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Wisconsin Court Records

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How Does the Wisconsin Circuit Court Work?

The Wisconsin Circuit Court is the state’s trial court with original jurisdiction. Typically, most criminal and civil cases in the state begin here, and the circuit court may handle issues beyond the limited jurisdiction of the lower municipal courts. Each of the 72 counties in the state of Wisconsin has one or more circuit courts attached to it. While smaller circuit courts handle all types of cases, larger circuit courts are divided into divisions, where each judge handles specific types of cases. Judges are reassigned among these divisions based on judicial rotation every two to four years.

  • Criminal Division: This division of the Circuit Court hears criminal cases involving offenses specified in the Wisconsin Criminal Code. Larger circuit courts may have divisions for misdemeanors, felonies, and criminal traffic violations.
  • Civil Division: The civil division is responsible for resolving cases involving monetary damages, such as small claims, personal torts, business, and contractual disputes. Civil litigations in Wisconsin follow the Civil Procedure.
  • Family Division: The family division of the Circuit Court resolves disputes and litigations involving families and domestic partnerships. Typical cases include divorce, annulment, domestic violence, adoption, and restraining orders.
  • Juvenile Division: The juvenile division handles matters involving minors, including termination of parental rights, guardianship, adoption, juvenile delinquency, and juvenile ordinance violations. This division handles cases based on the Juvenile Justice Code.

These circuit courts fall within ten judicial districts; each judicial district is lead by a Chief Judge selected by the Supreme Court. A deputy chief judge and other judicial staff, including the circuit court clerk, a district court administrator, and a court management assistant, assist the chief judge. Likewise, the chief judge appoints a presiding judge to be the administrative head of a circuit court with a panel of 3 or more judges.

Cases in circuit courts begin when a litigant files a suit with the Clerk of Courts. In civil lawsuits, the plaintiff, represented by an attorney, seeks the court’s enforcement of an obligation or court-ordered remedy for a wrong. On the other hand, criminal cases are between the state and the offender. Criminal suits are filed by the government and not the victim because the defendant has violated the state’s penal code. If the victim seeks damages against the offender, they must initiate a civil suit.

Compared to other parts of the judiciary, Wisconsin circuit courts have the highest workload in the state. According to statistical reports by the judiciary, Wisconsin circuit courts process an average of 800,000 cases annually.

Generally, the timeline of a case from filing to disposition depends on its complexity and county of jurisdiction. For example, in Crawford County, a misdemeanor case takes up to two months, while the disposition of tort or personal injury can take up to twelve months. Most cases go through several stages before they can proceed to trial.

Generally, the litigants may have to go through a court-mandated mediation or arrive at a plea bargain. A trial is the last resort when mediation fails, and litigants fail to arrive at a plea bargain. For cases that proceed to trial, the court will have to schedule a date for preliminary hearings and oral arguments. Also, jury deliberations may take hours to weeks, depending on the complexity of the case. Thus, an issue may be resolved within weeks or go on for months.

When a party is dissatisfied with the Circuit Court ruling, they may appeal the verdict in the Court of Appeals. Appealing a verdict involves obtaining leave to appeal from the circuit court. The court will consider the merits of the petition under criteria established in Section 808.03(2) of the state’s statutes.

At present, there are 249 circuit court judges in Wisconsin. A nonpartisan election determines circuit court judges. A circuit court judge will serve an initial term of six years is eligible for reelection for unlimited terms before retiring at age 70. Per Article VI, Section VI, of the Wisconsin Constitution, judgeship candidates must be members of the state bar for at least five years, cannot hold any other elective office, and must follow the Wisconsin Code of Judicial Conduct. If a judge is removed, incapacitated, or dies in office, the governor may appoint an interim judge with senate confirmation. The acting judge will perform the office’s duties until the term is over, and the court will conduct another nonpartisan election.

