The Wisconsin circuit courts are the state's trial courts. Currently, there are 249 circuit court judges in Wisconsin.
The circuit courts are divided into branches with at least one branch in every county, with the exception of six counties that are paired off and share judges. The paired counties are: Buffalo/Pepin, Florence/Forest, and Shawano/Menominee. The first two pairs are each staffed by a single judge who travels between the courthouses; Menominee County is a federal reservation and both judges for this circuit are located in Shawano. Of the remaining circuits, 26 have a single judge and the largest circuit is Milwaukee County with 47 judges.
Judicial administrative districts
The state's 72 counties are grouped into 10 judicial administrative districts. See district map. In each district there is a chief judge appointed by the Supreme Court. The chief judge, who may serve up to three consecutive two-year terms, supervises and directs the administration of the district. In carrying out these duties, the chief judge is charged by Supreme Court rule to cooperate with the director of state courts.
Each chief judge appoints a deputy chief judge to act in the event of his or her absence or unavailability. A professional district court administrator and a court management assistant, both employees of the director of state courts and permanently located in the district, assist the chief judge. The chief judges meet monthly as a committee, as do the district court administrators.
Clerks of circuit court are independently elected, constitutional officers who work in close cooperation with the chief judges, district court administrators, and staff of the Director of State Courts Office. The clerks provide management and administrative leadership in each circuit and are indispensable to the effective functioning of Wisconsin's circuit courts.
The circuit courts are funded with a combination of state and county money. State funds are used to pay the salaries of the judges, official court reporters, and reserve judges (retired judges who are assigned to hear cases when the need arises). The state also funds travel and training for the judges.
By law, the counties are responsible for all other operating costs except those enumerated by statute. For those exceptions, which include among other things the costs of providing guardians ad litem (court-appointed attorneys), court-appointed witnesses, interpreters, and jurors, the state provides assistance in the form of statutory formula grants.
Use the navigation to the right to explore the circuit courts.