Wisconsin Unified Court System Amendment, Question 2 (April 1977)

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The Wisconsin Unified Court System Amendment was a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment on the April 5, 1977 ballot in Wisconsin, where it was approved.

Election results

Question 2
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 490,437 69.43%
No215,93930.57%

Official results via: The Wisconsin Blue Book 1977

Text of measure

The language that appeared on the ballot:

"Court reform. Shall sections 5, 11 and 16 to 23 of article VII of the constitution be repealed; shall section 21 of article I, sections 17 and 26 of article IV, and sections 2 to 4, 6 to 10 and 14 of article VII of the constitution be amended; and shall section 4 (3) of article VII and section 16 (1) to (4) of article XIV of the constitution be created, so as to provide for a unified court system under the administrative authority of the supreme court and the chief justice, consisting of a supreme court, circuit court, and such trial courts of general uniform statewide jurisdiction and municipal courts as the legislature may provide by law?"[1]

Constitutional changes

(For Questions 2, 3, 4, and 5 of 1977)

Article I
Rights of suitors. SECTION 21. (1) Writs of error shall never be prohibited, and shall be issued by such courts as the legislature designates by law.
(2) In any court of this state. any suitor may prosecute or defend his suit either in his own proper person or by an attorney of the suitor's choice.


Article IV
Enactment of laws. SECTION 17. (1) The style of all laws of the state shall be "The people of the state of Wisconsin, represented in senate and assembly, do enact as follows:" and no,
(2) No law shall be enacted except by bill. No law shall be in force until published.
(3) The legislature shall provide by law for the speedy publication of all laws.

Extra compensation; salary change. SECTION 26. The legislature shall never grant any extra compensation to any public officer, agent, servant or contractor, after the services shall have been rendered or the contract entered into; nor shall the compensation of any public officer be increased or diminished during his term of office except that when any increase or decrease provided by the legislature in the compensation of the justices of the supreme court or judges of the circuit court any court of record shall become effective as to any such justice or judge, it shall be effective from such date as to each of such justices or judges. This section shall not apply to increased benefits for persons who have been or shall be granted benefits of any kind under a retirement system when such increased benefits arc provided by a legislative act passed on a call of yeas a yes and nays noes by a three-fourths vote of all the members elected to both houses of the legislature, which act shall provide for sufficient state funds to cover the costs of the increased benefits.

Article VII
Court system. SECTION 2. The judicial power of this state, both as to matters of law and equity, shall be vested in a unified court system consisting of one supreme court, a court of appeals, a circuit courts, and court, such trail courts of probate. The legislature may also vest such general uniform jurisdiction as shall be deemed necessary in municipal courts, and may authorize the establishment of inferior courts in the several counties, cities, villages or towns, with limited civil and criminal jurisdiction. Provided, that the jurisdiction which may be vested in municipal courts shall not exceed in their respective municipalities that of circuit courts in their respective circuits as prescribed in this constitution; and that the legislature shall provide as well for the election of judges of the may create by law, and a municipal courts as of the judges of inferior courts, by the qualified electors of the respective jurisdictions. The term of office of the judges of the said municipal and inferior courts shall not be longer than that of the judges of the circuit courts court if authorized by the legislature under section 14.
Supreme court: jurisdiction. SECTION 3. (1) The supreme court, except in cases otherwise provided in this constitution, shall have appellate jurisdiction only , which shall be coextensive with the state; but in no case removed to the supreme court shall a trial by jury be allowed. The supreme court shall have a general superintending control and administrative authority over all inferior courts; it shall have power to.
(2) The supreme court has appellate jurisdiction over all courts and may hear original actions and proceedings. The supreme court may issue all writs of habeas corpus, mandamus, injunction, quo warrant o , certiorari, and other original and remedial writs, and to hear and determine the same necessary in aid of its jurisdiction.
(3) The supreme court may review judgments and orders of the court of appeals, may remove cases from the court of appeals and may accept cases on certification by the court of appeals.
Supreme court: election, chief justice, court system administration. SECTION 1(4)4.(1) The chief justice and associate justices of the supreme court shall have 7 members who shall be severally known as the justices of said the supreme court, with the same. Justices shall be elected for 10-year terms of office of ten years respectively as now provided. The supreme court shall consist of seven justices, any four of whom commencing with the August 1 next succeeding the election. Only one justice may be elected in any year. Any 4 justices shall be constitute a quorum, to be elected as now provided, not more than one each year for the conduct of the court's business.
(2) The justice having been longest a continuous member of said court, or in case two 2 or more such senior justices shall have served for the same length of time, then the one justice whose commission term first expires shall be the the chief justice. The justice so designated as chief justice may. irrevocably, decline to serve as chief justice or resign as chief justice but continue to serve as a justice of the supreme court.
(3) The chief justice of the supreme court shall be the administrative head of the judicial system and shall exercise this administrative authority pursuant to procedures adopted by the supreme court. The chief justice may assign any judge of a court of record to aid in the proper disposition of judicial business in any court of record except the supreme court.
SECTION 5. [Repealed] The state shall be divided into five judicial circuits, to be composed as follows: The first circuit shall comprise the counties of Racine, Walworth, Rock and Green; the second circuit, the counties o f Milwaukee, Waukesha, Jefferson and Dane; the third circuit, the counties of Washington, Dodge, Columbia, Marquette, Sauk and Portage; the fourth circuit, the counties of Brown, Manitowoc, Sheboygan, Fond du Lac, Winnebago and Calumet; and the fifth circuit shall comprise the counltes of Iowa, La Fayette, Grant, Crawford and St. Croix; and the county of Richland shall be attached to Iowa, the county of Chippewa to the county of Crawford, and the county of La Pointe to the county of St. Croix, for judicial purposes, until otherwise provided by the legislature.
Court of appeals. SECTION 5. The legislature shall by law combine the judicial circuits of the state into one or more districts for the court of appeals and shall designate in each district the locations where the appeals court shall sit for the convenience of litigants.
(2) For each district of the appeals court there shall be chosen by the qualified electors of the district one or more appeals judges as prescribed by law, who shall sit as prescribed by law. Appeals judges shall be elected for 6-year terms and shall reside in the district from which elected. No alteration of district or circuit boundaries shall have the effect of removing an appeals judge from office during the judge's term. In case of an increase in the number of appeals judges, the first judge or judges shall be elected for full terms unless the legislature prescribes a shorter initial term for staggering of terms.
(3) The appeals court shall have such appellate jurisdiction in the district, including jurisdiction to review administrative proceedings, as the legislature may provide by law, but shall have no original jurisdiction other than by prerogative writ. The appeals court may issue all writs necessary in aid of its jurisdiction and shall have supervisory authority over all actions and proceedings in the courts in the district.

