November 13, 2007
Doyle Signs Senate Bill 199 into Law
MILWAUKEE – On Monday, Governor Jim Doyle signed Senate Bill 199 into law. Known as the ‘Judgeship Bill’, Senate Bill 199 creates additional circuit court branches in seven Wisconsin counties. The newly created branches will facilitate increased access to justice throughout the state.
“An overburdened judiciary affects us all,” said State Senator Lena C. Taylor (D-Milwaukee), the author of Senate Bill 199. “Without sufficient resources for our courts, our entire justice system slows down. It leads to higher operating costs, overworked judges, and, most significantly, delayed access to justice for our citizens.”
Expanding caseloads have increasingly overwhelmed the limited dockets of Wisconsin’s circuit courts, especially in certain counties. Using figures collected in the 2006 Judicial Needs Assessment, Senate Bill 199 identified the seven most overworked circuit courts and provided each of them with an additional judicial seat. The seven counties that will receive additional judgeships under Senate Bill 199 are Barron, Chippewa, Dodge, Green, Juneau, Monroe, and St. Croix.
“According to the Judicial Needs Assessment, the workload in each of these counties was just too much for current number of judges,” Taylor said. “In some cases, statistics show that even the addition of a new judge won’t do everything necessary to make the workload totally manageable. In addition, the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Corrections, and Housing has traveled all over the state hearing testimony, and the one thing we’ve consistently heard is that there’s a need for more resources in our judiciary. With that in mind, I’m glad that the Legislature took steps to resolve it.”
The Judicial Needs Assessment incorporated a weighted caseload system in making its findings, allowing researchers to see not only the number of cases before a given court, but also to determine the amount of time each case was estimated to take up on that court’s docket. Along with the weighted caseload, the Judicial Needs Assessment took a number of other steps to more accurately determine the workload of various courts—such as incorporating administrative responsibilities and integrating the work of county court commissioners.
Under Senate Bill 199, Barron, Chippewa, Dodge, Green, Juneau, Monroe, and St. Croix Counties will receive their new judgeships in August of 2008.