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Evidentiary hearing on post-disposition motion in contempt case deemed waste of time once sentence is served

State v. Mark Peterson, 2013AP1398, 1/29/14, District 2 (1-judge opinion, ineligible for publication); docket

After Peterson served a 120-day jail term imposed for failing to meet the conditions required to purge a contempt finding, he moved for an evidentiary hearing.  His goal was to show that serious errors had occurred at the hearing where the court ordered him to jail. The court of appeals found that since Peterson had already served his sentence, a hearing would just waste everyone’s time:

A court may “conserve scarce judicial resources by eliminating unnecessary evidentiary hearings.” State v. Velez, 224 Wis. 2d 1, 12, 589 N.W.2d 9 (1999). A new evidentiary hearing on the issue of whether to lift the 120-day jail term for contempt was unnecessary as Petersen already had served his jail time. The court properly denied Petersen’s motion and “conserve[d] scarce judicial resources.” Id.

This blanket statement is worrisome.  Peterson was proceeding under Wis. Stat. § 809.30 and asserting, among other things, that he had received ineffective assistance of counsel at the hearing where the court found that he failed to purge the contempt and sent him to jail.  While it’s true that the circuit court can’t give Peterson relief in the sense of restoring the 120 days he spent in jail, query whether that fact alone precludes a hearing and decision on the issues he raised.  For the record, Velez isn’t a contempt case and doesn’t answer the question.

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