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

Cheyne Monroe v. Chad Chase, 2019AP1918, certification granted 10/21/20; case activity (including briefs) Issue for review (derived from the COA’s certification) One of the elements of a claim for malicious prosecution is that the baseless prior action must have terminated in favor of the party asserting malicious prosecution.  The issue is whether this element is met when the party accused of malicious prosecution voluntarily dismissed the allegedly baseless proceeding before it was decided on the merits. During divorce proceedings, Chase acknowledged that Monroe had had recent contact with their child, and they agreed on terms for placement. Afterward, Chase filed…
Eau Claire County DHS v. S.E., 2019AP894, review of  published opinion granted 10/21/20, case activity. When the court orders a child in need of protection or services (“CHIPS”) placed outside the family home, a parent’s rights may be terminated if he or she fails to meet the conditions for the child’s return in the timeframe set out by statute. Wis. Stat. § 48.415(2)(a). In April 2018, the legislature shortened this timeframe. Under either version, the CHIPS order placing the child outside the home must include “notice” of “any grounds for termination of parental rights[.]” Wis. Stat. §§ 48.415(2)(a)…
Washington County v. Kelly L. Springer, 2020AP491, 10/21/20, District 2 (1-judge opinion, ineligble for publication); case activity (including briefs) After being stopped for a suspected OWI, Springer failed field sobriety tests and his preliminary breath test showed a .18% blood alcohol content. A sheriff read the Informing the Accused form and asked if he would submit to a chemical test of his breath. Springer did not answer even after being asked 6 to 7 times. Then he said: “I already gave you my test.” The sheriff took this to mean “no.” The circuit court held the refusal unlawful under…
Columbia County v. J.M.C., Jr., 2020AP1001, District 4, 10/22/20 (1-judge opinion, ineligible for publication); case activity J.M.C. was taken to jail on possible criminal charges. Two days later, the County filed a Chapter 51 petition for his commitment.  Section 51.20(7) provides that the circuit court must hold a probable cause hearing within 72 hours of taking a person into custody under §51.20.  The circuit court dismissed the petition for violation of the 72-hour rule, and the County appealed arguing that the circuit court erred in determining what triggered 72-hour clock triggered. The State took J.M.C. into custody on May…
State v. Dawn M. Prado, 2016AP308, cross-petitions for review of a published court of appeals decision granted 10/21/20; case activity (including briefs and, now, PFRs!) You’ve heard this one before. Here’s our post on the court of appeals decision, which struck down the unconscious-driver provisions of the implied-consent statute but nevertheless declined to suppress the blood draw results under the good-faith doctrine. Perhaps you imagined the matter resolved, particularly given that after several failures to decide the question, SCOW had begun declining the court of appeals’ certification requests on the topic. No such luck. Prado, naturally, petitioned for review of…
That’s the title of this new publication by the Legislative Reference Bureau. The publication discusses the impact on Wisconsin of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma, USSC No. 18-9256 (U.S. July 9, 2020). On Point didn’t cover the decision when it was released, but Scotusblog did, and its commentary (available here) characterized the decision as “a stunning reaffirmance of the nation’s obligations to Native Americans” because it could have the effect of restoring large swaths of geography to the status of reservation land. Lawyers handling matters that involve activities on possible reservation land should be…
Lange v. California, USSC No. 20-18, certiorari granted 10/19/20 Question presented: Does pursuit of a person who a police officer has probable cause to believe has committed a misdemeanor categorically qualify as an exigent circumstance sufficient to allow the officer to enter a home without a warrant? Lower court decision: People v. Lange, No. A157169 (Cal. Ct. App. Oct. 30, 2019) (unpublished) Docket Scotusblog page (including links to filings and commentary) The Fourth Amendment, of course, generally requires police officers to get a warrant before entering a home. The Supreme Court has recognized an exception to that rule…
