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The Wisconsin Appellate Court System. Overview. The structure of the Wisconsin court system The process of appeals in Wisconsin Pro se litigants E thical considerations. Wisconsin Circuit Courts.

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The wisconsin appellate court system

The Wisconsin Appellate Court System


  • The structure of the Wisconsin court system

  • The process of appeals in Wisconsin

  • Pro se litigants

  • Ethical considerations

Wisconsin circuit courts
Wisconsin Circuit Courts

  • The Wisconsin circuit courts are the state's trial courts. There are 249 circuit court judges in Wisconsin.

  • The circuit courts are divided into branches with at least one branch in every county, with the exception of six counties that are paired off and share judges. The largest circuit is Milwaukee County with 47 judges.

Wisconsin court of appeals
Wisconsin Court of Appeals

  • Hears appeals from the circuit court. Primary function is to correct errors resulting from misapplication of well-settled law. The Court of Appeals also issues new rules of law.

  • Sixteen judges and four districts

    • District I serves Milwaukee County

    • District II is based in Waukesha

    • District III is based in Wausau

    • District IV is based in Madison.

  • Court of Appeals judges are elected in district wide elections for 6-year terms and must reside in the district to be eligible for election.

Wisconsin supreme court
Wisconsin Supreme Court

  • Appellate jurisdiction to review by any case decided by the lower courts.

  • Review is discretionary

  • Authority to hear original actions

  • General administrative responsibility for the court system

  • Regulatory authority over judges & lawyers.

  • 7 justices, elected in statewide elections to 10-year terms

Helpful resources
Helpful Resources

  • Guide to Appellate Procedure for the Self-represented.

  • Filing a Petition for Review - A Guide to Seeking Review in the Wisconsin Supreme Court - 2011


Pro se litigation a special challenge for courts and lawyers
Pro se litigation – a special challengefor courts and lawyers

  • 25 years ago, self-representation was rare.

    • According to a 1974-76 study of divorce cases in one state, only 2.7 % of these cases involved a self-represented litigant.

  • Today, self-representation is increasingly the norm, particularly in domestic relations cases .

    • In a 2005 study, most divorce cases involved at least one pro selitigant: both spouses had counsel in only 46.4 % of cases.

Attorney misconduct discipline
Attorney Misconduct & Discipline

Office of Lawyer Regulation. SCR Chs. 21 and 22

The Wisconsin Supreme Court created the lawyer regulation system to supervise the practice of law and protect the public from lawyer misconduct.

The court has adopted standards of professional conduct for attorneys. See SCR Chapter 20.

Failure to comply with the court's standards may constitute misconduct.

Ethics hotline
Ethics Hotline

State Bar of Wisconsin Ethics Hotline

The ethics hotline is an advisory service that puts you in touch with an experienced ethics lawyer who can discuss relevant rules and provide non-binding guidance to help Wisconsin lawyers conform to the Rules of Professional Conduct for Attorneys.


  • Learn about the court system and about the role of your court in that system.

  • Learn about the process and rules of procedure governing your court.

  • Learn about the ethical rules that will govern your work as a lawyer.

  • Get help if you need it.