Circuit judges; election. SECTION 7. For each circuit there shall be chosen by the qualified electors thereof one or more circuit judge, except that in any circuit in which there is a county that had a population in excess of eighty-five thousand, according to the last state or United States census, the legislature may, from time to time, authorize additional circuit judges to be chosen as prescribed by law. Every circuit judge Circuit judges shall be elected for 6-year terms and shall reside in the circuit from which he is elected, and shall hold his office for such term and receive such compensation as the legislature shall prescribe.
Circuit court: jurisdiction. SECTION 8. The Except as otherwise provided by law, the circuit courts court shall have original jurisdiction in all matters civil and criminal within this state, not excepted in this constitution, and not hereafter prohibited by law; and such appellate jurisdiction from all inferior courts and tribunals, and a supervisory control over the same. They shall also have the power to in the circuit as the legislature may prescribe by law. The circuit court may issue writs of habeas corpus, mandamus, injunction, quo warranto, certiorari, and all other writs necessary to carry into effect their orders, judgments and decrees, and give them a general control over inferior courts and jurisdictions in aid of its jurisdiction.
Judicial elections, vacancies. SECTION 9. When a vacancy shall happen occurs in the office of judge justice of the supreme court or circuit courts judge of any court of record, such the vacancy shall be filled by an appointment ·of by the governor, which shall continue until a successor is elected and qualified; and a supreme court justice when so elected shall hold his office for a term of 10 years and a circuit judge when so elected shall hold his office for such term as the legislature prescribes for circuit judges elected under section seven of this article. There shall be no election for a justice or judge or judges at any the partisan general election for state or county officers, nor within 30 days either before or after such election.
Judges: eligibility to office. SECTION 10. Each of the judges of the supreme and circuit courts shall receive a salary, payable at such time as the legislature shall fix, of not less than one thousand five hundred dollars annually; they shall receive no fees of office, or other compensation than their salary; they
(1) No justice of the supreme court or judge of any court of record shall hold no any other office of public trust, except a judicial office, during the term for which they are respectively elected, and all votes for either of them for any office, except a judicial office, given by the legislature or the people, shall be void. No person shall be eligible to the office of judge who shall not, at the time of his election or appointment, be a citizen of the United States and have attained the age of twenty-five years, and be a qualified elector within the jurisdiction for which he may be chosen.
(2) Justices of the supreme court and judge s of the courts of record shall receive such compensation as the legislature may authorize by law. but may not receive fees of office.
SECTION 11. [Repealed] The supreme court shall hold at least one term annually, at the seat of government of the state, at such time as shall be provided by law. And the legislature may provide for holding other terms and at other places when they may deem it necessary. A circuit court shall be held at least twice in each year in each county of this state organized for judicial purposes. The judges of the circuit court may hold courts for each other, and shall do so when required by law.
Disciplinary proceedings. SECTION 11. Each justice or judge shall be subject to reprimand, censure, suspension, removal for cause or for disability, by the supreme court pursuant to procedures established by the legislature by law. No justice or judge removed for cause shall be eligible for reappointment or temporary service. This section is alternative to, and cumulative with, the methods of removal provided in sections 1 and 13 of this article and section 12 of article XIII.
Justices and judges: removal by address.. SECTION 13. Any justice or judge of the supreme or circuit court may be removed from office by address of both houses of the legislature, if two-thirds of all the members elected to each house concur therein, but no removal shall be made by virtue of this section unless the justice or judge complained of shall have been is served with a copy of the charges against him, as the ground of address, and shall have has had an opportunity of being heard in his defense. On the question of removal, the ayes and noes shall be entered on the journals.
Municipal court. SECTION 14. There shall be chosen in each county, by the qualified electors thereof, a judge of probate, who shall hold his office for two years and until his successor shall be elected and qualified, and whose jurisdiction, powers and duties shall be prescribed by law. Provided, however, that the legislature shall have power to abolish the office of judge of probate in any ·county, and to confer probate powers upon such inferior courts as may be established in said county. The legislature by law may authorize each city, village and town to establish a municipal court. All municipal courts shall have uniform jurisdiction limited to actions and proceedings arising under ordinances of the municipality in which established. Judges of municipal courts may receive such compensation as provided by the municipality in which established, but may not receive fees of office.
SECTION 16. [Repealed] The legislature shall pass laws for the regulation of tribunals of conciliation, defining their powers and duties. Such tribunals may be established in and for any township, and shall have power to render judgment to be obligatory on the parties when they shall voluntarily submit their matter in difference to arbitration, and agree to abide the judgment or assent thereto in writing.
SECTION 17. [Repealed] The style of all writs and process shall be, "The state of Wisconsin;• all criminal prosecutions shall be carried on in the name and by the authority of the same, and all indictments shall conclude against the peace and dignity of the state.
SECTION 18. [Repealed] The legislature shall impose a tax on all civil suits commenced or prosecuted in the municipal, inferior or circuit courts, which shall constitute a fund to be applied toward the payment of the salary of judges.
SECTION 19. [Repealed] The testimony in causes in equity shall be taken in like manner as in cases at law, and the office of master in chancery is hereby prohibited.
SECTION 20. [Repealed] Any suitor, in any court of this state, shall have the right to prosecute or defend his suit either in his own proper person, or by an attorney or agent of his choice.
SECTION 21. [Repealed] The legislature shall provide by law for the speedy publication of all statute laws, and of such judicial decisions, made within the state, as may be deemed expedient. And no general law shall be in force until published.
SECTION 22. [Repealed] The legislature, at its first session after the adoption of this constitution, shall provide for the appointment of three commissioners, whose duty it shall be to inquire into, revise and simplify the rules of practice, pleadings, forms and proceedings, and arrange a system adapted to the courts of record of this state, and report the same to the legislature, subject to their modification and adoption; and such commission shall terminate upon the rendering of the report, unless otherwise provided by law.
SECTION 23. [Repealed] The legislature may provide for the appointment of one or more persons in each organized county, and may vest in such persons such judicial powers as shall be prescribed by law. Provided, that said power shall not exceed that of a judge of a circuit court at chambers.
Justices and judges: eligibility for office; retirement. SECTION 24. No person seventy years of age or over may take
(1) to be eligible for the office as a of supreme court justice or circuit judge. No of any court of record, a person may take or hold such office unless he is must be an attorney licensed to practice law in this state and has have been so licensed for five 5 years immediately prior to his election or appointment. No supreme court justice or circuit judge
(2) Unless assigned temporary service under subsection (3), no person may serve as a supreme court justice or judge of a court of record beyond the July 31 following the date on which he such person attains the age, of seventy not less than 70 years. which the legislature shall prescribe by law.
(3) A person who has served eight or more years as a supreme court justice or circuit judge of a court of record may, as provided by law, serve temporarily, on appointment as a judge of any court of record except the supreme court on a temporary basis if assigned by the chief justice of the supreme court or by any associate justice designated by the supreme court, as a judge of a circuit court, under such general laws as the legislature may enact.