State v. George Steven Burch, 2019AP404-CR, District 3 (10/20/20); case activity (including briefs) Burch … contends the [Green Bay Police Department] and the [Brown County Sheriff’s Office] violated his Fourth Amendment rights in three ways: (1) the GBPD exceeded the scope of his consent to search his cell phone by downloading the phone’s entire contents, rather than only the text messages; (2) the GBPD unlawfully retained the entire cell phone download after it completed its June 2016 investigation into the vehicle incidents; and (3) the BCSO had no lawful authority to conduct a second search of the cell phone…
Orin Kerr writes about the Supreme Court’s increasing use of subjective rather than objective tests in Fourth Amendment cases, here. And commentary and discussion about court proceedings during and after Covid-19 continue to appear. For instance: The Pandemic Juror, by Melanie Wilson at University of Tennessee Unmuted: Solutions to Safeguard Constitutional Rights in Virtual Courtrooms and How Technology Can Expand Access to Quality Counsel and Transparency in the Criminal Justice System, by Matt Bender at University of Arkansa Virtual Trials: Necessity, Invention, and the Evolution of the Courtroom, by Susan Bandes of DePaul University and &…
From the DHS press release: Beginning October 24, 2020, Medicaid members that are incarcerated will have their health care benefits suspended and then re-evaluated before they are released from jail or prison. Previously, Medicaid members who became incarcerated had their coverage terminated, which then often delayed their access to medical and behavioral health care following their release. The Department of Health Services (DHS) and the Department of Corrections (DOC) have been working with income maintentance agencies and community partners to make this policy change.
Village of Lomira v. Phillip N. Benninghoff, 2020AP31, District 4, 10/15/20 (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity (including briefs) Benninghoff tries to raise a bevy of challenges to the implied consent law and to the revocation of his driving privileges for refusing a blood draw. His challenges are forfeited because he failed to file a timely request for a refusal hearing and, in any event, the arguments aren’t suitably developed or are foreclosed by State v. Levanduski, 2020 WI App 53. Benninghoff didn’t request a refusal hearing within 10 days as required by § 343.305(9)(a)4. and (10)(a)
Racine County DHS v. W.L.J., 2020AP197-198, October 14, 2020, District 2 (1-judge opinion, ineligible for publication); case activity Good news for defense lawyers in TPR cases. The court of appeals means business. This is the third time in less than a year that it has reversed a termination of parental rights order due to a circuit court error on the question of whether a parent “abandoned” his or her child. One ground for terminating a person’s parental rights is that he abandoned his child. However, the law allows the parent to defend himself by proving that he had “good…
According to this fact sheet on disparities in youth justice, Wisconsin has made significant efforts to reduce youth arrest and incarceration rates. Sounds good until you drill down to see that in Wisconsin the disparities between Black and white youths in the justice system is greater than in every other state of the country except New Jersey. The report attributes our dubious distinction to: (1) racial bias in the court system, (2) police policies that penalize Black youths for crimes that are just as likely to occur among white youths, and (3) automatic adult court transfers for crimes that disproportionately…
State v. Michael J. Pierquet, 2009AP2099-Cr, 10/14/20, District 2, (1-judge opinion, ineligible for publication); case activity (including briefs) A jury convicted Pierquet of operating a motor vehicle with a Prohibited Alcohol Content. He argued that the circuit court erred in admitting the results of his blood test and in giving them prima facie effect because the State failed to prove that the analyst who performed the test possessed a valid permit for alcohol testing. The court of appeals disagreed because an employee of the State Lab of Hygiene testified that all of the analysts at the Lab hold a…
State v. C.A.A., 2020AP1194, District 1, 10/13/20 (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity At the trial on the petition to terminate C.A.A.’s parental rights, the case manager handling the CHIPS case pertaining to C.A.A.’s child testified that, in her opinion, C.A.A. would not likely satisfy the conditions of return under the CHIPS order within the 9-month period prescribed by § 48.415(2)(a)3. (2015-16) (a requirement eliminated by 2017 Wis. Act 256). (¶6 & ¶9 n.3). The court of appeals holds this was admissible lay opinion testimony. Under § 907.01, opinion testimony from a lay witness…