Committees and boards
Planning and Policy Advisory Committee
Planning and Policy Advisory Committee (PPAC) advises the Supreme Court and the director of state courts on planning initiatives, the administrative structure of the court system, and the expeditious handling of judicial matters. The committee functions as the court system's long-range planning committee.
PPAC consists of the chief justice of the Supreme Court, one judge of the court of appeals (selected by the court of appeals), 13 circuit court judges (elected in the judicial administrative districts), one municipal judge (elected by the Wisconsin Municipal Judges' Association), two people selected by the board of governors of the State Bar of Wisconsin, and the following people appointed by the chief justice: three non-lawyers (one of whom shall be an elected county official); one public defender; one court administrator; one prosecutor; one clerk of circuit court; and one court commissioner (selected alternately for one term by the Wisconsin Family Court Commissioners Association and Wisconsin Association of Judicial Court Commissioners).
Court System Budget
Supreme Court Rule 70.14(4) provides that PPAC shall be kept fully and timely informed by the director of state courts about all budgetary matters affecting the judiciary. This enables PPAC to participate in the budget process. PPAC's primary role in the budget process is to ensure that the court system’s goals, as set forth in the critical issues report (see summary below), are considered as part of budget initiatives.
To further strengthen its planning functions and foster a participatory and inclusive decision-making process, in 2001 PPAC established a planning subcommittee. The eight-member subcommittee meets five to six times per year, gathers input from a variety of sources within and outside the court system, and identifies critical issues facing the system.
Every other year, the planning subcommittee solicits input from stakeholders about what they feel are key areas for the court system to focus on. The critical issues report is developed to:
- Identify current issues facing the court system
- Develop a process to identify specific objectives, action steps, and budget priorities for each critical issue
- Create a feedback loop to allow PPAC to routinely review and assess progress
- Adjust the planning process to better align with the biennial budget process
In the planning process for the 2014-2016 biennium an electronic survey was used to gather information from internal and external stakeholders. The survey was distributed to Supreme Court justices, court of appeals judges, chief judges, circuit court judges, circuit court commissioners, clerks of court, registers in probate, juvenile court clerks, district court administrators, PPAC members, legislators, elected county officials, district attorneys, public defenders, corporation counsel, Wisconsin Bar Association members, the department of corrections, and the department of justice. Five hundred and thirty-six (536) survey responses were received.
The survey identified four critical issues to focus on during the 2014-2016 biennium:
- Judicial Independence, Selection, and Ethics
- Court Security and Facilities
- Use of Technology
- Evidence-Based Practices
The full 2014-2016 report can be found here: Critical Issues: Planning Priorities for the Wisconsin Court System 2014-2016
Critical Issues: Planning Priorities for the Wisconsin Court System 2012–2014
Critical Issues: Planning Priorities for the Wisconsin Court System 2010–2012
Critical Issues: Planning Priorities for the Wisconsin Court System 2008–2010
Critical Issues: Planning Priorities for the Wisconsin Court System 2006–2008
Critical Issues: An Operational Plan for the Wisconsin Court System 2004–2006
For questions about planning activities, please contact the Office of Court Operations at (608) 266-3121.
Court Security Subcommittee
PPAC's 2006-2008 critical issues report first identified court safety and security as a top priority. Since that time, the court security subcommittee has worked diligently to gather a complete understanding of security in Wisconsin courthouses, as well as the state of court facilities. In 2010, the subcommittee conducted a significant survey of county security procedures, technology, security personnel, architectural features, and court security requirements under Supreme Court rule and released the “State of Security” in Wisconsin Courts.
Following the report, the subcommittee drafted a Supreme Court rule petition, modifying the existing Supreme Court rules on court security in SCR chapter 70. The result was the creation of a separate rule on court security, Supreme Court Rule Chapter 68, Court Security, Facilities, and Staffing, which was released in March 2012. The rule promotes communication concerning court facilities issues and contains guidance for counties on court security and facilities, as well as prescribing duties for the director of state courts office to better assist counties on court security matters.
Counties have also gained valuable court security education and assistance through the Court Safety and Security Conference, which has been offered every year since 2009. Court officials, court staff, county administration, law enforcement and others come together at the conference to learn about important issues and trends in court security and receive helpful information to take back to their counties to improve court security. The county team approach promoted for this conference provides an opportunity for meaningful collaboration on court security and has resulted in counties making important changes to their county courthouse security measures, resulting in greater safety for court staff and the public.
Videoconferencing in Wisconsin courts
Videoconferencing is an interactive technology that sends video, voice, and data signals over a transmission circuit so that two or more individuals or groups at distant locations can communicate with each other simultaneously. Using this technology can save prisoner transportation costs, reduce travel time and costs for court officials and staff to handle out-of-county cases, improve courthouse security, improve health care to prisoners through telemedicine, allow witness testimony in civil cases to happen remotely, reduce logistical barriers to conducting meetings, and provide access to additional training/educational opportunities.
PPAC and the Wisconsin Counties Association jointly convened the Statewide Videoconferencing Committee and developed a standards of good practice manual entitled "Bridging the Distance: Implementing Videoconferencing in Wisconsin." The videoconferencing subcommittee recently reconvened in February 2015 to review the manual and research more detailed technical standards for videoconferencing in the circuit courts.
