State v. Peter John Long, 2022AP496, District 2, 5/3/23 (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity (including briefs)

The state concedes, and the court of appeals agrees, that Long is entitled to a hearing on his motion to reopen the default judgment entered in his refusal proceeding.

Under § 806.07(1), a circuit court may reopen a judgment for multiple reasons, including: “(a) [m]istake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect” and “(h) [a]ny other reasons justifying relief from the operation of the judgment.” Sec. 806.07(1)(a), (h). Among the factors the circuit court should consider in deciding whether to reopen a judgment are: (1) “[w]hether the claimant received the effective assistance of counsel;” (2) “[w]hether relief is sought from a judgment to which there has been no judicial consideration of the merits … [which] outweighs the finality of judgments;” and (3) “[w]hether there is a meritorious defense to the claim[.]” Allstate Ins. Co. v. Brunswick Corp., 2007 WI App 221, ¶7, 305 Wis. 2d 400, 740 N.W.2d 888 (cited source omitted). When assessing a motion to reopen, the circuit court must assume the movant’s assertions are true. Id., ¶6.

Under this standard, the circuit court erred in summarily denying Long’s motion:

¶8     Here, Long alleged facts that, if true, warrant relief, and therefore the circuit court should have held a hearing on his motion. Specifically, Long asserts his attorney told him the only consequence for the refusal judgment would be a three-year revocation of his license when in fact he received a lifetime revocation. Long also asserts that there was no decision on the merits in his refusal case and that the underlying OWI was dismissed for lack of probable cause. He believes that as a result, he has a meritorious defense to the refusal citation.