County officers; election, terms, removal; vacancies. Section
[As amended Nov. 1882, April 1929, Nov. 1962, April 1965, April 1967, April 1972, April 1982, Nov. 1998, and April 2005
Except as provided in pars. (b) and (c) and sub. (2), coroners, registers of deeds, district attorneys, and all other elected county officers, except judicial officers, sheriffs, and chief executive officers, shall be chosen by the electors of the respective counties once in every 2 years.
Beginning with the first general election at which the governor is elected which occurs after the ratification of this paragraph, sheriffs shall be chosen by the electors of the respective counties, or by the electors of all of the respective counties comprising each combination of counties combined by the legislature for that purpose, for the term of 4 years and coroners in counties in which there is a coroner shall be chosen by the electors of the respective counties, or by the electors of all of the respective counties comprising each combination of counties combined by the legislature for that purpose, for the term of 4 years.
Beginning with the first general election at which the president is elected which occurs after the ratification of this paragraph, district attorneys, registers of deeds, county clerks, and treasurers shall be chosen by the electors of the respective counties, or by the electors of all of the respective counties comprising each combination of counties combined by the legislature for that purpose, for the term of 4 years and surveyors in counties in which the office of surveyor is filled by election shall be chosen by the electors of the respective counties, or by the electors of all of the respective counties comprising each combination of counties combined by the legislature for that purpose, for the term of 4 years.
The offices of coroner and surveyor in counties having a population of 500,000 or more are abolished. Counties not having a population of 500,000 shall have the option of retaining the elective office of coroner or instituting a medical examiner system. Two or more counties may institute a joint medical examiner system.
Sheriffs may not hold any other partisan office.
Sheriffs may be required by law to renew their security from time to time, and in default of giving such new security their office shall be deemed vacant.
The governor may remove any elected county officer mentioned in this section except a county clerk, treasurer, or surveyor, giving to the officer a copy of the charges and an opportunity of being heard.
All vacancies in the offices of coroner, register of deeds or district attorney shall be filled by appointment. The person appointed to fill a vacancy shall hold office only for the unexpired portion of the term to which appointed and until a successor shall be elected and qualified.
When a vacancy occurs in the office of sheriff, the vacancy shall be filled by appointment of the governor, and the person appointed shall serve until his or her successor is elected and qualified. [1881 J.R. 16A, 1882 J.R. 3, 1882 c. 290, vote Nov. 1882; 1927 J.R. 24, 1929 J.R. 13, vote April 1929; 1959 J.R. 68, 1961 J.R. 64, vote Nov. 1962; 1963 J.R. 30, 1965 J.R. 5, vote April 1965; 1965 J.R. 61, 1967 J.R. 12, vote April 1967; 1969 J.R. 33, 1971 J.R. 21, vote April 1972; 1979 J.R. 38, 1981 J.R. 15, vote April 1982; 1995 J.R. 23, 1997 J.R. 18, vote Nov. 1998; 2003 J.R. 12, 2005 J.R. 2, vote April 2005
This section does not bar a county from assisting in the defense of actions brought against the sheriff as a result of the sheriff's official acts. Bablitch & Bablitch v. Lincoln County, 82 Wis. 2d 574
, 263 N.W.2d 218
A sheriff's assignment of a deputy to an undercover drug investigation falls within the constitutionally protected powers of the sheriff and could not be limited by a collective bargaining agreement. Manitowoc County v. Local 986B, 168 Wis. 2d 819
, 484 N.W.2d 534
(1992). See also Washington County v. Washington County Deputy Sheriff's Ass'n, 192 Wis. 2d 728
, 531 N.W.2d 468
(Ct. App. 1995).
