60.04(3)(a) (a) A judge who receives information indicating a substantial likelihood that another judge has committed a violation of this chapter should take appropriate action. A judge having personal knowledge that another judge has committed a violation of this chapter that raises a substantial question as to the other judge's fitness for office shall inform the appropriate authority.
60.04(3)(b) (b) A judge who receives information indicating a substantial likelihood that a lawyer has committed a violation of the rules of professional conduct for attorneys should take appropriate action. A judge having personal knowledge that a lawyer has committed a violation of the rules of professional conduct for attorneys that raises a substantial question as to the lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects shall inform the appropriate authority. This paragraph does not require a judge to report conduct disclosed through a judge's participation in a group to assist ill or disabled judges or lawyers when such information is acquired in the course of assisting an ill or disabled judge or lawyer.
60.04(3)(c) (c) Acts of a judge, in the discharge of disciplinary responsibilities, required or permitted under par. (a) or (b) are part of a judge's judicial duties and shall be absolutely privileged and no civil action predicated on those acts may be instituted against the judge.
SCR 60.04 Note Comment: Appropriate action may include direct communication with the judge or lawyer who has committed the violation, other direct action if available, and reporting the violation to an appropriate authority or other agency or body.
60.04(4) (4) Except as provided in sub. (6) for waiver, a judge shall recuse himself or herself in a proceeding when the facts and circumstances the judge knows or reasonably should know establish one of the following or when reasonable, well-informed persons knowledgeable about judicial ethics standards and the justice system and aware of the facts and circumstances the judge knows or reasonably should know would reasonably question the judge's ability to be impartial:
SCR 60.04 Note Comment: Under this rule, a judge must recuse himself or herself whenever the facts and circumstances the judge knows or reasonably should know raise reasonable question of the judge's ability to act impartially, regardless of whether any of the specific rules in SCR 60.04 (4) applies. For example, if a judge were in the process of negotiating for employment with a law firm, the judge would be required to recuse himself or herself from any matters in which that law firm appeared, unless the recusal was waived by the parties after disclosure by the judge.
SCR 60.04 Annotation Section 757.19 of the statutes sets forth the circumstances under which a judge is required by law to disqualify himself or herself from any civil or criminal action or proceeding and establishes the procedures for disqualification and waiver.
SCR 60.04 Annotation A judge should disclose on the record information that the judge believes the parties or their lawyers might consider relevant to the question of recusal, even if the judge believes there is no real basis for recusal.
SCR 60.04 Annotation By decisional law, the rule of necessity may override the rule of recusal. For example, a judge might be required to participate in judicial review of a judicial salary statute or might be the only judge available in a matter requiring immediate judicial action, such as a hearing on probable cause or temporary restraining order. In the latter case, the judge must disclose on the record the basis for possible recusal and use reasonable efforts to transfer the matter to another judge as soon as practicable.
60.04(4)(a) (a) The judge has a personal bias or prejudice concerning a party or a party's lawyer or personal knowledge of disputed evidentiary facts concerning the proceeding.
SCR 60.04 Note Comment: As a general matter, for recusal to be required under this provision, the personal bias or prejudice for or against a party or the personal knowledge of disputed facts must come from an extrajudicial source. A bias or prejudice requiring recusal most often arises from a prior personal relationship but may arise from strong personal feelings about the alleged conduct of a party. If a judge's personal bias or prejudice concerning a party's lawyer is of such a degree as to be likely to transfer to the party, the judge's recusal is required under this provision.
60.04(4)(b) (b) The judge of an appellate court previously handled the action or proceeding as judge of another court.
60.04(4)(c) (c) The judge served as a lawyer in the matter in controversy, or a lawyer with whom the judge previously practiced law served during such association as a lawyer concerning the matter, or the judge has been a material witness concerning the matter.
SCR 60.04 Note Comment: A lawyer in a government agency does not ordinarily have an association with other lawyers employed by that agency within the meaning of SCR 60.04 (4) (d); a judge formerly employed by a government agency, however, should recuse himself or herself in a proceeding if the judge's impartiality reasonably may be questioned because of such association.
