When Rebecca Bradley was appointed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court in October, the question arose what role she would play in cases argued this term before her appointment. Specifically, if the Court were otherwise split 3-3 on a case, would Justice R. Bradley participate in order to break the tie? The Court answered “No” in New Richmond News v. City of New Richmond, 2015 WI 106.
New Richmond involves the interplay between Wisconsin’s Public Records Law, Wis. Stat. ch. 19 subch. II, and the federal Driver’s Privacy Protection Act, 18 U.S.C. §§ 2721-25, which protects from disclosure “personal information” and “highly restricted personal information” in motor vehicle records (ranging from street address to social security numbers). The Court thought the question to be one of state-wide importance when it accepted the case last April through its “bypass” procedure, which is one of the ways a case can skip the court of appeals. Nevertheless, the Court sent the case back to the court of appeals when the supreme court was deadlocked 3-3 after Justice N. Patrick Crooks passed away between argument and the release of an opinion. It explained that vacating its bypass allows the court of appeals to decide it and preserves the supreme court’s ability to take it up later, under the usual review process.
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