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SCOW suspends statutory deadlines for certain non-criminal jury trials until further notice

On March 22, 2020, the supreme court issued an order temporarily suspending or continuing all jury trials scheduled to commence between March 22 and May 22, 2020. As a follow-up, on March 31 the supreme court issued a new order adopting an interim rule that suspends until further notice the following statutory deadlines for the conduct of non-criminal jury trials:

  1. Wis. Stat. §§ 48.30(7) and 48.31(2) (CHIPS and UCHIPS proceedings);
  2. Wis. Stat. § 48.422(1), (2), & (4) (termination of parental rights proceedings);
  3. Wis. Stat. §§ 51.20(11)(a) (commitment proceedings involving mental health, drug dependency, or developmental disability);
  4. Wis. Stat. § 51.45(13)(e) (commitment proceedings involving alcohol dependency);
  5. Wis. Stat. §§ 54.42(2) and 54.44 (guardianship proceedings);
  6. Wis. Stat. § 55.10(1) & (4)(c) (protective placement proceedings);
  7. Wis. Stat. § 799.20(4) (small claims actions involving residential evictions);
  8. Wis. Stat. §§ 980.03(3) and 980.05(1) & (2) (commitment proceedings for sexually violent persons); and
  9. A deadline requiring a jury trial within a specified period of time in a non-criminal action or proceeding in any other statutory provision.

Non-jury trials may proceed if they can be conducted using telephone or video conferencing in lieu of in-person court appearances, as provided by the court’s March 22 order on remote hearings. (For guidance on defending at a video or telephonic hearing, click here).

The interim rule applies to cases in the circuit court effective the date of the order and until further order of the court. The court set a May 1, 2020, public hearing on the interim rule, procedures for which are set out in the order (pp. 3-7).

Justices R.G. Bradley and Kelly dissent. Chief Justice Roggensack, joined by Justice Ziegler, address the dissent in a concurrence. Justice Hagedorn, joined by Justices A.W. Bradley and Dallet, writes a separate concurrence emphasizing the basis for the interim rule is provided both by the supreme court’s superintending authority and § 757.12.

Justice Hagedorn also notes the March 22 order allowed the court to grant exceptions to the general postponement, and that such an exception should apply “for any cases where courts are able to operate safely.” The order and interim rule do not, however, expressly provide for such an exception, so it is not clear there is one. The only way to find out is to file a motion with the court asking for an exception.

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