SCR 70.40 History
Sup. Ct. Order No. 96-14
, 210 Wis. 2d xxvii (1997); Sup. Ct. Order No. 99-02
, 228 Wis. 2d xix (1999); Sup. Ct. Order No. 08-12
, 2008 WI 31, 305 Wis. 2d xiii.
SCR 70.41 Assistance to court users; court staff guidelines. 70.41(1)(a)
"Court" means an appellate, circuit, or municipal court.
"Court staff" means persons under the supervision of the clerk of the supreme court and court of appeals, a clerk of circuit court, a circuit court commissioner, a register in probate, a district court administrator, a circuit court judge, or a municipal court judge.
Forms that have been approved by the records management committee.
Forms that have been approved by a circuit court or municipal judge for use in that jurisdiction.
"Individual" means any person who seeks court-related information, including information needed to file, pursue, or respond to a case.
"Should" is directory only, not mandatory, and connotes a duty or obligation to pursue a goal or objective.
The purpose of this rule is to assist the court in communicating with individual court users without practicing law. The rule is intended to enable court staff to provide the best service possible to individuals within the limits of the individual staff member's responsibility. The rule is not intended to restrict powers of court staff otherwise provided by statute or rule nor is it intended to eliminate the collection of applicable fees or costs. The rule is not intended to list all assistance that can be provided. The rule recognizes that the best service the court staff may provide in many proceedings is advising an individual to seek the assistance of an attorney.
Court staff shall remain impartial and may not provide or withhold assistance for the purpose of giving one party an advantage over another.
(4) Authorized information and Assistance.
Court staff shall do all of the following:
Provide public information contained in any of the following:
Provide a copy of, or recite, any of the following:
Common, routinely employed state and local court rules.
Common, routinely employed applicable fees and costs.
Advise an individual where to find statutes and rules, without advising whether a particular statute or rule is applicable.
Identify and provide applicable forms and written instructions without providing advice or recommendations as to any specific course of action.
Answer questions about how to complete forms, such as where to write in particular types of information, but not questions about how the individual should phrase his or her responses on the forms.
Define terms commonly used in court processes.
Provide phone numbers for lawyer referral services, local attorney rosters, or other assistance services, such as Internet resources, known to the court staff.
Provide appropriate aids and services for individuals with disabilities to the extent required by the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. 12101 et seq.
Unauthorized information and assistance.
Court staff may not do any of the following:
Provide legal advice or recommend a specific course of action for an individual.
Apply the law to the facts of a given case, or give directions regarding how an individual should respond or behave in any aspect of the legal process.
Recommend whether to file a petition or other pleading.
Recommend phrasing for or specific content of pleadings.
Fill in a form, unless required by sub. 4 (h).
Recommend specific people against whom to file petitions or other pleadings.
Recommend specific types of claims or arguments to assert in pleadings or at trial.
Recommend what types or amount of damages to seek or the specific individuals from whom to seek damages.
Recommend specific questions to ask witnesses or litigants.
Recommend specific techniques for presenting evidence in pleadings or at trial.
Recommend which objections to raise regarding an opponent's pleadings or motions at trial or when and how to raise them.
Recommend when or whether an individual should request or oppose an adjournment.
Recommend when or whether an individual should settle a dispute.
Recommend whether an individual should appeal a judge's decision.
Interpret the meaning or implications of statutes or appellate court decisions as they might apply to an individual case.
Predict the outcome of a particular case, strategy, or action.
Referral to supervisor.
When a court staff member is uncertain whether the advice or information requested is authorized, the staff member should seek the assistance of a supervisor. If a supervisor is not available, the staff member should advise the individual to seek assistance from an attorney.
SCR 70.41 History
Sup. Ct. Order No. 01-18
, 2002 WI 47, 251 Wis. 2d xvii.
SCR 70.41 Note
Comments: Court staff shall provide a copy of a common rule, but court staff should not attempt to apply the rule to the facts in the individual's case. Sometimes, after court staff provides a rule, an individual will ask whether or how the rule would apply, or if the rule might be applied differently, given the facts in his or her case. This calls for an interpretation of the law or rule of procedure. Court staff shall avoid offering interpretations of laws or rules.
SCR 70.41 Annotation
In providing assistance regarding forms, court staff may inform individuals that some general content may be required in a pleading, such as identification of the other parties involved in the accident or a description of the facts surrounding the accident. But court staff may not tell an individual whom to identify or which particular facts might be relevant in the pleading.
SCR 70.41 Annotation
Court staff should, if possible, provide or direct an individual to pamphlets or other documents that may address an individual's question and that have been prepared for general distribution to the public.
SCR 70.41 Annotation
Court staff may not compute deadlines specified by statute or rule.
SCR 70.41 Annotation
Court staff may not perform legal research. Court staff may refer individuals to sections of the Wisconsin supreme court rules, local court rules, or Wisconsin statutes that govern matters of routine administration, practice, or procedure and they may give definitions of common, well-defined legal terms used in those sections. However, court staff shall not interpret the meaning of statutes or rules.
SCR 70.41 Annotation
The list of prohibited types of assistance set forth under sub. 70.41(5) is not comprehensive. The list is consistent with the statutory directives in ss. 757.22 and 757.30(2), stats., regarding the practice of law by judicial officers and the unauthorized practice of law.
SCR 70.42 Electronic signatures. 70.42(1)(a)
"Court official" means a circuit court judge, clerk of circuit court, register in probate, juvenile clerk, court commissioner appointed under section 757.68 and SCR 75.02 (1), justice of the supreme court, judge of the court of appeals, and the clerk of the supreme and appellate courts.
"Electronic signature" means an electronic sound, symbol, or process attached to or logically associated with a document and executed or adopted by a person with the intent to sign the document.
Secure electronic signatures may be provided by the consolidated court automation program for use by court officials who sign electronic documents. The electronic signature shall be treated as the court official's personal original signature for all purposes under Wisconsin statutes and court rules. An electronic signature may be used on all court documents, including those documents described in section 137.12 (2m)
of the statutes. The official's printed name shall be inserted in place of a handwritten signature.
A court official may delegate the use of his or her electronic signature to an authorized designee, using the security procedures of the consolidated court automation program. A court official is responsible for any use of his or her electronic signature by an authorized designee. Court officials shall safeguard the security of their electronic signatures and exercise care in delegating the electronic signature.
An electronic signature shall be used only by the official to whom it is assigned and by such designees as the official may authorize. Upon learning that the confidentiality of the electronic signature has been inadvertently or improperly disclosed, the court official shall immediately report that fact to the consolidated court automation program.
Court officials may use their electronic signatures for administrative purposes. If the signature of a court official is required on a document, an electronic signature satisfies that requirement. Electronically signed documents may be stored electronically for the proper retention period.
Electronic signatures may be provided to the director of state courts and such employees as the director may designate for administrative purposes. At the discretion of the director, an employee may be provided with his or her own electronic signature if appropriate for the conduct of official business. The electronic signature shall be treated as the person's original signature.
The chief justice, chief judges, and director of state courts may use their electronic signatures for the assignment of judges pursuant to SCR 70.23 and 70.24. A district court administrator may be the designee of the chief judges for purposes of judicial assignment.
SCR 70.42 History
Sup. Ct. Order No. 06-07
, 2008 WI 35, 305 Wis. 2d xv.