the court of appeals found his letter insufficient to overcome the default judgment because it failed to: (1) assert or show that he was not in default; and (2) prove that he mailed in the form request for a hearing on his refusal to submit to a BAC test. Slip op. ¶¶2-4. According to the court of appeals, Sheedy’s failure to timely request a hearing caused the circuit court to lose comepetence to hear the matter. The court further held “even construing Sheedy’s letter to the court liberally as a motion to reopen, Sheedy did not assert that he was not in default.” slip op. ¶5.

Faulting Sheedy’s motion to reopen for failing to assert the magic words “I am not in default” hardly seems to comport with the “construe pro se litigants’ pleading and letters liberally in order to do substantial justice” principle announced in  Amek bin-Rilla v. Israel, 113 Wis. 2d 514, 520-21, 335 N.W.2d 384 (1983)

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