Wisconsin State Public Defender

The Wisconsin State Public Defender's Office (SPD) has been providing "justice for all" since 1977, and is an independent, executive-branch state agency that ensures Wisconsin meets its constitutional requirement of providing legal representation to the indigent.

The mission of the Wisconsin State Public Defender is to zealously represent clients, protect constitutional rights, and advocate for an effective and fair criminal justice system.  Our commitment is to treat our clients with dignity and compassion.  Vision statement:  The Wisconsin State Public Defender Office will lead the way in protecting justice for all.

The agency provides legal representation to the indigent throughout the state in all of Wisconsin's 72 counties.  Organizationally, the SPD has 37 local trial offices, 2 appellate offices and a central administrative office.  The agency utilizes staff attorneys as well as contract private attorneys (to handle conflict and overflow cases).

The SPD's website provides resources to clients and potential clients, private attorneys who are certified to take SPD case appointments, individuals involved in the criminal justice system, and the public interested in the state agency that delivers on Wisconsin's constitutional requirement regarding indigent defense.

SPD Main Telephone number: 608-266-0087

Wisconsin State Public Defender Blogs

Latest from Wisconsin State Public Defender

State v. Keith J. Dresser, 2020AP2017, 7/22/21, District 4 (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity (including briefs) A sheriff’s deputy saw Dresser apparently unconscious in his vehicle in a Taco Bell parking lot at 5:00 a.m. The deputy pulled behind Dresser’s vehicle, turned on his emergency lights apparently based on departmental “procedures,” and knocked on the window. Dresser woke up, he and/or the deputy opened a car door, and ultimately Dresser was arrested for OWI. On appeal, the state contends that the officer’s acts up to the opening of the car door were not a seizure of Dresser,…
State v. Skylard R. Grant, 2020AP404, 7/20/21, District 1 (not recommended for publication); case activity (including briefs) Grant pleaded to reduced charges on the second day of his trial for homicide, being a felon in possession of a firearm, and possessing THC with intent to deliver. He claims his trial lawyer was inadequate in various ways during the trial. The court rejects Grant’s specific claims, but it also rejects the state’s expansive reading of State v. Villegas, 2018 WI App 9, 380 Wis. 2d 246, 908 N.W.2d 198. The state had argued that counsel’s alleged failings were waived…
State v. Anthony Francen Harris, 2019AP1908-CR, District 3, 7/30/21 (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity (including briefs) Police stopped the car Harris was driving in part because Skenandore, an officer-in-training, misread the data on his in-squad computer screen and wrongly concluded that the car’s owner didn’t have a valid license. (¶¶2-3, 5-7). His mistake doesn’t matter because the officer’s other observations justified the stop. ¶12     The totality of the circumstances supports the circuit court’s finding of reasonable suspicion to stop Harris’s vehicle. The record reveals that it was late at night, Harris was…
State v. Michael J. Foster, 2020AP2149-CR, District 4, 7/29/21 (not recommended for publication); case activity (including briefs) A defendant claiming that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to ask for a theory of defense jury instruction must propose the language the instruction should have included and establish it is a correct statement of the law. Absent such a proposed instruction, the ineffective claim will fail. Foster’s defense to resisting an officer causing substantial bodily harm contrary to § 946.41(2r) was that the officer was using excessive force and thus wasn’t acting with lawful authority. Trial counsel made a brief, conclusory argument…
State v. Lisa Rena Lantz, 2020AP742-CR, District 3, 7/27/21 (not recommended for publication); case activity (including briefs) Lantz was convicted of conspiring to deliver methamphetamine between September 2015 and March 2016 and of soliciting the delivery of methamphetamine in February and March 2016. The court of appeals rejects Lantz’s argument that the charges are multiplicitous. It also rejects her challenge to her sentences. Multiplicity: Multiplicity challenges are grounded on the constitutional right to be free from multiple punishments for the same offense. Criminal charges are multiplicitous if they charge more than one count for acts the statutes define as a…
Waukesha County v. M.J.S., 20221AP105-FT, District 2, 7/28/21 (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity Under § 51.20(11)(a), a demand for a jury trial must be made “48 hours in advance of the time set for final hearing,” if notice of final hearing was provided to the subject individual or his or her lawyer. Applying Marathon County v. R.J.O., 2020 WI App 20, 392 Wis. 2d 157, 943 N.W.2d 898, the “time set for final hearing” is the original hearing date, not the date set after an adjournment. M.J.S. received notice on March 3, 2020, that a…
State v. Avery B. Thomas, Jr., 2020AP976-CR, District 2, 7/28/21 (recommended for publication); case activity (including briefs) Thomas was arrested for and charged with criminal conduct while he was on federal supervision. He was held on cash bail till after his plea, when his bail was modified to a signature bond. He remained in custody, though, because the feds had put a revocation hold on him. He was eventually sentenced after revocation on the federal case, and about a month after that he was sentenced in the Wisconsin case. (¶¶2-4). The Wisconsin court erred in denying Thomas…
