Wisconsin Court of Appeals Information

Wisconsin Court of Appeals Information


Court of Appeals

Download the Fact Sheet as a pdf

Wisconsin Court of Appeals Fact Sheet


What is the Wisconsin Court of Appeals?

  • Intermediate appellate court: hears all cases appealed from the circuit courts and rules in favor of one party. Will only overrule trial court decisions if an important legal error is made.
  • Does not decide on facts of a case, but rather makes decisions on whether the law was appropriately applied. The court corrects legal errors in rulings from circuit courts.
  • Consists of 16 judges serving in four districts.
  • 3-judge panels hear nearly all cases, except small claims actions, municipal ordinance violations, traffic violations, and mental health, juvenile, and misdemeanor cases. These exceptions may be heard by a single judge unless a panel is requested.
  • Decisions made by the court of appeals may be appealed to higher courts.

What do I need to know about the Court of Appeals Judges?

  • Judges are chosen in nonpartisan elections from their respective districts to serve for six-year terms. There are no term limits for judges.
  • Judges are elected in April.
  • Makes decisions based on trial record and written briefs of the case; the court rarely hears oral arguments.
  • There is no jury and the court does not hear testimony.
  • Decisions of the appellate court are delivered in writing.
  • The chief judge is appointed by the Wisconsin Supreme Court for a three year term.

Why does the court of appeals matter to average Wisconsinites?

  • You choose these judges in nonpartisan elections. Make sure your voice is heard in choose qualified and fair judges.
  • If your case was decided unfairly, this is the court that provides important oversight to ensure laws were appropriately followed at trial.
  • Our rights are at stake. Sets binding legal precedent for interpretation of laws unless overruled by the Supreme Court.

How do you evaluate judicial candidates?  

1. Decide what you are looking for in a candidate.  

  • What issues are important to you?
  • What qualities do you want in a leader?
  • Which candidate’s judicial philosophies align with your values?

2. Learn about the candidates.

  • Visit their websites, watch candidate forums and interviews, go to VOTE411.org, seek other nonpartisan sources for information.
  • What are their qualifications?
  • Their judicial philosophies?
  • Their records?

3. Sort it out.

  • Which candidate’s judicial philosophies and views on the role of an Appeals Court Judge best match your own views?
  • Who seems most prepared for the job?
  • Who has the leadership qualities you are looking for?