By Attorney Heiner Giese
The Wisconsin Supreme Court held an open administrative hearing on Oct. 9 on Legal Action's petition for a rule change to limit CCAP access to eviction records to one year. The hearing lasted about 45 minutes and is viewable on Wisconsin Eye. An audio only version will be on the Supreme Court's website later.
The AP News story by Scott Bauer got the result wrong when it said the court "sides with tenant advocates."
First, the Legal Action petition was for cutting off CCAP access at ONE year for any dismissed evictions where there is no money judgment. It there is a money judgment it stays online for 20 years, which is the current rule.
Justice Ann Walsh Bradley's motion adopted at the hearing was to change that one year to TWO years if no judgment entered.
But a TWO year limit on CCAP access is what the LEGISLATURE already approved in 2018 by statute, sec. 758.20(2).
Here is what I said in my Comment on Petition 22-03 (page 1) to the Court filed on behalf of WRA, WAA and then-AASEW:
2. The policy change on retention of eviction records for which Petitioner Legal Action of Wisconsin advocates is already substantially available (with a two, not one-year window) per Wis. Stat. § 758.20(2)(b). The Director of State Courts already has the authority under that statute - not currently being exercised - to remove eviction cases from WCCA online access if no money judgment has been docketed two years after dismissal; the Court can instruct the Director to implement that policy now.
Justice Rebecca Dallet (at 28:00 of the recording) says exactly that. She says the legislature "had the right to do that and we are implementing that policy." So today's conference vote by the justices accepts the result proposed by Wisconsin's major landlord groups and does not attempt to reverse a statute concerning court records enacted by the legislature in 2018.
So the upshot is that evictions where any money judgment is entered are going to remain searchable for 20 years. The court did not address the distinction between a money judgment being entered (which occurs automatically if the landlord gets a writ, even if the landlord does not pursue money damages) and a judgment being docketed (which is an extra step the landlord has to take and which costs $5).
The justices did not discuss (or attempt to change) the separate 10-year CCAP access for cases where a writ was issued, which the legislature mandated in sec. 758.20(2)(a).