60.04(4)(d) (d) The judge knows that he or she, individually or as a fiduciary, or the judge's spouse or minor child wherever residing, or any other member of the judge's family residing in the judge's household has an economic interest in the subject matter in controversy or in a party to the proceeding or has any other more than de minimis interest that could be substantially affected by the proceeding.
SCR 60.04 Note Comment: A financial interest requiring recusal does not occur solely because the judge is a member of a political or taxing body that is a party or is a ratepayer to a party. The test then remains whether the judge's interest as a taxpayer or ratepayer could be substantially affected by the outcome.
60.04(4)(e) (e) The judge or the judge's spouse, or a person within the third degree of kinship to either of them, or the spouse of such a person meets one of the following criteria:
60.04(4)(e)1. 1. Is a party to the proceeding or an officer, director or trustee of a party.
60.04(4)(e)2. 2. Is acting as a lawyer in the proceeding.
60.04(4)(e)3. 3. Is known by the judge to have a more than de minimis interest that could be substantially affected by the proceeding.
60.04(4)(e)4. 4. Is to the judge's knowledge likely to be a material witness in the proceeding.
60.04(4)(f) (f) The judge, while a judge or a candidate for judicial office, has made a public statement that commits, or appears to commit, the judge with respect to any of the following:
60.04(4)(f)1. 1. An issue in the proceeding.
60.04(4)(f)2. 2. The controversy in the proceeding.
SCR 60.04 Note Comment: The fact that a lawyer in a proceeding is affiliated with a law firm with which a relative of the judge is affiliated does not of itself require the judge's recusal. Under appropriate circumstances, the fact that the judge's impartiality may reasonably be questioned or that the relative is known by the judge to have an interest in the law firm that could be “substantially affected by the outcome of the proceeding" may require the judge's recusal.
SCR 60.04 Annotation Recusal is not required under this provision if the judge determines on the record that a subpoena purporting to make his or her relative a witness is false, sham or frivolous.
60.04(5) (5) A judge shall keep informed of the judge's own personal and fiduciary economic interests and make a reasonable effort to keep informed of the personal economic interests of the judge's spouse and minor children residing in the judge's household, having due regard for the confidentiality of the spouse's business.
60.04(6) (6) A judge required to recuse himself or herself under sub. (4) may disclose on the record the basis of the judge's recusal and may ask the parties and their lawyers to consider, out of the presence of the judge, whether to waive recusal. If, following disclosure of any basis for recusal other than personal bias or prejudice concerning a party, the parties and lawyers, without participation by the judge, all agree that the judge should not be required to recuse himself or herself and the judge is then willing to participate, the judge may participate in the proceeding. The agreement shall be incorporated in the record of the proceeding.
SCR 60.04 Note Comment: A waiver procedure provides the parties an opportunity to proceed without delay if they wish to waive the recusal. To assure that consideration of the question of waiver is made independently of the judge, a judge must not solicit, seek or hear comments on a possible waiver of the recusal unless the lawyers jointly propose a waiver after consultation as provided in the rule. A party may act through counsel if counsel represents on the record that the party has been consulted and consents. As a practical matter, a judge may wish to have all parties and their lawyers sign the waiver agreement.
60.04(7) (7) Effect of Campaign Contributions. A judge shall not be required to recuse himself or herself in a proceeding based solely on any endorsement or the judge's campaign committee's receipt of a lawful campaign contribution, including a campaign contribution from an individual or entity involved in the proceeding.
SCR 60.04 Note Comment, July 2010: Wisconsin vigorously debated an elective judiciary during the formation and adoption of the Wisconsin Constitution in 1848. An elective judiciary was selected and has been part of the Wisconsin democratic tradition for more than 160 years.
SCR 60.04 Annotation Campaign contributions to judicial candidates are a fundamental component of judicial elections. Since 1974 the size of contributions has been limited by state statute. The limit on individual contributions to candidates for the supreme court was reduced from $10,000 to $1,000 in 2009 Wisconsin Act 89 after the 2009 supreme court election. The legislation also reduced the limit on contributions to supreme court candidates from political action committees, from $8,625 to $1,000.