Article VII, Section 11, of the state’s constitution makes provisions for the removal of judges from office, such as:

  • Disciplinary proceedings: Judges who violate the Wisconsin Code of Judicial Conduct may be removed based on the Wisconsin judicial commission’s review.
  • Impeachment: This requires a majority vote of the assembly and conviction by a two-thirds vote of the senate.
  • Legislature Address: Judges may face removal by the address of both houses of the legislature with the concurrence of two-thirds of each house’s members.
  • Recall election: Following the submission of the signatures of 25 percent of eligible voters in a district, Court of Appeals judges are subject to recall election.

To access circuit court records, interested individuals must contact the official custodian of the court record. The custodian is typically the Clerk of Court office in the county where the case was filed. The Wisconsin Open Records Law directs the Clerk to make the record available for public perusal unless a court order or statute has sealed such a document. In this case, the individual must present a court order granting access to that specific record. Regardless, the requester must provide the necessary information to facilitate the search and cover the costs of searching, reproducing, and certifying physical copies of requested records. Also, Wisconsin Circuit Courts grant online public access to court records via a centralized case management system.

Interested individuals may consult a detailed directory of circuit courts in the state. Nevertheless, this compact list of Circuit Courts’ location in Wisconsin will help access court information, site, and contact information:

Adams County Circuit Court
402 Main Street, P.O. Box 200
Friendship, WI 53934–0200

Ashland County Circuit Court
201 Main Street West
Ashland, WI 54806–1652

Barron County Circuit Court
1420 State Highway 25 North
Barron, WI 54812–3006

Bayfield County Circuit Court
117 East 5th Street, P.O. Box 536
Washburn, WI 54891–0536

Brown County Circuit Court
100 South Jefferson Street, P.O. Box 23600
Green Bay, WI 54305–3600

Fax: (920) 448–4133
Buffalo County Circuit Court
407 South 2nd Street
Alma, WI 54610–9753

Burnett County Circuit Court
7410 Close Road K #115
Siren, WI 54872–9043

Calumet County Circuit Court
206 Court Street,
Chilton, WI 53014–1198

Chippewa County Circuit Court
711 North Bridge Street
Chippewa Falls, WI 54729–1876

Clark County Circuit Court
517 Court Street
Neillsville, WI 54456–1904

Columbia County Circuit Court
400 DeWitt Street, P.O. Box 587
Portage, WI 53901–0587

Crawford County Circuit Court
220 North Beaumont Road
Prairie du Chien, WI 53821–1405

Dane County Circuit Court
215 South Hamilton Street
Madison, WI 53703

Dodge County Circuit Court
210 West Center Street
Juneau, WI 53039–1091

Door County Circuit Court
1209 South Duluth Avenue
Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235

Douglas County Circuit Court
1313 Belknap Street
Superior, WI 54880–2769

Dunn County Circuit Court
615 Stokke Parkway, Suite 1300
Menomonie, WI 54751

Eau Claire County Circuit Court
721 Oxford Avenue
Eau Claire, WI 54703–5481

Florence County Circuit Court
501 Lake Avenue, P.O. Box 410
Florence, WI 54121–0410

Fond Du Lac County Circuit Court
160 South Macy Street
Fond du Lac, WI 54935–4241

Forest County Circuit Court
200 East Madison Street
Crandon, WI 54520–1414

Grant County Circuit Court
130 West Maple Street
Lancaster, WI 53813

Green County Circuit Court
2841 6th Street
Monroe, WI 53566

Green Lake County Circuit Court
571 County Road A
Green Lake, WI 54941–3188

Iowa County Circuit Court
222 North Iowa Street
Dodgeville, WI 53533–1548

Iron County Circuit Court
300 Taconite Street
Hurley, WI 54534–1546

Jackson County Circuit Court
307 Main Street
Black River Falls, WI 54615–0609

Jefferson County Circuit Court
311 South Center Avenue
Jefferson, WI 53549

Juneau County Circuit Court
200 Oak Street
Mauston, WI 53948

Kenosha County Circuit Court
912 56th Street
Kenosha, WI 53140–3736

Kewaunee County Circuit Court
613 Dodge Street
Kewaunee, WI 54216–1398

La Crosse County Circuit Court
333 Vine Street
La Crosse, WI 54601–3296

Lafayette County Circuit Court
626 Main Street,
Darlington, WI 53530–1396

Langlade County Circuit Court
800 Clermont Street
Antigo, WI 54409–1985

Lincoln County Circuit Court
1110 East Main Street
Merrill, WI 54452–2579

Manitowoc County Circuit Court
1010 South 8th Street, P.O. Box 2000
Manitowoc, WI 54221–2000

