Court will hear open meetings and 4th Amendment Cases Early Next Year
November 10, 2016 – Milwaukee, WI – The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty filed two briefs with the Wisconsin Supreme Court after it agreed to hear two of WILL’s cases last month, a first for the public interest law firm. The first case, Krueger v. Appleton Area School District, challenges a school district’s decision to hold a book-selection committee’s meetings in closed session. The second, Milewski v. Town of Dover, challenges a state law that strips property owners of their right to challenge their tax assessments if they exercise their constitutional right to refuse to allow an appraiser to search their property. Oral arguments will likely be held early next year.
Krueger v. Appleton Area School District
This case was brought by John Krueger, an AASD taxpayer and parent of a former AASD student. In 2011, AASD created a committee to review the district’s 9th grade English book list. The committee was made up of 17 AASD employees, and met on a regular basis. The district chose to close CAMRC’s meetings to the public, however, citing concerns that attendees might publicize what was said in those meetings.
The question in the case is whether the committee was “created by rule or order” under the open meetings law. The attorney general has opined that any directive, formal or informal, that creates a body and assigns it duties is sufficient to trigger the law, but the court of appeals disagreed. WILL asks the Supreme Court to adopt a broad reading of the law to best serve government transparency. Otherwise government entities can avoid the open meetings law simply by delegating responsibility for creating committees downward.
Read more about the case here.
Milewski v. Town of Dover
This case was brought by Vincent Milewski and Morganne MacDonald, a married couple who own a home in the Town of Dover. Under Wisconsin Statutes, a tax assessor can demand entry into a private home. If the owner refuses, the assessor can value the home at any amount for property tax purposes and the citizen has no right to appeal – they must pay that tax, no matter how outrageous it is.
The Court of Appeals concluded that this was constitutional because it was merely a choice – homeowners can choose to exercise their Fourth Amendment right to refuse to consent to a government search, but if they do they have to accept the consequence of being stuck with the tax. But punishing people who exercise that right violates the Fourth Amendment. In fact, preventing government searches of homes for tax purposes (a notorious British practice in the colonies) was one of the primary reasons the framers created the Fourth Amendment. The law also violates due process, by depriving people of property (through taxation) while stripping them of any right to challenge their tax in court.
Read more about the case here.
*What did WILL file today? What is a Court Brief?
When the Wisconsin Supreme Court takes a case, the first thing they do is order the parties to file briefs on the legal issues. The briefs explain what issues the case raises, lay out the facts of the case, and present each side’s arguments why they should win. Those arguments draw heavily on existing law and previous cases (called precedent), applying them to the new situation presented by the unique facts of the case. The Justices – with the help of the clerks and interns – will use the briefs to prepare for oral argument. They’ll read them thoroughly, read the cases the parties cite, talk about their initial impressions, and think of questions to pose to the attorneys at oral argument.