Justia Civil Rights Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Wisconsin Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the decision of the circuit court granting Defendant's motion to suppress certain statements that he made during a post-polygraph interview, holding that the statements were admissible.In granting Defendant's motion to suppress, the circuit court concluded that the statements Defendant made during his post-polygraph interview were involuntary. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the statements were voluntary and admissible because the interview was separate from the polygraph examination and because the statements were not the product of police coercion. View "State v. Vice" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the portions of the emergency order issued by Janel Heinrich, in her capacity as a local health officer of Public Health of Madison and Dane County, restricting or prohibiting in-person instruction in all schools in Dane County for grades 3-12, holding that those portions were unlawful and unenforceable and are hereby vacated.The disputed order was issued in an effort to decrease the spread of COVID-19. Petitioners - students - brought three cases challenging Heinrich's authority to issue the emergency order, contending that the order exceeded her statutory authority under Minn. Stat. 252.03, violated Petitioners' fundamental right to the free exercise of religioun under Wis. Const. art. I, 18, and violated parents' fundamental right to direct the upbringing and education of their children under Wis. Const. art. I, 1. The Supreme Court consolidated the cases and held (1) local health officers do not have the statutory power to close schools under section 252.03; and (2) the order infringed Petitioners' fundamental right to the free exercise of religion guaranteed in the Wisconsin Constitution. View "St. Ambrose Academy, Inc. v. Parisi" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the circuit court denying Defendant's motion to suppress certain firearm evidence on the grounds that the police officer lacked reasonable suspicion to stop Defendant's vehicle, holding that, under the totality of the circumstances, the stop was lawful.At issue was whether the law enforcement officer in this case has a reasonable suspicion that Defendant had committed or was about to commit a crime. The court of appeals concluded that the stop was unlawful. The Supreme Court disagreed and reversed, holding that, considering the totality of the circumstances, a reasonable law enforcement officer knowing what the officer in this case knew and seeing what he saw would reasonably suspected that Defendant was engaged in a drug transaction, and therefore, the investigatory stop of Defendant's vehicle complied with the Fourth Amendment. View "State v. Genous" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court's judgment of conviction of Defendant for possession of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia and remanded with instructions to grant Defendant's motion to suppress, holding that the seizure of Defendant was unlawful because the police officer did not have reasonable suspicion that Defendant was engaged in criminal activity.Defendant's conviction arose from a search of her vehicle. On appeal, Defendant argued that the circuit court erred in denying her motion to suppress because the search violated her Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. The Supreme Court agreed, holding (1) Defendant was seized when the officer returned to her vehicle after running a records check, withheld her driver's license, and continued to question her and her passenger in order to hold her until a drug-sniff dog arrived; and (2) the seizure was unlawful because Defendant did not have a reasonable suspicion that Defendant was engaged in criminal activity at the time he seized her. View "State v. VanBeek" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the law on testimonial hearsay has not changed in the last fourteen years to such a degree that, at Defendant's new trial, the circuit court was no longer bound by the Supreme Court's decision on appeal in State v. Jensen (Jensen I), 727 N.W.2d 518 (Wis. 2007).Before Defendant's criminal trial for killing his wife, Julie, the Supreme Court held that certain hearsay statements made by Julie were testimonial and that the statements were inadmissible under the Confrontation Clause. Defendant was convicted. In subsequent federal habeas corpus litigation, the federal court held that it was not harmless error to admit Julie's testimonial statements and ordered Defendant's conviction vacated. The State then initiated new proceedings against Defendant. Defendant filed a motion to exclude Julie's statements, per Jensen I. The circuit court denied the motion, explaining that, under the law today, Julie's statements were not testimonial. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed as modified, holding that the circuit court was bound by Jensen I. View "State v. Jensen" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court remanded this case to the circuit court with directions to deny Defendant's motion to dismiss, holding that Defendant was not in custody for purposes of Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), when he was interviewed by a police officer.Defendant was an inmate in jail when he returned a call from an officer regarding an incident at Defendant's prior correctional institution. During the call, during which no Miranda warnings were given, Defendant admitted to the officer that he took and destroyed an inmate's missing property. The circuit court granted Defendant's motion to suppress, concluding that it was bound to apply the per se rule set forth in State v. Armstrong, 588 N.W.2d 606 (Wis. 1999), that incarcerated individuals are in custody for Miranda purposes. The court of appeals reversed, holding that the per se rule adopted in Armstrong was effectively overruled by the United States Supreme Court in Howes v. Fields, 565 U.S. 499 (2012). The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the decision in Howes functionally overruled Armstrong's per se rule; and (2) Defendant's circumstances did not satisfy the standard requirements for custody under Miranda's framework. View "State v. Halverson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming Defendant's judgment of conviction and the trial court's denial of Defendant's motion for postconviction relief, holding that the felon-in-possession statute as applied to Defendant as applied to Defendant is constitutional.In 2003, Defendant was convicted of multiple felony counts of failure to support a child. Consequently, Defendant was permanently prohibited from possessing a firearm. Defendant was subsequently charged with one count of possession of a firearm by a felon in violation of Wis. Stat. 941.29(2). Defendant moved for postconviction relief, arguing that section 941.29(2) was unconstitutional as applied because his 2003 conviction did not justify the lifetime firearm ban. The circuit court denied postconviction relief, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Defendant's challenge to the felon-in-possession statute requires the application of an intermediate level of scrutiny; and (2) the statute is constitutional as applied because it is substantially related to important governmental objectives. View "State v. Roundtree" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the circuit court's judgment and order denying Defendant's postconviction motion to withdraw his guilty plea, holding that counsel was not ineffective and Defendant was not entitled to withdraw his plea post-sentencing.Defendant pleaded guilty to violation of sex offender registry and was sentenced. Almost one year later, Defendant filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea, asserting that his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance and that, as a result, his plea was not knowing, intelligent, or voluntary. After a hearing, the circuit court denied Defendant's postconviction motion. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Defendant's trial counsel did not provide ineffective assistance in failing to inform Defendant about State v. Dinkins, 810 N.W.2d 787 (Wis. 2012), because Dinkins did not provide Defendant with a defense. View "State v. Savage" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming Defendant's conviction for possession with intent to deliver cocaine, holding that the Wisconsin Constitution permits law enforcement to ask drivers stopped for a traffic violation to exit the vehicle, inquire about the presence of weapons, and request consent to search the driver.Defendant moved to suppress the evidence found during the search of the vehicle, contending that it was fruit of an unlawful search because the arresting officer's actions unlawfully extended the stop, and he lacked reasonable suspicion. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the officer did not impermissibly extend Defendant's traffic stop beyond constitutional boundaries because his actions were negligently burdensome directly related to officer safety and therefore part of the stop's mission. View "State v. Brown" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming Defendant's conviction of homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle, holding that the circuit court did not err in its evidentiary rulings.On appeal, Defendant argued that the circuit court (1) improperly excluded the expert testimony of Dr. Lawrence White, and (2) erred in denying his motion to suppress statements that he made to law enforcement because he was not read the Miranda warnings or, in the alternative, because his statements were not voluntarily made. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court properly excluded Dr. White's exposition testimony on the grounds that it did not fit with the facts of Defendant's case; (2) Defendant was subject to custodial interrogation and was not read the Miranda warnings, but the admission of those statements was harmless error; and (3) all of Defendant's statements were voluntary. View "State v. Dobbs" on Justia Law