The purpose of this rule is to make clear that the receipt of a lawful campaign contribution by a judicial candidate's campaign committee does not, by itself, require the candidate to recuse himself or herself as a judge from a proceeding involving a contributor. An endorsement of the judge by a lawyer, other individual, or entity also does not, by itself, require a judge's recusal from a proceeding involving the endorser. Not every campaign contribution by a litigant or attorney creates a probability of bias that requires a judge's recusal.
SCR 60.04 Annotation Campaign contributions must be publicly reported. Disqualifying a judge from participating in a proceeding solely because the judge's campaign committee received a lawful contribution would create the impression that receipt of a contribution automatically impairs the judge's integrity. It would have the effect of discouraging "the broadest possible participation in financing campaigns by all citizens of the state" through voluntary contributions, see Wis. Stat. § 11.001, because it would deprive citizens who lawfully contribute to judicial campaigns, whether individually or through an organization, of access to the judges they help elect.
SCR 60.04 Annotation Involuntary recusal of judges has greater policy implications in the supreme court than in the circuit court and court of appeals. Litigants have a broad right to substitution of a judge in circuit court. When a judge withdraws following the filing of a substitution request, a new judge will be assigned. When a judge on the court of appeals withdraws from a case, a new judge also is assigned. When a justice of the supreme court withdraws from a case, however, the justice is not replaced. Thus, the recusal of a supreme court justice alters the number of justices reviewing a case as well as the composition of the court. These recusals affect the interests of non-litigants as well as non-contributors, inasmuch as supreme court decisions almost invariably have repercussions beyond the parties.
60.04(8) (8) Effect of Independent Communications. A judge shall not be required to recuse himself or herself in a proceeding where such recusal would be based solely on the sponsorship of an independent expenditure or issue advocacy communication (collectively, an "independent communication") by an individual or entity involved in the proceeding or a donation to an organization that sponsors an independent communication by an individual or entity involved in the proceeding.
SCR 60.04 Note Comment, July 2010: Independent expenditures and issue advocacy communications are different from campaign contributions to a judge's campaign committee. Contributions are regulated by statute. They are often solicited by a judge's campaign committee, and they must be accepted by the judge's campaign committee. Contributions that are accepted may be returned. By contrast, neither a judge nor the judge's campaign committee has any control of an independent expenditure or issue advocacy communication because these expenditures or communications must be completely independent of the judge's campaign, as required by law, to retain their First Amendment protection.
SCR 60.04 Annotation A judge is not required to recuse himself or herself from a proceeding solely because an individual or entity involved in the proceeding has sponsored or donated to an independent communication. Any other result would permit the sponsor of an independent communication to dictate a judge's non-participation in a case, by sponsoring an independent communication. Automatically disqualifying a judge because of an independent communication would disrupt the judge's official duties and also have a chilling effect on protected speech.
SCR 60.04 History History: Sup. Ct. Order No. 95–05, 202 Wis. 2d xvii (1997), modified 210 Wis. 2d xvii (1998); Sup. Ct. Order No. 00-07, 2004 WI 134, 274 Wis. 2d xvii; Sup. Ct. Order Nos. 08-16, 08-25, 09-10, and 09-11, 2010 WI 73, filed and eff. 7-7-10; Sup. Ct. Order No. 11-09, 2012 WI 56, filed 5-22-12, eff. 7-1-12; Sup. Ct. Order No. 13-14, 2014 WI 49, filed and eff. 7-1-14.
SCR 60.04 Note LRB note: Sub. (4) (e) 1., requires a judge to recuse himself or herself from presiding in a case in which the judge's spouse is a director of a party to the proceeding. The fact that allegations of misconduct were made during an election does not mean that the allegations may be given short shrift. Although a judge may commit a “willful" violation constituting judicial misconduct when the judge has no actual knowledge that his or her conduct is prohibited by the code of judicial conduct, the judge's actual knowledge, or lack thereof, of the code is relevant to the issue of discipline. Wisconsin Judicial Commission v. Ziegler, 2008 WI 47, 309 Wis. 2d 253, 750 N.W.2d 710, 07-2066.
