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Planning and Policy Advisory Committee

PPAC held its annual joint meeting with the Supreme Court on November 4, 2010.

PPAC held its annual joint meeting with the Supreme Court on November 4, 2010.

Planning and Policy Advisory Committee (PPAC) advises the Supreme Court and the director of state courts on planning initiatives, the administrative structure of the court system and the expeditious handling of judicial matters. The committee functions as the court system's long-range planning committee.

PPAC consists of the chief justice of the Supreme Court, one judge of the Court of Appeals (selected by the Court of Appeals), 13 circuit court judges (elected in the judicial administrative districts), one municipal judge (elected by the Wisconsin Municipal Judges' Association), two persons selected by the Board of Governors of the State Bar of Wisconsin and the following persons appointed by the chief justice: three non-lawyers (one of whom shall be an elected county official), one public defender, one court administrator, one prosecutor, one clerk of circuit court and one court commissioner (selected alternately for one term by the Wis. Family Court Commissioners Association and Wis. Association of Judicial Court Commissioners).

SCR 70.14 Adobe PDF
Current membership
Minutes from recent meetings: March 2014 | January 2014 | November 2013 Adobe PDF

From the Front Lines

From the Front Lines is a recent initiative of PPAC. This quarterly 'micro' e-newsletter highlights recent activities related to a specific PPAC critical issue.

Planning Subcommittee

To further strengthen its planning functions and foster a participatory and inclusive decision-making process, PPAC established a planning subcommittee in 2001. The eight-member subcommittee meets five to six times per year, gathers input from a variety of sources within and outside the court system and identifies the critical issues facing the system.

Current membership

Strategic planning for the Wisconsin court system

Every other year, the Planning Subcommittee solicits input from internal stakeholders about what they feel are the key areas for the court system to focus upon in the short term. The critical issues report is developed to:

In the planning process for the 2014-2016 biennium an electronic survey was used to gather information from internal and external stakeholders. The survey was distributed to supreme court justices, court of appeals judges, chief judges, circuit court judges, circuit court commissioners, clerks of court, registers in probate, juvenile court clerks, district court administrators, PPAC members, legislators, elected county officials, district attorneys, public defenders, corporation counsel, Wisconsin Bar Association members, department of corrections and the Department of Justice staff members. Five hundred and thirty-six (536) survey responses were received.

The survey identified the following four (4) critical issues:

1.) Judicial Independence, Selection and Ethics
2.) Court Security and Facilities
3.) Use of Technology
4.) Evidence-Based Practices

Critical Issues: Planning Priorities for the Wisconsin Court System 2014-2016

The full 2014-2016 report can be found here:

Previous reports:

Critical Issues:  Planning Priorities for the Wisconsin Court System 2012–2014
Critical Issues: Planning Priorities for the Wisconsin Court System 2010–2012
Critical Issues:  Planning Priorities for the Wisconsin Court System 2008–2010
Critical Issues:  Planning Priorities for the Wisconsin Court System 2006–2008
Critical Issues:  An Operational Plan for the Wisconsin Court System 2004–2006

For questions about planning activities, please contact Bonnie MacRitchie, policy analyst, at (608) 261-7550.

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Court system budget

Supreme Court Rule 70.14 (4) Adobe PDF provides that PPAC shall be kept fully and timely informed by the director of state courts about all budgetary matters affecting the judiciary. This enables PPAC to participate in the budget process.

PPAC's primary role in the budget process is to ensure that budget initiatives conform to the goals of the court system as set forth in the strategic plan.