The sheriff's power to appoint, dismiss, or demote a deputy is not constitutionally protected and may be limited by a collective bargaining agreement not in conflict with the statutes. Heitkemper v. Wirsing, 194 Wis. 2d 182
, 533 N.W.2d 770
(1995). See also Brown County Sheriff's Department v. Brown County Sheriff's Department Non-Supervisory Employees Ass'n, 194 Wis. 2d 266
, 533 N.W.2d 766
The power to hire does not give character and distinction to the office of sheriff; it is not a power peculiar to the office. Certain duties of the sheriff at common law that are peculiar to the office and that characterize and distinguish the office are constitutionally protected from legislative interference, but the constitution does not prohibit all legislative change in the powers and duties of a sheriff as they existed at common law. Internal management and administrative duties that neither give character nor distinction to the office fall within the mundane and common administrative duties that may be regulated by the legislature. Hiring and firing personnel to provide food to inmates is subject to legislative regulation, including collective bargaining under s. 111.70. Kocken v. Wisconsin Council 40 AFSCME, 2007 WI 72
, 301 Wis. 2d 266
, 732 N.W.2d 828
The assignment of deputies to transport federal and state prisoners to and from a county jail pursuant to a contract for the rental of bed space was not a constitutionally protected duty of the sheriff's office and was thus subject to the restrictions of a collective bargaining agreement. Ozaukee County v. Labor Ass'n of Wisconsin, 2008 WI App 174
, 315 Wis. 2d 102
, 763 N.W.2d 140
A sheriff may not be restricted in whom the sheriff assigns to carry out the sheriff's constitutional duties if the sheriff is performing immemorial, principal, and important duties characterized as belonging to the sheriff at common law. Attending on the courts is one of the duties preserved for the sheriff by the constitution. When a sheriff effects the delivery of prisoners pursuant to court-issued writs, the sheriff is attending on the court. The sheriff could contract with a private entity for the transportation of prisoners, rather than utilizing deputies employed by the sheriff's department. Brown County Sheriff's Department Non-Supervisory Labor Ass'n v. Brown County, 2009 WI App 75
, 318 Wis. 2d 774
, 767 N.W.2d 600
Staffing an x-ray and metal detector security screening station is not one of those “certain immemorial, principal, and important duties of the sheriff at common law that are peculiar to the office of sheriff" and is not part of the sheriff's constitutionally protected powers that cannot be limited by a collective bargaining agreement. Washington County v. Washington County Deputy Sheriff's Ass'n, 2009 WI App 116
, 320 Wis. 2d 570
, 772 N.W.2d 697
The transport of individuals in conjunction with the service or execution of all processes, writs, precepts, and orders constitute immemorial, principal, and important duties that characterize and distinguish the office of sheriff and fall within the sheriff's constitutional powers, rights, and duties. As such, the sheriff has the constitutional authority to determine how to carry out those duties and can elect to privatize those duties. That s. 59.26 (4) specifically directs that the sheriff must act personally or by means of the sheriff's undersheriff or deputies is not persuasive. The simple fact that the legislature codified a duty and responsibility of the sheriff, like providing food for jail inmates, does not strip sheriffs of any constitutional protections they may have regarding this duty. Milwaukee Deputy Sheriff's Ass'n v. Clarke, 2009 WI App 123
, 320 Wis. 2d 486
, 772 N.W.2d 216
The following powers of the sheriff are constitutionally protected: 1) the operation of the jail; 2) attendance on the courts; 3) maintaining law and order; and 4) preserving the peace. Even if a duty is related to one of these powers, however, that duty may still be regulated if it is a non-distinctive, mundane and commonplace, internal management, and administrative duty of a sheriff. The constitutional prerogative of the office of sheriff to maintain law and order and preserve the peace does not encompass the power to appoint or dismiss deputies. Milwaukee Deputy Sheriffs' Ass'n v. Milwaukee County, 2016 WI App 56
, 370 Wis. 2d 644
, 883 N.W.2d 154
Implementation legislation is necessary before counties under 500,000 may abolish the office of coroner. 61 Atty. Gen. 355.
A county board in a county under 500,000 can abolish the elective office of coroner and implement a medical examiner system to be effective at the end of incumbent coroner's term. Language in 61 Atty. Gen. 355 inconsistent herewith is withdrawn. 63 Atty. Gen. 361.
This section does not immunize counties from liability for their own acts. Soderbeck v. Burnett County, 752 F.2d 285
A county sheriff is an officer of the state, not county, when fulfilling constitutional obligations. Soderbeck v. Burnett County, 821 F.2d 446
A sheriff represents the county when enforcing the law. Sovereign immunity for state officials under the 11th amendment
to the U.S. Constitution does not apply. Abraham v. Piechowski, 13 F. Supp. 2d 870
An entity characterized as the “office of the district attorney" or “district attorney," separate from the elected official, does not have authority to sue or be sued. Buchanan v. City of Kenosha, 57 F. Supp. 2d 675