On July 28, 2021, the court of appeals ordered publication of the following criminal law related decisions: State v. M.D.M., 2021 WI App 42 (establishing the procedure for resuming delinquency cases that were suspended because the juvenile was found incompetent to proceed) State v. Daniel J. Rejholec, 2021 WI App 45 (interrogating officer violated Miranda by telling the suspect he wouldn’t be able to testify at trial) State v. Chrystul D. Kizer, 2021 WI App 46 (construing the affirmative defense afforded to human trafficking victims for crimes they commit that directly result from trafficking violations of which…
Trempealeau County v. B.K., 2020AP1166, District 3, 7/27/21 (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity B.K. (“Brian”) argues he was denied procedural due process because he was not given particularized notice of which standard of dangerousness the County intended to prove at the final commitment hearing. He also contends the evidence presented at the hearing was insufficient to prove he was dangerous. The court of appeals rejects with both claims. Brian argues that it was “consistently unclear” which of the five standards of dangerousness under § 51.20(1)(a)2.a.-e. the County intended to pursue, and that Lessard v. Schmidt, 349…
State v. George Steven Burch, 2021 WI 68, on certification from the court of appeals, affirming the judgment of conviction; case activity (including briefs) We said in our post on the court of appeals’ certification that this case presented novel and important issues about searches of cell phones and their data. So we anticipated a decision addressing the parameters of police searches of digital devices. But the majority doesn’t address those issues or decide whether Burch’s Fourth Amendment rights were violated. Instead, the majority holds that, regardless of the lawfulness of the search of Burch’s cell phone data, “there…
State v. George Steven Burch, 2021 WI 68, 6/29/21, on certification from the court of appeals, affirming a judgment of conviction; case activity (including briefs) The circuit court properly exercised its discretion in allowing the state to introduce evidence relating Fitbit with requiring expert testimony on the reliability of the device. After Nicole VanderHeyden was found murdered, police focused their suspicion on her boyfriend, Douglass Detrie. But they shifted focus from Detrie in part because his Fitbit device showed he’d only taken 12 steps during the time period of the killing, which wasn’t consistent with other evidence regarding the…
Rusk County v. A.A., 2019AP839 & 2020AP1580, District 3, 7/20/21 (not recommended for publication); case activity (2019AP839; 2020AP1580) A.A. appeals two recommitment orders, raising multiple constitutional issues as to both and challenging the sufficiency of the evidence of dangerousness as to one of the cases and the admission of hearsay evidence regarding the other. The court of appeals acknowledges that A.A.’s constitutional claims raise “important” and “thorny” issues about recommitment petition pleading requirements and the constitutionality of recommitment proceedings, but it it resolves both cases on the evidentiary issues. (¶¶15, 31-32). In the…
C.W. v. M.M., 2021AP330 & 2021AP331, District 3, 7/21/21 (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity M.M.’s consent to voluntary termination of parental rights was valid and can’t be withdrawn. C.W. filed a TPR petition alleging various grounds. The circuit court granted summary judgment on abandonment grounds and found M.M. unfit as a parent. At the disposition hearing, M.M. decided, after consultation with counsel, to consent to voluntary termination. This had the effect of removing the unfitness finding, and so would avoid the “possibility”—as she put it during the colloquy regarding her decision—that the unfitness finding could be used…
State v. Aaron Matthew Oleston, 2020AP952-CR, District 4, 7/15/21 (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity (including briefs) Olseston was charged with five counts of disorderly conduct for “hurling profanities and personal insults” (¶14) at Janesville police officers as they came and left the police station, as well as filming some of the encounters. Three of the five counts can’t be prosecuted because Oleston’s conduct was protected by the First Amendment; the other two can be, because they went beyond protected speech. The profanity and insults yelled at the officers from the sidewalk (¶¶15-17) are solidly…
State v. Alexandrea C.E. Throndson, 2020AP1081-CR, District 4, 7/15/21 (not recommended for publication); case activity (including briefs) Throndson raises two due process challenges to her sentencing: that the judge relied on inaccurate information and was objectively based. The court of appeals rejects both. Both claims arise out of the circuit court’s independent review of her prior record on CCAP before sentencing, where the judge discovered she was involved in 23 various cases. (¶4). The inaccurate information claim appears to be that the circuit court erroneously thought she had three prior juvenile delinquency adjudications, when in fact she had only one.…
Outagamie County DHHS v. M.D.H., 2020AP86, District 3, 7/13/21 (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity The evidence at M.D.H.’s final commitment hearing proved he was dangerous under § 51.20(1)(a)2.d. Under that statute, an individual is dangerous if he or she has engaged in recent acts or omissions that show that, because of mental illness, he or she is “unable to satisfy basic needs for nourishment, medical care, shelter, or safety” and that without prompt and adequate treatment “a substantial probability exists that death, serious physical injury, serious physical debilitation, or serious physical disease will imminently ensue….” Here, the report…