Court Security Subcommittee

Court security was identified as a top priority in PPAC's Critical Issues: Planning Priorities for the Wisconsin Court System 2006-2008 biennial report, over the past 2 ½ years the Court Security Subcommittee has worked diligently to gather a baseline understanding of the current picture of Wisconsin court security and court facilities.  In order to accomplish this subcommittee conducted a significant survey of county security procedures, technology, security personnel, architectural features and SCR 70.38 – 70.39.  The information collected from these surveys served as the baseline for the remainder of the subcommittee's work.  Given the quantity of data collected, the subcommittee felt it necessary to develop the "State of Security" in Wisconsin Circuit Courts Report,

The PPAC Subcommittee on Court Security submitted its final report and recommendations to PPAC in August 2010.  PPAC accepted the report as written which included the following recommendations: 

The subcommittee is currently drafting a rule petition to be submitted to the Supreme Court to create a new chapter on court security and facilities. 

The subcommittee's final report can be found here: PPAC Subcommittee on Court Security Final Report and Recommendations

Videoconferencing in Wisconsin courts

Videoconferencing is an interactive technology that sends video, voice and data signals over a transmission circuit so that two or more individuals or groups at distant locations can communicate with each other simultaneously using video monitors and microphones. The use of this technology in the justice system may save prisoner transportation costs, improve courthouse security, improve health care to prisoners through telemedicine, allow witness testimony in civil cases, reduce logistical barriers to conducting meetings and provide access to additional training/educational opportunities.

PPAC and the Wisconsin Counties Association jointly convened the Statewide Videoconferencing Committee in 1998, and developed a standards of good practice manual entitled "Bridging the Distance: Implementing Videoconferencing in Wisconsin."

More recently, in February 2004, PPAC reactivated its videoconferencing subcommittee to update the technical standards contained in the " Bridging the Distance" document. The subcommittee is also examining the need for new laws or rules to encourage greater use of videoconferencing in Wisconsin courtrooms.

Bridging the Distance 2005: Implementing Videoconferencing in Wisconsin and other videoconferencing resources are available here.

Effective Justice Strategies (formerly Alternatives to Incarceration)

In 2004, the Planning and Policy Advisory Committee (PPAC) of the Wisconsin Supreme Court identified the overcrowding of jails and prisons and alternatives to incarceration as critical issues to be addressed. In response, PPAC formed a subcommittee on Alternatives to Incarceration with a mission to "explore and assess the effectiveness of policies and programs, including drug and other specialty courts, designed to improve public safety and reduce incarceration."

Chaired by Judge Carl Ashley of Milwaukee County, this subcommittee, now re-named the Effective Justice Strategies Subcommittee (EJSS), consists of justice system professionals both inside and outside of the court system. To date, the EJSS has focused its efforts on studying, developing resources, and making recommendations in regard to collaborative problem-solving approaches to criminal justice.

Please visit the Effective Justice Strategies Clearinghouse for information.

Limited Scope Representation Subcommittee

PPAC has consistently identified self-represented litigants as a critical issue and the court system has reacted through the development of a number of initiatives to increase litigants' access to justice.  Additionally a number of internal processes and resources have been developed including statewide pro se forms, judicial and court staff education programs, and partnerships with public libraries.  In March 2010, past summer PPAC created the Limited Scope Representation Subcommittee.  Charged with researching existing limited scope representation programs both nationally and locally and making recommendations, the subcommittee's work has been divided into two phases. 

The first phase was a feasibility study.  Members researched limited scope representation programming from across the country, paying particular attention to:

The PPAC Subcommittee on Limited Scope Representation submitted its final report and recommendations to PPAC in August 2011. PPAC accepted the report as written and recommended moving forward to the second phase of subcommittee work. Specifically the second phase of the subcommittee will:

The subcommittee's final report can be found here: PPAC Subcommittee on Limited Scope Representation Phase I: Feasibility Study and Recommendations | Executive Summary Adobe PDF

Phase II work will begin in late 2011.

Past projects

Court efficiencies
In 2005, PPAC created a subcommittee to examine potential efficiencies that could be created within the court system. The mission of the court efficiencies subcommittee is to "examine the legal process and recommend way to create a more efficient system by modifying or creating certain court procedures and policies while protecting the rights of litigants." The subcommittee investigated the following policy and procedural areas: plea colloquies, judicial caseload rotation, and criminal procedures.

