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Defense Win! COA reverses $40,000 restitution order as sanction for state’s abandonment of appeal

State v. Paul R. Noble, 2023AP1444-CR, 4/24/24, District II (one-judge decision, ineligible for publication); case activity

While Noble’s arguments on appeal appear to have substantial merit, the court of appeals declines to address the merits because the state abandoned the appeal and thereby conceded that “Noble’s arguments are correct.”

Roughly two years after Noble’s sentencing, the circuit court held a restitution hearing at which it denied Noble’s attempts to challenge the “causal nexus” between with two read-in charges and the $29,257.97 restitution claim made by the Crime Victim Compensation Program (CVC). After denying Noble his right to contest restitution, see Wis. Stat. § 973.20(14), the court inexplicably ordered him to pay $40,000 in restitution to the CVC. Op., ¶4.

On appeal, the clerk of the court of appeals notifed the state that its respondent’s  brief was delinquent. The clerk’s notice ordered the state to file a brief within five days or risk summary reversal in favor of Noble. The state failed to take any action. Then, a couple weeks later, the court issued an order providing the state a second opportunity to file a respondent’s brief. The court again warned the state that failure to comply with the court’s briefing order would risk summary reversal. Again, the state failed to act.

In response, the court now “declines to address the merits of the appeal” and concludes that the state has abandoned the appeal and summarily reverses for Noble as a sanction for the state’s inaction.  The court also notes that by failing to respond to Noble’s arguments, the state “conceded that Noble’s arguments are correct.” Op., ¶8, n.5.

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