WI High Court Draws Curtain on More Public Meetings

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The Wisconsin Supreme Court has voted to keep more of its deliberations behind closed doors, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The decision – on a 5-2 vote – came amid conservative vs. liberal acrimony that has marked the court in recent years. The Wisconsin Supreme Court, like other courts, has always conducted its arguments on cases in public and its deliberations about those cases behind closed doors. But in 1999, the court became one of the first state high courts to hold its administrative meetings before the public. At the meetings, shown live in recent years on public TV, justices discussed issues both meaty and mundane, many of them pertaining to court policies.

Five years ago, the court voted to curtail its public meetings. Since then, deliberations have been held publicly only when the court discussed proposed changes to its formal rules. For instance, the justices in April debated in public whether they should tighten court rules that dictate when judges must step aside from cases involving people or groups who spent money in their elections. The court rejected the rule changes, 5-2, with the court’s five conservative justices outvoting the two liberals. The same majority voted last week to stop holding such discussions in public.

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