ARTICLE XIV
Implementing revised structure of judicial branch. SECTION 16. (1) The 1975/1977 amendment relating to a revised structure of the judicial branch shall take effect on August 1 of the year following the year of ratification by the voters.
(2) All county courts and the branches thereof in existence on the effective date of this amendment shall, as trial courts of general uniform statewide jurisdiction, continue after such effective date with the same jurisdiction, powers and duties conferred by law upon such courts and the branches and judges thereof until the legislature by law alters or abolishes such county courts and their jurisdiction, powers and duties.
(3) Subject to the jurisdiction established in section 14 of article VII, municipal courts and municipal court judges shall continue after the effective date of this amendment with the same jurisdiction, powers and duties as conferred upon such courts and judges as of the effective date until the legislature acts under sections 2 and 14 of article VII to alter or abolish such municipal courts and their jurisdiction. powers and duties.
(4) The terms of office of justices of the supreme court serving on the effective date shall expire on the July 31 next preceding the first Monday in January on which such terms would otherwise have expired, but such advancement of the date of term expiration shall not impair any retirement rights vested in any such justice if the term had expired on the first Monday in January.
(5) Prior to the effective date of this amendment the legislature shall by law establish one or more appeals court districts, provide for the election of appeals judges in such districts, and determine the jurisdiction of the court of appeals under section 21 of article I and section 5 of article VII as affected by this amendment. so that the court of appeals shall become operative on the effective date.

Path to the ballot

  • First Legislative Approval: AJR 11 & JR 13 (1975)
  • Second Legislative Approval: SJR 9 & JR 7 (1977)[2]

See also

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References