The subcommittee has concluded its work and prepared a final report with recommendations. This report was approved by the full PPAC on August 10, 2006.

Subcommittee on Court Efficiencies Final Report and Recommendations Adobe PDF

Court Financing Subcommittee
In response to increasing concerns about the funding of the state court system and the growing frequency of calls for full state funding, in May 2002 PPAC created the Court Financing Subcommittee. The charge of the subcommittee was to sort through issues associated with the funding and delivery of court services and identify a stable, effective and responsible financing mechanism.

The subcommittee responsibilities were to:
•  Review Wisconsin's current court financing system, past Wisconsin court studies and court financing in other states.
•  Define a uniform level of court services that should be provided throughout the state and determine associated costs.
•  Evaluate financing and administrative options to support court services, and look at the responsibilities of state and local governments and policy and implementation issues.

The subcommittee consisted of representatives of the circuit and appellate courts, counties and the public, and met seven times from December 2002 to January 2004. Their final report Adobe PDF (and accompanying executive summary Adobe PDF) was approved by PPAC in February 2004.

Fees and Surcharges Subcommittee
PPAC created a fees and surcharges subcommittee in 1999 in response to the proliferation of court-imposed surcharges and the difficulty in collecting them. Since 1987, the number of surcharges in Wisconsin has nearly tripled, while surcharge revenue has increased more than 500%.

Subcommittee members were asked to gather facts and figures concerning the current structure used to impose and collect fines (criminal cases), forfeitures (civil cases) and court filing fees, as well as the surcharges imposed upon fines and forfeitures. Their final report Adobe PDF (and accompanying fee chart Adobe PDF) was approved by PPAC in 2001 and published in November of that year. PPAC envisioned that the report would be a useful factual tool in explaining a complex system in the simplest terms possible.

The subcommittee report led PPAC to offer legislation to simplify statutory references to court-imposed surcharges.  That effort was successful when the Legislature passed the bill and Governor Doyle signed it into law as 2004 Wisconsin Act 139.  The new law consolidates all court-imposed surcharges under one section of the statutes and requires a fiscal estimate for any future bills that seek to modify a surcharge or create a new one.  The PPAC planning subcommittee's 2004 final report also highlights this issue and recommends further steps to address it.

Alternative dispute resolution
Members of PPAC's Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) subcommittee created a valuable research and learning tool using surveys of judges and attorneys. The subcommittee created an ADR Clearinghouse on the court system's website that contains information on the nature and circumstances of the use of various ADR methods among both of these groups. Court personnel and other interested parties can access this information when considering new ADR programs or modifications to existing programs.

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Court reporting

Court administrators have been coping with a shortage of official court reporters for years. They often have difficulties providing adequate coverage. PPAC appointed a subcommittee to examine this issue from a long-term perspective and come up with possible solutions. The subcommittee recommended a digital audio recording system for each county to be used as a backup when a stenographic reporter is unavailable. The technology would assist in the creation and preservation of the court record, while also maintaining a commitment to the court system's official reporters.

Court Reporting Subcommittee Findings and Recommendations report Adobe PDF

Court commissioners

In 1994, as a result of data collection, interviews and hearings, PPAC issued a study entitled, "Report and Recommendations on the Role of Wisconsin Court Commissioners." The study focused on the functions of court commissioners and the administrative structure needed to ensure system accountability. The Supreme Court reviewed this report and requested that PPAC submit an implementation plan for its recommendations. In accordance with the Supreme Court's request, PPAC petitioned the Court to adopt rules regulating court commissioners.

The Court adopted Supreme Court Rule 75 Adobe PDF in March 1998 to provide for the appointment, performance evaluation, continuing education and discipline of judicial court commissioners.

For more information on PPAC contact:

Bonnie MacRitchie, Senior Policy Analyst
110 E. Main St., Ste. 410
Madison, WI  53703
Phone: (608) 261-7550
Fax: (608) 267-0911

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