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Supreme Court celebrates 20 years of 'Justice on Wheels' with historic hearings in Sheboygan

Madison, Wisconsin - September 19, 2013

This fall, for the first time in its history, the Wisconsin Supreme Court will sit in Sheboygan, hearing two cases on Thursday, Oct. 3 in the Branch I courtroom of the Sheboygan County Courthouse, 615 N. 6th St., Sheboygan. The visit marks the 20th anniversary of the Court's 'Justice on Wheels' program that brings oral argument to communities across Wisconsin.

Seats to watch the Court's hearings are free and open to the public, but reservations are suggested to secure a spot. Reservations may be made by calling the Court at (608) 266-1298 or e-mailing sara.foster@wicourts.gov. There are two cases to choose from. Each proceeding will last about one hour (see attached brief summaries).

Prior to hearing the cases, the Court will open its visit with a welcome ceremony attended by local judges and other elected officials and community leaders, and will hold an awards presentation to honor local fifth graders who are participating in the Supreme Court Essay Contest. In the afternoon, the justices will attend a luncheon hosted by the Sheboygan County Bar Association.

This is the Supreme Court's 24th Justice on Wheels trip. The Court launched the program in 1993 as a public outreach initiative. Each term, the Chief Justice selects one or two locations to visit. Since 1993, the justices have conducted proceedings in the following counties, listed in order of the visits: Brown, Eau Claire, Marathon, Milwaukee, La Crosse, Douglas, Rock, Kenosha, Sauk, Dodge, Oneida, Outagamie, Portage, Racine, Fond du Lac, Walworth, Waushara, St. Croix, Winnebago, Iowa, Washington, Columbia and Green.

The following brief case summaries are meant to give the reader a quick overview and do not explore all of the issues presented in each case:

Thursday, October 3, 2013

9:45 a.m. 2010AP3016-CR State v. Nicolas Subdiaz-Osorio
This case raises an issue that the Wisconsin Supreme Court has never before addressed: whether police tracking of a cell phone user's location via GPS, without a warrant, violates the Fourth Amendment. The case began with a brutal murder in Kenosha. Police arrested Nicolas Subdiaz-Osorio in Arkansas after working with his cell phone provider to track his signal. He was believed to be on his way to Mexico. He ultimately was convicted in the case. The Court of Appeals affirmed that conviction. In the Supreme Court, Subdiaz-Osorio argues that police violated his right to privacy by tracking him though his cell phone signal.

11:15 a.m. 12AP336-CR State v. Bobby L. Tate
Like the 9:45 a.m. matter, this case centers on police use of cell phone signals to track a suspect in a homicide. In this investigation, however, police did obtain an order authorizing police to use certain devices and obtain certain information that would allow the police to track the location of a specified cell phone. This case focuses, therefore, on whether a search warrant is needed in such a situation, whether the Wisconsin statutes or other law authorizes this type of warrant, whether the order here constitutes a valid search warrant supported by the proper level of probable cause, and to what extent police may track a person's precise physical location, even within a residence, by obtaining location information for his/her cell phone. The case began when a man later identified as Bobby Tate purchased a pre-paid cell phone and, shortly after, shot two people outside a store on Milwaukee's North Side. A videotape from the cell phone store showed a man who matched eyewitness descriptions of the shooter. Police sought an order that, among other things, would have authorized them to collect information that allowed them to track the suspect using the cell phone signal, and the judge issued the order. Using the cell signal, police tracked the cell phone to a specific area within a particular apartment building. The police then were granted permission by Tate's mother to enter her apartment, where they found and arrested Tate. After Tate's motion to suppress all evidence obtained pursuant to the court order was denied, Tate was convicted as part of a plea agreement of first-degree reckless homicide and possession of a firearm by a felon. The Court of Appeals affirmed his conviction. Tate's appeal asks the Court to determine whether obtaining a cell phone's signal constitutes a "search" within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, whether an order or warrant to obtain such location data is authorized by statute or other law, and, if so, what probable cause standard police must meet in order to obtain a search warrant to track a suspect.

Note to electronic media and still photographers: Camera requests must be made to cover the Supreme Court's oral arguments. Call Media Coordinator Rick Blum at (608) 277-5133 or e-mail rblum@wisctv.com.  Notice is not required for the welcome ceremony and essay contest.

Amanda Todd
Court Information Officer
(608) 264-6256

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