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Important appellate practice reminder: Rule governing references to victims in briefs takes effect July 1, 2015

Attention appellate practitioners: We are pleased to present this guest post by Andrea Cornwall, Regional Attorney Manager if the SPD’s Milwaukee Appellate Office, about the imminent change in the rules governing references to victims in appellate brief.

You may have received some notification of Supreme Court Order 14-01 amending the rules of appellate procedure was entered in early March, but in the event you did not, or in case you forgot, be aware that, effective July 1, 2015, newly created Wis. Stat. § (Rule) 809.86 prohibits the use of any part of a crime victim’s real name in an appellate brief. The rule requires that, unless good cause exists, victims in criminal, juvenile, and ch. 980 cases, among others, are to be identified in appellate briefs “by one or more initials or other appropriate pseudonym or designation.” Victims in homicide cases are excluded from the definition of “victim” for purposes of this rule.

The new rule was created to address victim privacy concerns resulting from public access to searchable documents posted on the court’s website.

The new rule is limited to appellate briefs, and does not extend to other appellate filings, including appendices, since these documents are not currently posted online. Therefore, if it is not a confidential record case (such as ch. 51 cases or TPRs), there is no need to redact the appendix.

However, note that to be consistent, Rules 809.19(1)(g) and (2)(a) and (b) and 809.81(8) are also amended to incorporate the same requirement for appellate briefs in cases in which the record is required by law to be confidential (e.g., ch. 51 subjects and, in TPR cases, juveniles and parents of juveniles). In these confidential record cases, appendices will now need to be redacted using the new “initials only” requirement, pursuant to Rule 809.19(2)(a) and the appendix certification will need to be changed to reflect the new language in Rule 809.19(2)(b).

For further information, the full text of the supreme court’s order (2015 WI 21) is here.

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