Court of Appeals opinions

Precedential value of opinions

Under Wis. Stat. § (Rule) 809.23, selected "judge-authored" opinions of the Court of Appeals are published in the official reports: Callaghan's Wisconsin Reports and West's North Western Reporter. Published opinions have precedential value and may be cited as controlling law in Wisconsin.  Unpublished authored opinions issued before July 1, 2009, are of no precedential value and may not be cited except in limited instances.  Unpublished authored opinions issued on or after July 1, 2009 may be cited for persuasive value.

Rule 809.23 sets forth criteria for publication of a Court of Appeals opinion-including whether it enunciates a new rule or modifies, criticizes or clarifies an existing rule of law, whether it resolves a conflict in prior decisions, whether it contributes to the legal literature and whether it decides a case of substantial and continuing public interest. Under Rule 809.23(1)(b), single-judge, per curiam and "summary" opinions are generally not considered appropriate for publication. Thus the initial publication decision is made by the deciding panel, which determines, based in large part on the publication criteria, the format an opinion will take -- judge-authored, per curiam or summary. In addition, all judge-authored opinions contain a written recommendation by the deciding panel whether to publish or not.

The final publication decision is made by a committee, which meets monthly, and is comprised of one judge from each of the four Court of Appeals districts and chaired by the chief judge. Committee members read and discuss each eligible opinion and, based on the criteria stated in the rule, vote whether or not to publish. Of the 319 three-judge opinions considered by the Court in 2010, 164 were ordered published. That represents 51 percent of three-judge opinions and 16 percent of three-judge, per curiam, and single-judge opinions.

Citation of unpublished opinions

When citing an unpublished opinion in a pleading or brief before any court, a party should include the case caption, docket number, unpublished designation, paragraph number, court, and date. For example: Marquez v. Herbeck, No. 2010AP552, unpublished slip op., ¶19 (WI App Sept. 11, 2011).

The Public Domain Citation (PDC) for an unpublished opinion refers to a table, not to the individual opinion; therefore, PDC numbers should not be used when citing to an unpublished opinion.

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