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Petitioner v. Evans

Court of Appeals of Wisconsin, District IV

July 5, 2018

Petitioner, Petitioner-Respondent,
v.
Robert D. Evans, Respondent-Appellant.

         Recommended for publication in the official reports.

          APPEAL from an order of the circuit court for Dane County: No. 2017CV2538, ELLEN K. BERZ, Judge.

          Before Lundsten, P.J., Sherman and Kloppenburg, JJ.

          KLOPPENBURG, J.

         ¶1 In this appeal from a domestic abuse injunction order, Robert Evans argues that an unlawful "email volunteer system" was used to assign a substitute judge. As used here, an "email volunteer system" is a method of assigning a substitute judge to a case by sending an email to the other judges and assigning the first responding available judge to the case. We conclude that Evans fails to show that the use of an email volunteer system violates any statute. We also conclude that, to the extent that Evans is arguing that the use of an email volunteer system violates Wisconsin Supreme Court Rules setting forth administrative duties of the chief judge, we lack authority to review such non-judicial actions. Accordingly, we affirm.

         BACKGROUND

         ¶2 On October 13, 2017, a court commissioner granted a petition for a domestic abuse temporary restraining order against Evans and scheduled an injunction hearing to be held before Judge Rhonda Lanford on October 20, 2017.

         ¶3 On the day of the injunction hearing, Evans filed a request for substitution of judge. At the hearing, Judge Lanford granted Evans's request for substitution of judge, stating, "Judge [Ellen] Berz is available to hear this right now." Evans objected, stating his belief that "there would need to be a random selection of the judge." After a brief recess, Judge Lanford explained that she talked with the court administrator and confirmed that when substitutions are requested in domestic abuse injunction hearings, "[a] judge is assigned whoever is available to do it .... An e-mail was sent out randomly, and the first person who responds and is available is assigned. That was Judge Berz, and Judge Berz is waiting in Branch 11 to hear this case." Evans again objected to the method by which Judge Berz was assigned as a substitute judge.

         ¶4 That same day, the parties appeared before Judge Berz. When Evans again objected, Judge Berz explained that "the chief judge's and court administrator's office was contacted and [the original judge] was told that an email should go out to all of the judges to find out who was available at this last-minute request, and whoever answered first," was assigned the case. Judge Berz informed Evans that she answered first. Judge Berz then granted Evans's request for a continuance and scheduled the hearing for four days later, October 24, 2017.

         ¶5 On October 24, 2017, Judge Berz held the injunction hearing and granted the injunction. Evans appeals.

         DISCUSSION

         ¶6 The sole issue on appeal is whether the email volunteer system used in this case to assign a substitute judge is unlawful. Evans argues that the email volunteer system "directly contravenes" the statutes and the supreme court rules. As we explain, Evans fails to point to any language in the statutes that supports his argument, and we lack authority over his challenge based on the supreme court rules.

         Evans's Argument Based on the Statutes

         ¶7 Evans's statutory argument requires that we interpret various statutory provisions. "The purpose of statutory interpretation is to discern the intent of the legislature." Juneau Cty. v. Associated Bank, N.A., 2013 WI.App. 29, ¶16, 346 Wis.2d 264, 828 N.W.2d 262. When we interpret a statute, we begin with the statute's plain language, because we assume that the legislature's intent is expressed in the words it used, and we give statutory language "its common, ordinary, and accepted meaning." Id.; State ex rel. Kalal v. Circuit Court for Dane Cty., 2004 WI 58, ¶¶44-45, 271 Wis.2d 633, 681 N.W.2d 110. "[S]tatutory language is ...


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