60.05 SCR 60.05 A judge shall so conduct the judge's extra-judicial activities as to minimize the risk of conflict with judicial obligations.
60.05(1)(1) Extra-judicial Activities in General. A judge shall conduct all of the judge's extra-judicial activities so that they do none of the following:
60.05(1)(a) (a) Cast reasonable doubt on the judge's capacity to act impartially as a judge.
60.05(1)(b) (b) Demean the judicial office.
60.05(1)(c) (c) Interfere with the proper performance of judicial duties.
SCR 60.05 Note Comment: Complete separation of a judge from extra-judicial activities is neither possible nor wise; a judge should not become isolated from the community in which the judge lives.
SCR 60.05 Annotation Expressions of bias or prejudice by a judge, even outside the judge's judicial activities, may cast reasonable doubt on the judge's capacity to act impartially as a judge. See SCR 60.03 (1) and (3).
60.05(2) (2) Avocational Activities. A judge may speak, write, lecture, teach and participate in other extra-judicial activities concerning the law, the legal system, the administration of justice and nonlegal subjects, subject to the requirements of this chapter.
SCR 60.05 Note Comment: As a judicial officer and person specially learned in the law, a judge is in a unique position to contribute to the improvement of the law, the legal system, and the administration of justice, including revision of substantive and procedural law and improvement of criminal and juvenile justice. To the extent that time permits, a judge is encouraged to do so, either independently or through a bar association, judicial conference or other organization dedicated to the improvement of the law. Judges may participate in efforts to promote the fair administration of justice, the independence of the judiciary and the integrity of the legal profession and may express opposition to the persecution of lawyers and judges in other countries because of their professional activities.
SCR 60.05 Annotation In this and other subsections of SCR 60.05, the phrase “subject to the requirements of this chapter" is used, notably in connection with a judge's governmental, civic or charitable activities. This phrase is included to remind judges that the use of permissive language in various provisions of the chapter does not relieve a judge from the other requirements of the chapter that apply to the specific conduct.
60.05(3) (3) Governmental, Civic or Charitable Activities.
60.05(3)(a)(a) A judge may not appear at a public hearing before, or otherwise consult with, an executive or legislative body or official except on matters concerning the law, the legal system or the administration of justice or except when acting pro se in a matter involving the judge or the judge's interests.
SCR 60.05 Note Comment: See SCR 60.03 (2) regarding the obligation to avoid improper influence.
SCR 60.05 Annotation As provided in SCR 60.07 (2), sub. (3) (a) does not apply to a judge serving on a part-time basis.
60.05(3)(b) (b) A judge may not accept appointment to a governmental committee or commission or other governmental position that is concerned with issues of fact or policy on matters other than the improvement of the law, the legal system or the administration of justice. A judge may represent a country, state or locality on ceremonial occasions or in connection with historical, educational or cultural activities and may serve on a governmental or private committee, commission or board concerned with historical, educational or cultural activities. A judge may serve in any branch of military reserves and be called to duty in the active military.
SCR 60.05 Note Comment: A judge is prohibited from accepting any governmental position except one relating to the law, legal system or administration of justice as authorized by par. (c). The appropriateness of accepting extra-judicial assignments must be assessed in light of the demands on judicial resources created by crowded dockets and the need to protect the courts from involvement in extra-judicial matters that may prove to be controversial. Judges should not accept governmental appointments that are likely to interfere with the effectiveness and independence of the judiciary.
SCR 60.05 Annotation This provision does not govern a judge's service in a non-governmental position. See par. (c) permitting service by a judge with organizations devoted to the improvement of the law, the legal system or the administration of justice and with educational, religious, charitable, fraternal or civic organizations not conducted for profit. For example, service on the board of a public educational institution, unless it were a law school, would be prohibited, but service on the board of a public law school or any private educational institution would generally be permitted under par. (c).
