Wisconsin Court of Appeals Provides a Lesson in Documenting the Settlement

handshake

A recent case from the Wisconsin Court of Appeals demonstrates the necessity of properly documenting the details of a settlement after agreement is reached on the amount. In Singler v. Zurich American Insurance Co., 2014AP391, Robert Singler and Zurich American Insurance Co. agreed to settle Singler’s personal injury claims for $1.9 million on the eve of trial. It does not appear that the parties signed a formal settlement agreement, but instead documented the settlement in an exchange of letters between their counsel. In one communication, Zurich’s attorney indicated that it “would take at least a month to get the check authorized out of Australia,” but the parties never agreed on a specific date by which Zurich would provide the payment.

When Zurich still had not paid six weeks later, Singler asked the circuit court to assess interest under Wis. Stat. § 628.46(1), which lets claimants collect 12% interest if an insurer does not pay a claim within 30 days. The circuit court agreed and awarded Singler $23,112.42 in interest, on top of the settlement amount.

Continue reading this entry

Wisconsin Supreme Court 2013-2014 Term Summary Part 2: A Divided Court?

WI_flag

This post is the second in a series of posts analyzing the 2013-14 term of the Wisconsin Supreme Court. For our previous post click here.

In our last post, we observed that the Wisconsin Supreme Court released unanimous opinions more quickly than non-unanimous opinions and that the court had released opinions very slowly this year. These two observations raise an important question: Is the Wisconsin Supreme Court an ideologically divided court? The answer to this question, based on the voting patterns of the seven justices in the court’s issued opinions, is no.

Only about 26% of the court’s opinions this term were 4-3 decisions (16/61). This number is up markedly from 2011-2012 (4) and from 2012-2013 (9). Yet, while three of four 4-3 decisions in 2011-12 had the same composition of those in the majority and those in dissent, 2012-13 had five different combinations, and 2013-14 had six:

  • Eight of these opinions had Justices Crooks, Roggensack, Ziegler, and Gableman in the majority and the Chief Justice, and Justices Bradley and Prosser in dissent.
  • Three of these opinions had Justices Prosser, Roggensack, Ziegler, and Gableman in the majority and the Chief Justice, and Justices Bradley and Crooks in dissent.
  • Two of the opinions saw the four most senior justices in the majority and the three most junior in dissent.
  • And there was one opinion each where the majority was (1) the Chief Justice, Justices Bradley, Prosser, and Roggensack; (2) the Chief Justice, Justices Bradley, Crooks, and Gableman; and (3) the Chief Justice, Justice Crooks, Prosser, and Gableman.

Continue reading this entry

7th Circuit Confirms That “Sorry for Partying” Is Fair Use; Questions Transformative Use Test

Sconnie Nation

In 1969, while a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Paul Soglin was arrested at the first Mifflin Street Block Party, a student protest of the Vietnam War. Over forty years later when that same Paul Soglin (now as mayor of Madison), attempted to shut down that same Mifflin Street Block Party (now morphed into a popular student annual party), the irony was not lost on a local business, Sconnie Nation, which helped run an on-campus t-shirt store.

To criticize the mayor’s stance on the party, Sconnie decided to sell shirts and tank tops with the phrase “Sorry For Partying.” In order to make the target of their political commentary clear, Sconnie sought a recognizable photo of the mayor to reproduce on the shirt. They downloaded a photo from the City’s official website. The original photograph, and the revision used on the shirts, are reproduced above.

The photographer of the original image sued Sconnie, alleging that the t-shirt’s use of the photo violated his copyright. The district court dismissed the case, holding that Sconnie’s use of the photo constituted fair use. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal in Kienitz v. Sconnie Nation LLC, No. 13-3004 (Sept. 15, 2014).

Continue reading this entry

Wisconsin's Voter-ID Case Provides a Lesson in Interim Relief

WI_statehouse1

In recent weeks, several high-profile cases involving Wisconsin public policy have come before the Seventh Circuit. In many instances, these cases have provided not only insights on the federal judicial system for the general public, but also reminders for appellate practitioners of the nature of judicial powers.

Last Friday offered another example. The Seventh Circuit in Frank v. Walker, stayed the permanent injunction of Wisconsin’s voter-ID law (Act 23), which the Eastern District of Wisconsin had issued back in April. The appellate panel, composed of Judges Easterbrook, Sykes, and Tinder, took the step just hours after it heard oral argument in the consolidated cases weighing the law’s validity under the Voting Rights Act and under the Constitution.

Continue reading this entry

Wisconsin Supreme Court 2013-2014 Term Summary Part 1: By the Numbers

WI_statehouse2

This post is the first in a series of posts analyzing the 2013-14 term of the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

* * * * *

Last week the court heard the first oral arguments for its 2014-15 term. Now that this new term has arrived, we will spend some time over the next few weeks in a series of posts reviewing what the court did last term.

Continue reading this entry