History tools

reference books on a shelfIn the year 2003, the Wisconsin Supreme Court celebrated the 150th anniversary of its formation as a separate court with a variety of events and publications designed to tell the story of the state's highest court. The Wisconsin courts have many stories to tell. Legal lore, trivia, biographies, summaries of famous cases, and even a script for a play and an Emmy-award-nominated video documentary are available through this site.

The year 2004 marked the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. This decision, which said that separate does not mean equal, helped to launch the civil rights movement across our country. Materials on Brown, including teaching tools, program ideas, and speaking points, are available in the 2004 Law Day Planning Kit , produced by the Director of State Courts Office. Also provided in the kit are summaries of school-related cases that have been decided by Wisconsin's appellate courts.

Following are links and tools for learning about the history of the courts in Wisconsin. For more information visit the history of the courts section of the site.

  • Articles on Wisconsin's legal history
  • Famous cases of the Wisconsin Supreme Court
  • Commemorating the 200th anniversary of Marbury vs Madison (external link)
  • Rope of Sand (Based upon Ableman v. Booth)
    Rope of Sand is an original play by Madison playwright Marc Kornblatt. Commissioned by the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 1998, Rope of Sand was performed at the Madison Civic Center under the direction of Betty Diamond as part of the court system celebration of the state's sesquicentennial. This play is copyrighted, but the author has agreed to permit schools to use the script at no charge. For more information contact Court Information Officer Tom Sheehan.
  • Stand the Storm documentary
    This half-hour documentary which aired December 16, 1998 on Wisconsin Public Television brings the legal, academic and African-American communities together to tell the story of Joshua Glover and Sherman Booth and the role they played in Wisconsin's 1854 fugitive slave case, Ableman v. Booth. This case, juxtaposed with the modern civil rights movement, puts into context Wisconsin's stand on slavery and the state's rights movement. To purchase a copy of this program, contact the Audience Services department at Wisconsin Public Television at (608) 265-2302 or comments@wpt.org. Questions or comments about the documentary? Call the Wisconsin Supreme Court at (608) 266-1298 or e-mail Court Information Officer Tom Sheehan

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