SCR 60.05 Annotation As provided in SCR 60.07 (2), sub. (3) (b) does not apply to a judge serving on a part-time basis.
60.05(3)(c) (c) A judge may serve as an officer, director, trustee or nonlegal advisor of an organization or governmental agency devoted to the improvement of the law, the legal system or the administration of justice or of a nonprofit educational, religious, charitable, fraternal, sororal or civic organization, subject to the following limitations and the other requirements of this chapter:
SCR 60.05 Note Comment: This provision does not apply to a judge's service in a governmental position unconnected with the improvement of the law, the legal system or the administration of justice; see par. (b).
SCR 60.05 Annotation See Comment to SCR 60.05 (2) regarding use of the phrase “subject to the following limitations and the other requirements of this chapter." As an example of the meaning of the phrase, a judge permitted by this provision to serve on the board of a fraternal institution may be prohibited from such service by SCR 60.03 (1) or (3) or 60.05 (1) if the institution practices invidious discrimination or if service on the board otherwise casts reasonable doubt on the judge's capacity to act impartially as a judge.
SCR 60.05 Annotation Service by a judge on behalf of a civic or charitable organization may be governed by other provisions of SCR 60.05 in addition to sub. (3). For example, a judge is prohibited by sub. (7) from serving as a legal advisor to a civic or charitable organization.
60.05(3)(c)1. 1. A judge may not serve as an officer, director, trustee or nonlegal advisor if it is likely that the organization will do any of the following:
60.05(3)(c)1.a. a. Engage in proceedings that would ordinarily come before the judge.
60.05(3)(c)1.b. b. Engage frequently in adversary proceedings in the court of which the judge is a member or in any court subject to the appellate jurisdiction of the court of which the judge is a member.
SCR 60.05 Note Comment: The changing nature of some organizations and of their relationship to the law makes it necessary for a judge to regularly re-examine the activities of each organization with which the judge is affiliated to determine if it is proper for the judge to continue the affiliation. For example, in many jurisdictions charitable hospitals are now more frequently in court than in the past. Similarly, the boards of some legal aid organizations now make policy decisions that may have political significance or imply commitment to causes that may come before the courts for adjudication.
SCR 60.05 Annotation As provided in SCR 60.07 (2), par. (c) 1. b. does not apply to a judge serving on a part-time basis.
60.05(3)(c)2. 2. A judge, in any capacity:
60.05(3)(c)2.a. a. May assist the organization in planning fund-raising activities and may participate in the management and investment of the organization's funds but may not personally participate in the solicitation of funds or other fund-raising activities, except that a judge may solicit funds from other judges over whom the judge does not exercise supervisory or appellate authority;
SCR 60.05 Note Comment: As provided in SCR 60.07 (2), par. (c) 2. a. does not apply to a judge serving on a part-time basis.
60.05(3)(c)2.b. b. May make recommendations to public and private fund-granting organizations on projects and programs concerning the law, the legal system or the administration of justice;
60.05(3)(c)2.c. c. May not personally participate in membership solicitation if the solicitation reasonably may be perceived as coercive or, except as permitted in subd. 2. a., if the membership solicitation is essentially a fund-raising mechanism; and
SCR 60.05 Note Comment: As provided in SCR 60.07 (2), par. (c) 2. c. does not apply to a judge serving on a part-time basis.
60.05(3)(c)2.d. d. May not use or permit the use of the prestige of judicial office for fund raising or membership solicitation.
SCR 60.05 Note Comment: A judge may solicit membership or endorse or encourage membership efforts for an organization devoted to the improvement of the law, the legal system or the administration of justice or a nonprofit educational, religious, charitable, fraternal or civic organization as long as the solicitation cannot reasonably be perceived as coercive and is not essentially a fund-raising mechanism. Solicitation of funds for an organization and solicitation of memberships similarly involve the danger that the person solicited will feel obligated to respond favorably to the solicitor if the solicitor is in a position of influence or control. A judge must not engage in direct, individual solicitation of funds or memberships in person, in writing or by telephone except in the following cases: 1) a judge may solicit for funds or memberships other judges over whom the judge does not exercise supervisory or appellate authority, 2) a judge may solicit other persons for membership in the organizations described above if neither those persons nor persons with whom they are affiliated are likely ever to appear before the court on which the judge serves, and 3) a judge who is an officer of such an organization may send a general membership solicitation mailing over the judge's signature.
