Wisconsin’s third branch of government is critical to open government. This year, the Wisconsin Supreme Court will hear three cases involving Wisconsin’s open records law, and could make important decisions involving access to the courts. The court’s docket starts with a case about whether videos of law enforcement training sessions must be released to the public. The videos were requested from then-Waukesha District Attorney Brad Schimel by the Democratic Party of Wisconsin during the race for attorney general, which Schimel later won. Lower courts rejected Department of Justice arguments that disclosing the videos would educate criminals about law enforcement practices and harm crime victims, because the information was already in the public sphere and did not identify victims.
The appeals court ruled that the DOJ “neither made the exceptional case required to shield public records from public view … nor overcame the presumption of complete public access to public records.” But the justices have agreed to take another look.
Last year on July 2, the state Legislature launched a sneak attack on Wisconsin’s open records law, effectively seeking to exempt legislators from its reach. That effort died following a huge public backlash. But some lawmakers, it’s clear, remain actively hostile to the state’s tradition of open government.
The state Department of Corrections is force feeding at least three inmates as a hunger strike aimed at ending a form of solitary confinement that can go on for years — even decades — continues for a third week.
Colorado’s decision to curtail the use of solitary confinement — which the state of Wisconsin has begun to do — offers lessons for the Badger State that its former prisons chief, Rick Raemisch, is uniquely positioned to offer.
A Wisconsin court of appeals has finally put to rest some of the questions over what information must be withheld under the federal Driver’s Privacy Protection Act, or DPPA. Its recent decision ends years of confusion in a way that squares with the state’s traditions of openness — and with common sense.
About a dozen Wisconsin prisoners plan to launch a hunger strike beginning next week aimed at ending a form of indefinite solitary confinement that officials use to keep order in the institutions, according to an inmate advocacy group.
Mary Matthias, the top attorney in the nonpartisan agency that provides legal and policy advice to the Wisconsin Legislature, this week retired from nearly three decades of state service and became a reporter for the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.