Marathon County Circuit Court
500 Forest Street
Wausau, WI 54403–5568

Marinette County Circuit Court
1926 Hall Avenue
Marinette, WI 54143–1717

Marquette County Circuit Court
77 West Park Street, P.O. Box 749
Montello, WI 53949–0749

Menominee County Circuit Court
West 3269 Courthouse Lane, P.O. Box 279
Keshena, WI 54135–0279

Milwaukee County Circuit Court
901 North 9th Street
Milwaukee, WI 53233–1425

Monroe County Circuit Court
112 South Court Street
Sparta, WI 54656–1765

Oconto County Circuit Court
301 Washington Street
Oconto, WI 54153–1621

Oneida County Circuit Court
1 South Oneida Avenue, P.O. Box 400
Rhinelander, WI 54501–0400

Outagamie County Circuit Court
320 South Walnut Street
Appleton, WI 54911–5918

Ozaukee County Circuit Court
1201 South Spring Street, P.O. Box 994
Port Washington, WI 53074–0994

Pepin County Circuit Court
740 7th Avenue West, P.O. Box 39
Durand, WI 54736–0039

Pierce County Circuit Court
414 West Main Street
Ellsworth, WI 54011

Polk County Circuit Court
1005 West Main Street
Balsam Lake, WI 54810

Portage County Circuit Court
1516 Church Street
Stevens Point, WI 54481–3598

Price County Circuit Court
126 Cherry Street
Phillips, WI 54555–1249

Racine County Circuit Court
730 Wisconsin Avenue
Racine, WI 53403–1238

Richland County Circuit Court
181 West Seminary Street, P.O. Box 655
Richland Center, WI 53581–0655

Rock County Circuit Court
51 South Main Street - 5th Floor
Janesville, WI 53545–3978

Rusk County Circuit Court
311 Miner Avenue East
Ladysmith, WI 54848–1862

Sauk County Circuit Court
515 Oak Street,
Baraboo, WI 53913–2496

Sawyer County Circuit Court
10610 Main Suite 244
Hayward, WI 54843–6586

St. Croix County Circuit Court
1101 Carmichael Road
Hudson, WI 54016–7710

Taylor County Circuit Court
224 South Second Street
Medford, WI 54451–1899

Trempealeau County Circuit Court
36245 Main Street, P.O. Box 67
Whitehall, WI 54773–0067

Vernon County Circuit Court
400 Courthouse Square, Suite 115
Viroqua, WI 54665–1553

Vilas County Circuit Court
330 Court Street
Eagle River, WI 54521

Walworth County Circuit Court
1800 County Road NN, P.O. Box 1001
Elkhorn, WI 53121–1001

Washburn County Circuit Court
10 Fourth Avenue, P.O. Box 339
Shell Lake, WI 54871–0339

Washington County Circuit Court
432 East Washington Street, P.O. Box 1986
West Bend, WI 53095–1986

Waukesha County Circuit Court
515 West Moreland Boulevard
Waukesha, WI 53188–2428

Waupaca County Circuit Court
811 Harding Street
Waupaca, WI 54981–2087

Waushara County Circuit Court
209 South Saint Marie Street, P.O. Box 508
Wautoma, WI 54982–0508

Winnebago County Circuit Court
415 Jackson Street, P.O. Box 2808
Oshkosh, WI 54903–2808

Wood County Circuit Court
400 Market Street, P.O. Box 8095
Wisconsin Rapids, WI 54495–8095

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