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Wisconsin Supreme Court among nation's most influential high courts

Madison, Wisconsin - March 12, 2008

The Wisconsin Supreme Court is historically among the most influential state supreme courts in the United States, according to preliminary findings of a study published in December by the UC Davis (University of California, Davis) Law Review.

The study, which was highlighted in a March 11 column (external link) by New York Times legal affairs writer Adam Liptak (external link), examined 66 years of decisions by state supreme courts nationwide.

Wisconsin ranked eighth in two categories of study – the number of high court decisions that have been "followed" at least once by an out-of-state court, and the number of state high court decisions that have been followed at least three times by out-of-state courts.

Of course, courts in one state are not obligated to follow decisions of another state's supreme court, but courts often cite each others' decisions in constructing legal analysis of their own cases.

"Followed" cases include only cases found to have "played a substantial role in shaping the later decision," as designated by Shepard’s Citation Service, Liptak wrote.

From 1940 through 2005, Wisconsin Supreme Court decisions were followed, or "adopted and relied upon," at least once by an out-of-state court 660 times. Fifty of those decisions were followed at least three times by out-of-state courts 50 times during the period studied.

The study found California's high court to be the most influential, based on the study's methodology. Next in the rankings ahead of Wisconsin were: Washington, Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, Kansas and Massachusetts.

The findings were reported in the Law Review essay "Followed Rates" and Leading State Cases, 1940-2005  Adobe PDF (external link) by Jake Dear, chief supervising attorney, Supreme Court of California and Edward W. Jessen, reporter of decisions, California.

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