By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Paul Soglin: Take pride in Wisconsin's judicial system
Placeholder Image
Our state has an outstanding judicial system despite the criticisms of Wisconsin Manufacturing & Commerce (WMC). Data provided by the National Center for State Courts indicates that we can be proud of Wisconsin justice.

It is desirable that courts clear more cases than new ones so as to avoid backlogs. Of the 37 states evaluated in 2005, Wisconsin ranked seventh in clearing cases.

A more demanding test is the number of appeals filed. From 1996 to 2005, Wisconsin was seventh among the 50 states in declining appellate caseload. Of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, Wisconsin ranked 18th in the number of appeals per capita.

WMC claims we need "tort reform." They claim it is too easy to bring a tort action against a manufacturer. Of 32 states ranked in 2005, Wisconsin was the 10th best in terms of having the fewest tort cases per capita.

Wisconsin is one of the leading states with an overall decline in tort cases in the past decade. In 1998, new tort cases filed in Wisconsin totaled 8,725. That included 161 in the product liability category. In 2005, the last year for which we have complete date, the overall number of tort cases was down to 7,402 and the product liability cases dropped to 126. Those are reductions of 15 percent and 20 percent, respectively.

In 2007, the Institute for Legal Reform, which reflects the views of lawyers who are against plaintiff's rights, ranked Wisconsin 10th of 50 states after the Badger state was ranked 23rd in 2006. Its ranking system is suspect but it reaffirms the notion of a fair Wisconsin judiciary.

An examination of our judiciary is not complete without looking at the complaints filed against the judges. In our state the Wisconsin Judicial Commission, an independent body reviews all complaints. Occasionally judges like Annette Ziegler, now a Supreme Court justice, are recommended for reprimand or discipline, but that is the exception not the rule.

In 2006, the commission looked at 101 allegations involving 60. In total, in 2006, there were findings in six cases that led to letters of concern or warnings. No judge, justice or court commissioner was subject to greater discipline or forced to resign.

Our judicial system goes back to the English Magna Carta issued in 1215, the basis of our Constitution. It states, "To no one will we sell, to no one will we deny, justice."

Eight hundred years later we should take pride in our judicial system and make sure that we follow its tenets.