KMK Successfully Defends Corporate Client’s Constitutional Rights in Wisconsin Supreme Court
KMK is pleased to announce its success in an important constitutional case before the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
The case involves a trial court’s delegation of broad authority to a “referee,” a private individual who was appointed by the court to act as a surrogate judge. The trial court empowered the referee to rule on all matters short of trial, and forced the parties to pay the referee a high hourly rate set by the court to act as their substitute judge.
KMK challenged the scope and terms of the referee’s appointment, and asked Wisconsin’s highest court to exercise its superintending power over all Wisconsin courts (a power rarely exercised) to protect its client’s constitutional right to its day in court.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court agreed with KMK. As the Supreme Court explained:
“The Wisconsin Constitution embodies the principle that courts are an essential and integral part of Wisconsin’s government….The Order of Reference impermissibly delegated to the referee judicial power constitutionally vested in Wisconsin’s unified court system. Accordingly, the Order does not survive [the Petitioner’s] constitutional challenge.”
The Supreme Court vacated the appointment, and struck all the significant orders issued by the referee.
This ground-breaking decision will protect the constitutional rights of all Wisconsin litigants to have their claims adjudicated by a democratically-elected judge in a court of law.
KMK attorneys Robert L. Gegios, Ryan M. Billings, and Melinda A. Bialzik represent our client in the litigation and handled the Supreme Court appeal. The opinion can be found at 2017 WI 26.