Wisconsin - Judicial system



The judicial branch is headed by a supreme court, consisting of seven justices, elected statewide on a nonpartisan basis for terms of 10 years. Vacancies are filled by gubernatorial appointment until an open election day becomes available. The justice with the greatest seniority serves as chief justice. The supreme court, which is the final authority on state constitutional questions, hears appeals at its own discretion and has original jurisdiction in limited areas.

The state's next-highest court is the court of appeals, established by constitutional amendment in 1977. Its 16 judges

Wisconsin Presidential Vote by Political Party, 1948–2000
Wisconsin Presidential Vote by Political Party, 1948–2000

Wisconsin Presidential Vote by Political Party, 1948–2000

YEAR ELEC. VOTE WISCONSIN WINNER DEMOCRAT REPUBLICAN PROGRESSIVE SOCIALIST SOC. WORKERS SOCIALIST LABOR
*Won US presidential election.
**Listed as Constitution Party on Wisconsin ballot.
1948 12 *Truman (D) 647,310 590,959 25,282 12,547 399
1952 12 *Eisenhower (R) 622,175 979,744 2,174 1,157 1,350 770
          CONSTITUTION      
1956 12 *Eisenhower (R) 586,768 954,844 6,918 754 564 710
1960 12 Nixon (R) 830,805 895,175 1,792 1,310
1964 12 *Johnson (D) 1,050,424 638,495 1,692 1,204
1968 12 *Nixon (R) 748,804 809,997 1,222 1,338
          AMERICAN IND. AMERICAN    
1972 11 *Nixon (R) 810,174 989,430 127,835 47,525 998
            SOCIALIST   LIBERTARIAN
1976 11 *Carter (D) 1,040,232 1,004,967 8,552 4,298 1,691 3,814
              Citizens  
1980 11 *Reagan (R) 981,584 1,088,845 **1,519 7,767 29,135
1984 11 *Reagan (R) 995,740 1,198,584 4,883
          POPULIST SOC. WORKERS NEW ALLIANCE  
1988 11 Dukakis (D) 1,126,794 1,047,499 3,056 2,574 1,953 5,157
            IND. (Perot) TAXPAYERS  
1992 11 *Clinton (D) 1,041,066 930,855 2,311 544,479 1,772 2,877
              IND. (Nader)  
1996 11 *Clinton (D) 1,071,971 845,029 227,339 28,723 7,929
          CONSTITUTION IND. (Buchanan) GREEN (Nader)  
2000 11 Gore (D) 1,242,987 1,237,279 2,042 11,471 94,070 6,640

are elected by district on a nonpartisan basis and serve staggered six-year terms. Vacancies are filled by the governor until a successor is elected. Judges sit in panels of three for most cases, although some cases can be heard by a single judge. Decisions by the court of appeals may be reviewed by the supreme court.

The circuit court, the trial court of general jurisdiction, also hears appeals from municipal courts. Circuit court boundaries coincide with county boundaries, except that three judicial circuits comprise two counties each; thus, there are 69 judicial circuits. Trial judges are elected by district on a nonpartisan basis for six-year terms. All justices at the circuit court level or higher must have at least five years' experience as practicing attorneys and be less than 70 years old in order to qualify for office. Vacancies are filled by the governor until a successor is elected.

Wisconsin's 200 municipal courts have jurisdiction over local matters. Municipal judges are elected for terms of two or four years, generally serve on a part-time basis, and need not be attorneys.

Wisconsin's crime rate in 2001 was 3,321.2 per 100,000 population, including a total of 12,486 violent crimes and 166,924 crimes against property in that year. Inmates in federal and state prisons totaled 20,931 in June 2001, an increase of 0.7% over the previous year. The state's incarceration rate stood at 373 per 100,000 inhabitants. Wisconsin does not have a death penalty.



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