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

Winnebago County DHS v. B.K.V., 2023AP310, District 2, 6/7/23 (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity

B.K.V. filed a postdisposition motion for a new trial in her termination of parental rights proceeding. The court of appeals affirms the circuit court’s denial of her motion.

B.K.V.’s motion claimed she told her attorney to withdraw from representing her before she entered a no contest plea, but the lawyer didn’t. The circuit court denied the motion after a hearing, finding that
Continue Reading Parent’s attack on TPR order rejected

Winnebago County v. T.G., 2022AP2078, District 2, 6/14/23 (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity
At the final hearing on a petition to commit T.G. (“Thomas”) under § 51.20, the County presented evidence he threw urine and feces at a guard on one occasion and later made a threat that he’d act in a way that would require staff to “suit up” and do a cell extraction and then “hurt” staff. (¶¶3-5). Considered together, this evidence
Continue Reading Evidence sufficient to support finding of dangerousness under s. 51.20

State v. Conrad M. Mader, 2022AP382-CR, District 2, 6/7/23 (recommended for publication); case activity (including briefs)
Mader was convicted of repeated sexual assault of his stepdaughter. He argues his trial lawyer was ineffective in numerous ways. The court of appeals agrees trial counsel performed deficiently in three respects, but holds trial counsel’s mistakes weren’t prejudicial and therefore Mader isn’t entitled to a new trial.
The number of issues make this a long decision (43 pages). This post will
Continue Reading Testimony that 99% of sexual assault reports are true improperly vouched for complainant’s credibility, but wasn’t prejudicial

State v. Michael K. Fermanich, 2023 WI 48, 6/14/23, reversing a per curiam court of appeals decision; case activity (including briefs)

The key takeaway here is that five justices reaffirm and apply State v. Floyd, 2000 WI 14, 232 Wis. 2d 767, 606 N.W.2d 155, and hold that Fermanich is entitled to 433 days sentence credit for time he spent in custody in connection with Oneida County charges that were dismissed and read-in at his Langlade
Continue Reading SCOW Applies Floyd, Reinstates Grant of 433 Days Sentence Credit

Kenosha County Division of Child and Family Services v. D.R.-R., 2022AP1812, 06/01/23, District 2 (1-judge opinion, ineligible for publication); case activity
In what should not be a shocking outcome, a mother’s failure to appear at a single pre-trial hearing is not “egregious” and does not support a default judgment on grounds.
On Point has covered recent decisions from the Districts 1, 3, and 4, which have affirmed default judgment orders entered after a parent failed to appear at
Continue Reading Defense Win! Missing one pre-trial TPR hearing not sufficient basis for default judgment

State v. Danny Arthur Wright, 2021AP1252-CR, District 3, 05/16/23 (not recommended for publication); case activity (including briefs)

The state charged Wright with first degree sexual assault with use of a dangerous weapon. The alleged dangerous weapon at issue was a ZAP STICK. Wright filed a motion in limine to bar the state from calling a Detective to offer expert opinion testimony under Wis. Stat. § 907.02(1) and Daubert. The circuit court permitted the testimony after the state
Continue Reading Officer’s testimony about ZAP STICK merely “expositional,” not subject to 907.02(1)’s heightened reliability standard

State v. Heather L. Westrich, 2022AP2001-CR, District 4, 05/25/23 (one-judge opinion, not eligible for publication); case activity (including briefs)

In State v. Lindell, 2001 WI 108, ¶¶42-43, 245 Wis. 2d 689, 629 N.W.2d 223, the court held a prospective juror to be objectively biased because she knew the victim for 20 years, her parents knew the victim for about 47 years, and she described the victim as a “close friend.” Apparently, a friend “back in the day”
Continue Reading Juror who admitted to being “friends back in the day” with alleged victim not objectively biased

State v. Brandon B. Smiley, 2022AP1522-CR, District 4, 6/2/23 (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity (including briefs)
The court of appeals rejects Smiley’s claim that the photo array shown to A.B., the complaining witness, was impermissibly suggestive and, therefore, her (not very confident) identification of him after looking at the array should have been suppressed.
Photo arrays may be suggestive “in several ways—the manner in which the photos are presented or displayed, the words or actions of
Continue Reading Photo array was not impermissibly suggestive