“Bridging the Distance” and other videoconferencing information can be found on the court system’s website: Videoconferencing Information.
Effective Justice Strategies (formerly Alternatives to Incarceration)
In 2004, PPAC identified the overcrowding of jails and prisons and alternatives to incarceration as critical issues to be addressed. In response, PPAC formed a subcommittee on alternatives to incarceration with a mission to "explore and assess the effectiveness of policies and programs, including drug and other specialty courts, designed to improve public safety and reduce incarceration."
This subcommittee, now re-named the Effective Justice Strategies Subcommittee (EJS), consists of justice system professionals both inside and outside of the court system. Working in partnership with the National Center for State Courts (NCSC), Effective Justice Strategies in Wisconsin: A Report of Findings and Recommendations was published in 2012. To date, EJS has focused its efforts on advancing the recommendations contained in the report, including establishing a State Criminal Justice Coordinating Council and creating a full-time statewide problem solving court coordinator position and a full-time evidence based practices coordinator position. EJS also continues its efforts to study current practices, develop resources, and make recommendations on research based approaches to criminal justice.
Please visit the Effective Justice Strategies Clearinghouse for information.
Limited Scope Representation Subcommittee
PPAC has consistently identified self-represented litigants as a critical issue. The court system has reacted by developing a number of initiatives to increase litigants' access to justice, including creating statewide pro se forms and forms assistance websites, offering numerous judicial and court staff education programs on assisting self-represented litigants, and partnering with public libraries to ensure they are provided with resources to assist self represented litigants on court processes. In March 2010, PPAC created the Limited Scope Representation (LSR) Subcommittee, which was charged with researching existing limited scope representation programs both nationally and locally and recommending changes for Wisconsin.
The LSR subcommittee's work was divided into two phases. The first phase was a feasibility study. Members researched limited scope representation programming from across the country, paying particular attention to:
- Judicial and court administrator commitment and support
- Court rules that facilitate limited scope representation
- Practical and ethical training programs for lawyers
- Strong bar association and private bar support
- Self-represented litigant education and informed consent
The LSR subcommittee submitted its phase one final report to PPAC in August 2011 (PPAC Subcommittee on Limited Scope Representation Phase I Report | Executive Summary ) and moved forward with phase two, drafting a rule petition proposing changes to limited scope representation. Rule petition 13-10 was submitted to the Wisconsin Supreme Court in July 2013, recommending changes to existing Supreme Court rules and statutes, establishing procedures on how to limit legal services, and providing guidance regarding limited scope representation. The court accepted the proposed changes and the new rules became effective January 1, 2015: Supreme Court Rules, Petition 13-10 archive.
The LSR subcommittee is now developing a proposed rule that will ethically allow a lawyer mediator to draft necessary documents to complete a divorce or paternity process for parties who reach full agreement in mediation.
Past PPAC projects
From the Front Lines
“From the Front Lines,” a PPAC initiative, was a quarterly 'micro' e-newsletter highlighting activities related to a specific PPAC critical issue.
The court efficiencies subcommittee investigated policy and procedural areas with the intent to create a more efficient system, while still protecting litigants’ rights. The subcommittee issued a final report in 2006: Subcommittee on Court Efficiencies Final Report and Recommendations
Court Financing Subcommittee
The court financing subcommittee considered issues associated with funding and delivery of court services and tried to identify a stable, effective, and responsible funding mechanism. The subcommittee met from 2002 to 2004 and issued a final report in February 2004: final report; executive summary .
Fees and Surcharges Subcommittee
In response to the proliferation of court-imposed surcharges and the difficulty in collections, PPAC created a fees and surcharges subcommittee in 1999. The subcommittee’s final report was published in November 2001 and PPAC envisioned they would be useful factual tools to explain the complex fee and surcharge process. A fee chart was also released with the final report and it is still updated when legislative changes necessitate.
The subcommittee report led PPAC to offer legislation to simplify statutory references to court-imposed surcharges. That effort was successful when 2004 Wisconsin Act 139 was signed into law. The new law consolidated all court-imposed surcharges under one section of the statutes and required a fiscal estimate for any future bill seeking to modify a surcharge or create a new one.
Alternative dispute resolution
Members of PPAC's Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) subcommittee created a valuable research and learning tool, using surveys of judges and attorneys. The subcommittee created an ADR Clearinghouse that contains information on various ADR methods. Court personnel and other interested parties can access this information when considering new ADR programs or modifications to existing programs.
The court reporting subcommittee produced a report in 2000 that recommended a digital audio recording system for each county as a backup when a stenographic reporter was unavailable. The subcommittee determined this would assist in creating and preserving the court record, while also maintaining a commitment to the court system's official court reporters. Subsequent to this PPAC subcommittee’s work, several non-PPAC committees have also looked at issues involving making the record.
In 1994, PPAC issued a study entitled, "Report and Recommendations on the Role of Wisconsin Court Commissioners." The study focused on court commissioner functions and the administrative structure needed to ensure accountability. The result of the report was Supreme Court Rule 75 , adopted in March 1998, which provided for the appointment, performance evaluation, continuing education and discipline of judicial court commissioners.
For more information on PPAC contact:
Office of Court Operations
110 E. Main St., Ste. 410
Madison, WI 53703
Phone: (608) 266-3121
Fax: (608) 267-0911