Like most high-volume intermediate appellate courts, the primary function of the Court of Appeals is to correct errors that occurred at the circuit court level. The published opinions of the Court are binding precedent until overruled by the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court has recognized that the Court of Appeals has a "law defining and law development" function. Cook v. Cook, 208 Wis. 2d 166, 188, 560 N.W.2d 246 (1997).
Any citizen may appeal a final judgment or order of a circuit court. Appeals of nonfinal judgments or orders (those that do not end the litigation) are accepted at the Court's discretion.
The Court generally sits in three-judge panels to decide the merits of an appeal. Several categories of cases, however, are decided by a single judge:
- small claims actions
- municipal ordinance violations
- traffic regulation violations
- mental health, juvenile, contempt and misdemeanor cases
The Court of Appeals issues a written decision in every case. The Court's publication committee determines which decisions will be published. If a decision is published, it may be cited as precedential authority.
No testimony is taken in the Court of Appeals. The Court relies on the circuit court record and the written briefs of the parties. The Court hears oral argument when the judges feel it would be beneficial to their decision.
The Court's procedures can be found in Chapter 809 of the Wisconsin Statutes.