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Court of appeals again addresses DOC power to decide how much money to siphon from inmate accounts

State ex rel. DeLorean Bryson v. Kevin Carr, 2022 WI App 34; case activity (including briefs)

A few months ago the court of appeals decided Ortiz v. Carr, holding (with a number of important caveats) that DOC may not take a greater percentage of an inmate’s wages for restitution than the circuit court has ordered–if the circuit court has ordered a specific percentage. Here, the court applies similar logic to obligations other than restitution. It holds that DOC has the authority to set a percentage rate for the crime lab surcharge and the DNA surcharge, but that the circuit court has the authority to set a different rate for collection of court fees. It does not decide who has authority over the victim-witness surcharge, because DOC did not appeal the circuit court’s determination of that question (which was that DOC has the authority to set the percentage, but that its new policy of taking 50 percent violates the administrative rules it earlier promulgated).

How much more do you want to know? The thrust of the opinion is that the statutes entrust authority to DOC on the surcharges but not on the court fees. If you are litigating or contemplating litigating these or related matters, you’ll want to read the whole thing. One additional thing to note: DOC concedes here (albeit grudgingly) that it’s obligated to adhere to circuit court judgments even if it believes they intrude on its authority. (¶35). Very reassuring, though not a position to which the department has uniformly adhered.

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