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Finality of Order – Trial Court’s Inherent Authority to Reconsider Non-Final Order

State v. Frederick W. Rushing, 2007 WI App 227, PFR filed 10/25/07
For Rushing: Randall E. Paulson, SPD, Milwaukee Appellate

Issue/Holding: Trial courts possess inherent authority to reconsider any non-final ruling prior to entry of final order or judgment, ¶13, citing State v. Bobby R. Williams, 2005 WI App 221, ¶17, 287 Wis. 2d 748, 706 N.W.2d 355.

The trial court reconsidered its own prior sua sponte vacatur of a guilty plea. As the court of appeals holds elsewhere (¶12), the trial court lacks that sua sponte power. However, that is a mere detail with respect to reconsideration. As for Rushing, the net effect is that the court generally has inherent reconsider a prior exercise of authority, but does not have authority to “reconsider” its acceptance of a valid guilty plea. Plainly, the double jeopardy implications of plea-acceptance inhibit the general authority to reconsider. It follows that when the court has improperly (as it did in Rushing’s instance) “reconsidered” acceptance of the plea, it may then rectify that mistake by reconsidering the invalid reconsideration. Got it?

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