The Wisconsin court system is comprised of Municipal Courts, Circuit Courts, Court of Appeals and Supreme Court.
Wisconsin Municipal Courts
There are 237 Municipal Courts in Wisconsin with 240 judges. These courts hear cases of traffic infractions, municipal ordinance violations and first-time drunk driving offenders. They also preside over juvenile delinquency cases, building code violations, health code violations, trespassing and animal control cases.
Wisconsin Circuit Courts
There are 249 judges serving 72 counties in the state's Circuit Courts. These courts are trial courts and exist in every county. Some counties have more than one Circuit Court, but each has at least one.
Wisconsin Court of Appeals
The Court of Appeals is the state's intermediate appellate court, and hears all appeals from Circuit Courts and Municipal Courts. It handles over 1,200 cases each year, and was created by the Legislature in 1978. There are 16 judges who serve four districts in the Court of Appeals. Locations can be found in Milwaukee, Waukesha, Wausau and Madison.
Wisconsin Supreme Court
Wisconsin's Supreme Court has seven total justices serving, and is the court of last resort in the state. If parties are not happy with the decision of this court, they must petition the U.S. Supreme Court for an appeal. This court does not have mandatory jurisdiction, meaning it considers petitions for appeals from the lower courts (Court of Appeals, Circuit Courts and Municipal Courts) and may or may not agree to hear them. Out of approximately 1,000 petitions for hearings annually, the Supreme Court agrees to hear about ten percent of them.
Wisconsin Notable Court Cases
In 1854, the Booth case has become known for the Wisconsin Supreme Court's move to defy federal statute and fail to require the return of runaway slaves. The case made it to the U.S. Supreme Court, which overturned the decision, though the Wisconsin Supreme Court never filed the mandates handed to them from the federal court.
In 1926, Wait v. Pierce marked an important milestone for the fight for women's rights in the state. The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that women had the right to sue their husbands.
In Risser v. Klauser (1997), the Supreme Court exercised original jurisdiction and defined the veto power of the governor and separation of powers of the executive and legislative branches of the government.
In State v. Mitchell (1992), the high court found a state law unconstitutional that enhanced criminal penalties when the victim was selected based on race or sexual orientation. Later, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed this decision.
In State v. Yoder (1971), the Supreme Court determined that a state law that required children to attend school on a full-time basis violated the Amish's right to freedom to practice their religion. This case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which affirmed the original decision.