Wisconsin court system delivering 600,000 face masks to circuit courts statewide

Madison, Wisconsin - June 12, 2020

Deputy Director for Management Services Caitlin Frederick, left, and Purchasing Officer Elizabeth Behnke, pause during delivery of masks to Milwaukee County Circuit Court on June 10.

Deputy Director for Management Services Caitlin Frederick, left, and Purchasing Officer Elizabeth Behnke, pause during delivery of masks to Milwaukee County Circuit Court on June 10.

Wisconsin state court system staff are distributing 600,000 face masks purchased through the Director of State Courts office to assist circuit courts statewide in advancing local plans to resume in-person proceedings and jury trials.

More than 94,000 face masks were delivered to the Milwaukee County Circuit Court on June 10, and about 500,000 masks have been delivered statewide since June 1. Masks are being distributed based on the number of judgeships per county, with Milwaukee being the single largest delivery.

"It's been amazing to see court staff and administrators meet the unprecedented challenges presented by COVID-19," said Director of State Courts Randy R. Koschnick. "Just weeks ago, we switched gears to assist circuit courts in holding remote proceedings to help reduce potential spread of coronavirus. We continue to rely on Zoom and YouTube to help keep cases moving and proceedings accessible to the public, but now we’re turning things around to help courts re-establish in-person proceedings," Koschnick said.

When the 600,000 masks were delivered in 300 boxes to court administrative offices in Madison on June 1, a number of staff chipped in to unload due to limitations of the vendor's trucking equipment: Deputy Director for Court Operations Diane Fremgen; Deputy Director for Management Services Caitlin Frederick; Circuit Court Legal Advisor Amber Peterson; Purchasing Officer Elizabeth Behnke; Clerk of Supreme Court and Court of Appeals Sheila Reiff; Chief Deputy Clerk Chris Paulsen; Assistant Deputy Clerk Benjamin Manthei; Records Clerk Susi Stephens; and Inventory Technician Nate Newby from CCAP (Consolidated Court Automation Programs).

From there, Fremgen, Frederick, Behnke and District Seven Court Administrator Patrick Brummond took loads of boxes from Madison to judicial administrative district offices, as did Sam Weir, Renee Krajewski, and Tom Muhlhausen from CCAP. DCAs then delivered or arranged for delivery to most courthouses.

In Milwaukee, District Court Administrator (DCA) Holly Szablewski and Milwaukee County court staff helped unload boxes driven from Madison by Frederick and Behnke, with help loading from Melissa Lamb of the Office of Court Operations.

Other DCAs responsible for deliveries included Louis Moore, District Two; Michael Neimon, District Three; Jon Bellows, District Four; Theresa Owens, District Five; Thomas Schappa, District Eight; Susan Byrnes, District Nine; and Christopher Channing, District Ten.

Under a Wisconsin Supreme Court order issued May 22, circuit courts must require everyone in a courtroom, jury room or other confined court-related space during a proceeding to wear a face covering. The requirement is one of several prerequisites to resuming in-person proceedings, which were temporarily halted statewide by previous Supreme Court order.

Each county circuit court must develop an operational plan that addresses ways to reduce spread of coronavirus and must submit that plan for approval from the respective chief judge in each of the state's nine judicial administrative districts. Plans must reflect that circuit courts have effectively communicated with the clerk of the circuit court and representatives of the county, sheriff's department, district attorney's office, and the local office of the state public defender, if applicable.

Courts must also indicate how they will communicate with jurors about procedures and steps taken to reduce health risks associated with coronavirus. And signage that communicates the requirements of wearing face coverings, washing hands and cleaning frequently touched surfaces must be posted at specific locations in each courthouse.

As of June 10, chief judges had approved such plans for circuit courts in 14 Wisconsin counties, including: Adams, Barron, Bayfield, Calumet, Dodge, Douglas, Dunn, Fond du Lac, Kewaunee, Marinette, Oconto, Rusk, Walworth and Waushara. Additional counties have submitted proposed plans for review.

A growing list of counties and links to orders approved by chief judges can be found on the court system's website.

Circuit courts are expected to take local needs into consideration and incorporate into their operational plans the recommendations set forth in the Wisconsin Court COVID-19 Task Force’s Final report.

Tom Sheehan
Court Information Officer
(608) 261-6640

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