Bills addressing threats against judges signed into law by Governor Evers

Madison, Wisconsin - March 27, 2024

Governor Tony Evers signs billThree bipartisan bills the Wisconsin Supreme Court requested in response to threats of violence against judges were signed into law by Governor Tony Evers on March 27. Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Jill J. Karofsky was in attendance for the signing, as were Court of Appeals Judge Maria Lazar; St. Croix County Circuit Judge Scott Nordstrand, who serves as the vice chair of the Legislative Committee of the Judicial Conference; Karley Klein, Chief Legal Counsel in the Director of State Courts Office, and many others.

The Judicial Security Package was developed by the Legislative Committee of the Judicial Conference at the request of Chief Justice Annette Kingsland Ziegler, who has prioritized judicial safety. The committee, consisting of members of the judiciary, worked with the assistance of other judicial colleagues to craft the following bills:

  • AB 965: Picketing and Parading (Representatives Tusler and Stubbs; Cosponsored by Senators Wanggaard and Taylor)
  • AB 966: Judicial Officer Privacy (Representatives Tusler and Ortiz-Velez; Cosponsored by Senators Wanggaard and Taylor)
  • AB 967: Withholding Judicial Security Profiles from Public Access (Representatives Tusler and Ortiz-Velez; Cosponsored by Senators Wanggaard and Taylor)

“Judicial security has been a priority of mine throughout my time as the Chief Justice, particularly so following the senseless murder of Judge John Roemer in 2022. Judge Roemer was murdered at his own home by a man the judge had sentenced to prison years earlier. Unfortunately, this tragic situation is not an outlier. Across the country, threats and acts of judicial violence and intimidation have been on the rise. That reality is unacceptable: it is a basic tenet of judicial independence that judges should not be intimidated, influenced, threatened, or killed for doing their job,” said Chief Justice Ziegler. “Today, I wish to thank our bipartisan bill sponsors and cosponsors for their tireless work to get this package over the finish line. And, I wish to thank Governor Evers for signing our judicial security package into law. I am glad to see that judicial security is supported across the aisle. This package is a much-needed step in the right direction to provide safety and security to our judicial officers. May we all continue to do our part, individually and collectively, to provide a safe court system. We will have more work to do in the days ahead to ensure our judicial officers are safely able to carry out their important work. But today, I pause to celebrate these positive steps.”

Governor Tony Evers signs billThe Picketing and Parading bill signed into law makes it a Class A misdemeanor to picket or demonstrate near a justice’s home ‘with the intent to interfere with, obstruct, or impede the administration of justice’ or influence a judge in carrying out their duties. The penalty is up to a $10,000 fine and nine months imprisonment.

The Judicial Officer Privacy bill establishes privacy protections for judicial officers and procedures for judicial officers to request state government agencies, persons, businesses, associations, and data brokers protect their personal information and the personal information of their immediate family. It makes it a Class G felony to knowingly publicly post or display on the Internet personal information about a judicial officer or their family to increase or create a threat to the health and safety of a judicial officer or a family member, and bodily injury or death of the judicial officer or a family member of the judicial officer is a natural and probable consequence of the posting or display.

The final bill signed into law provides an exemption for judicial security profiles used to develop emergency response plans, which include personal details of a judge and family members, from disclosure under the public records law.

For more information, please contact the Wisconsin Courts Public Information Officer Stephen Kelley at 608-261-6640 or email Communications@WIcourts.gov.

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