Your Right to Know: Supreme Court cases key to openness

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.

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Podcast: Scraping the Wisconsin Supreme Court

Today we’re continuing our new occasional podcast series with a conversation between the Center’s Kate Golden and freelancer Jake Harper, about his recently published piece showing that over the past decade, Wisconsin Supreme Court justices tended to favor clients whose attorneys had donated to their campaigns, and recused themselves from just 2 percent of cases involving attorney donors.

Your Right to Know: Public’s business shouldn’t be ‘private’

Wisconsin’s Open Records Law asserts the public’s right to the “greatest possible information regarding the affairs of government and the official acts of those officers and employees who represent them.” But the law’s reach has been tested in recent years by electronic communications that are easily sent — and just as easily deleted — from officials’ email and cellphone accounts.

Wisconsin receives C- for government accountability

Wisconsin receives a C- in a nationwide ranking of states’ accountability and risk of corruption. The State Integrity Investigation, released today, ranks Wisconsin 22nd, with a score of 70 percent — a score boosted by the creation in 2008 of the state Government Accountability Board to help clean up government.