Columbia County DHS v. K.D.K., 2022AP1835, 5/25/23, District 4 (1-judge opinion, ineligible for publication); case activity

K.D.K. challenged an order terminating his parental rights to C.A.K. on 3 grounds: (1) the judge was not properly assigned to preside over his case; (2) the circuit court refused to give a special verdict question asking whether it had been impossible for K.D.K. to meet the conditions for return set forth in the CHIPS dispositional; and (3) trial counsel was ineffective
Continue Reading Termination of parental rights affirmed despite some missteps

State v. Corey T. Rector, 2023 WI 41, 5/23/23 affirming a case certified by the court of appeals, 2020AP1213; case activity (including briefs)

Rector pleaded to five counts of possessing child pornography in a single case. He’d never been convicted of anything before. The sentencing judge ordered that he be placed on the sex offender registry until 15 years after the end of his sentence or supervision. The Department of Corrections then wrote the judge to say that,
Continue Reading Multiple convictions in same case on same date don’t require lifetime sex offender registration

State v. Warner E. Solomon, 2022AP634-CR, District 2, 5/24/23 (not recommended for publication); case activity (including briefs)
The court of appeals rejects Solomon’s argument that the police unlawfully extended a traffic stop to wait for a drug dog to arrive to do a thorough search of his car.
After stopping Solomon for speeding and detecting the odor of marijuana from the vehicle generally and the passenger (Solomon’s brother) specifically, the officer decided he would search the interior of
Continue Reading Police had probable cause to search car, so didn’t unlawfully extend stop to wait for drug dog

A word to the wise: When you have ChatGPT write a brief for you, and in response to your query it tells you that the cases it is citing “are real and can be found in reputable legal databases,” don’t trust it without verification. So a New York lawyer has learned to his chagrin (and possibly worse than that). The story is covered here and here.
Continue Reading That ChatBot AI thingee might not make your job easier (or take it away completely) after all….

State v. Christopher S. Butler, 2021AP177, 5/9/23, District 3 (not recommended for publication); case activity (including briefs)
The state charged Butler with multiple sexual assaults of children. These charges resulted in a probation hold that lasted about four months; the ALJ did not revoke Butler and the hold was terminated. But Butler’s new charges were still pending, and he remained in jail for about another seven months while the public defender tried to find a lawyer to represent
Continue Reading Defense win: year-long wait for initial appearance requires dismissal w/o prejudice

State v. Jackson, 2023 WI 37, 5/12/23, dismissing as improvidently granted review of an unpublished court of appeals opinion, 2019AP2383; case activity (including briefs)
Our post on the grant of review in this case said SCOW might use it to “expound on State v. Cooper, 2019 WI 73, 387 Wis. 2d 439, 929 N.W.2d 192 (IAC claims where counsel has been disciplined), Hill v. Lockhart, 474 U.S. 52 (1985)(prejudice prong in the plea context); Lafler
Continue Reading SCOW DIGs case; justices dispute whether they should say why

State & T.A.J. v. Alan S. Johnson, 2023 WI 39, 05/16/2023, reversing a published court of appeals decision, case activity (including briefs)
As the dissent aptly describes it, “[t]his case has traveled a long and winding road to this point, and Johnson’s trial has not yet begun.” (Opinion, ¶110, Bradley, A.W., dissenting). As discussed in On Point’s prior posts, here and here, this case was originally about whether “Marsy’s Law” gave crime victims
Continue Reading SCOW majority overrules Shiffra/Green

Wisconsin Justice Initiative, Inc. v. Wisconsin Elections Commission, 2023 WI 38, 5/16/23, on certification from the court of appeals; case activity (including briefs)
In a 6-1 opinion, SCOW held that the ballot question for Marsy’s law complied with Wis. Const. art. XII §1. That’s the old news. The new and BIG news is Justice Dallet’s concurrence. It is essential reading for lawyers arguing constitutional or statutory construction issues to SCOW. She, Karofsky, and A.W. Bradley say that they
Continue Reading Essential reading: Dallet’s concurrence in the Marsy’s law case