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March 27, 2024 – A decision by the Wisconsin Supreme Court in an employment case involving Amazon has renewed a debate among the justices about the wisdom of dismissing petitions as improvidently granted without an explanation.

In Amazon Logistics, Inc. v. Labor and Industry Review Commission, 2024 WI 15 (March 26, 2024), the Supreme Court, in a per curiam decision, ruled that the case should be dismissed as improvidently granted.

The case involved a dispute between Amazon Logistics, Inc. (Amazon) and the state, over whether delivery drivers for Amazon were employees or independent contractors for purposes of the state unemployment insurance scheme.

The Wisconsin Court of Appeals held that the delivery drivers were employees, and Amazon appealed to the Supreme Court. The parties filed briefs and had oral argument before the Supreme Court before the court dismissed the case.

‘Inconsistent Practice’

In a concurrence to the Supreme Court’s per curiam decision, Justice Ann Walsh Bradley argued that the court should have explained why it was dismissing the case as improvidently granted.

Jeff M. Brown
Jeff M. Brown , Willamette Univ. School of Law 1997, is a legal writer for the State Bar of Wisconsin, Madison. He can be reached by
email or by phone at (608) 250-6126.

“It is the least we can do when the litigants have expended substantial effort and resources arguing the case before us,” A. Bradley wrote.

Justice A. Bradley argued that while the Supreme Court has over the last seven years dismissed petitions as improvidently granted without explanation, it wasn’t always so.

“The result of the court’s inconsistent practice is a lack of guidance for potential litigants and the public, as well as an effective negation of the numerous hours of work and sums of money spent seeking a decision on the merits,” A. Bradley wrote.

Justice Rebecca Dallet and Justice Janet Protasiewicz joined Justice A. Bradley’s concurrence.

‘Flies in the Face of the Facts’

Justice Rebecca Grassl Bradley also filed a concurrence.

In her concurrence, R. Bradley argued that the facts did not support Justice A. Bradley’s contention that the Supreme Court has been inconsistent in dismissing petition as improvidently granted without explanation.

“As I have previously documented, Justice Ann Walsh Bradley ‘may lament the no-explanation trend but calling the court’s practice “inconsistent” flies in the face of the facts,’” Justice R. Bradley wrote.

R. Bradley also argued that providing an explanation would do nothing to restore to the parties the time and money they’d spent on the appeal before the Supreme Court.

“Providing an illusory explanation might make some justices feel better about dismissing cases as improvidently granted, but such an explanation does not help litigants or vindicate their efforts,” Justice R. Bradley wrote.

“A shallow explanation of the court’s reason for dismissing a case as improvidently granted amounts to nothing more than a hollow victory for one party and provides nothing for future litigants.”

Chief Justice Annette Ziegler joined R. Bradley’s concurrence.