SCR 60.05 Annotation SCR 60.05 should not be read as proscribing participation in de minimis fund-raising activities so long as a judge is careful to avoid using the prestige of the office in the activity. Thus, e.g., a judge may pass the collection basket during services at church, may ask friends and neighbors to buy tickets to a pancake breakfast for a local neighborhood center and may cook the pancakes at the event but may not personally ask attorneys and others who are likely to appear before the judge to buy tickets to it. Similarly, SCR 60.05 should not be read to prohibit judges from soliciting memberships for religious purposes, but judges must nevertheless avoid using the prestige of the office for the purpose of such solicitation.
SCR 60.05 Annotation Use of an organization letterhead for fund raising or membership solicitation does not violate subd. 2 provided the letterhead lists only the judge's name and office or other position in the organization and, if comparable designations are listed for other persons, the judge's judicial designation. In addition, a judge must make reasonable efforts to ensure that the judge's staff, court officials and others subject to the judge's direction and control do not solicit funds on the judge's behalf for any purpose, charitable or otherwise.
SCR 60.05 Annotation A judge may be a speaker or guest of honor at an organization's fund-raising event provided there is no advertising of the judge as speaker or guest of honor in order to encourage people to attend and make contributions and provided that any contributions at the event are made prior to the judge's speech or presentation as guest of honor. A judge's attendance at such event is permissible if otherwise consistent with this chapter.
60.05(4) (4) Financial Activities.
60.05(4)(a)1.1. A judge may not engage in financial or business dealings that could meet any of the following conditions:
60.05(4)(a)1.a. a. Reasonably be perceived to exploit the judge's judicial position.
60.05(4)(a)1.b. b. Involve the judge in frequent transactions or continuing business relationships with those lawyers or other persons likely to come before the court on which the judge serves.
SCR 60.05 Note Comment: As provided in SCR 60.07 (2), sub. (4) (a) 1. b. does not apply to a judge serving on a part-time basis.
60.05(4)(a)2. 2. A judge shall comply with sub. (4) (a) 1. as soon as reasonably possible and, in any event, within one year of the applicability of this chapter to the judge.
SCR 60.05 Note Comment: When a judge acquires in a judicial capacity information, such as material contained in filings with the court, that is not yet generally known, the judge must not use the information for private gain. See SCR 60.03 (2) and 60.04 (1) (m).
SCR 60.05 Annotation A judge must avoid financial and business dealings that involve the judge in frequent transactions or continuing business relationships with persons likely to come either before the judge personally or before other judges on the judge's court. In addition, a judge should discourage members of the judge's family from engaging in dealings that would reasonably appear to exploit the judge's judicial position. This rule is necessary to avoid creating an appearance of exploitation of office or favoritism and to minimize the potential for recusal or disqualification. With respect to affiliation of relatives of a judge with law firms appearing before the judge, see Comment to SCR 60.04 (4) relating to recusal.
SCR 60.05 Annotation Participation by a judge in financial and business dealings is subject to the general prohibitions in SCR 60.05 (1) against activities that tend to reflect adversely on impartiality, demean the judicial office, or interfere with the proper performance of judicial duties. Such participation is also subject to the general prohibition in SCR 60.03 against activities involving impropriety or the appearance of impropriety and the prohibition in SCR 60.03 (2) against the misuse of the prestige of judicial office. In addition, a judge must maintain high standards of conduct in all of the judge's activities, as set forth in SCR 60.02. See Comment to SCR 60.05 (2) regarding use of the phrase “subject to the requirements of this chapter."
SCR 60.05 Annotation If engaged in a financial or business activity at the time this chapter becomes applicable to the judge, a judge may continue to do so for a reasonable period not to exceed one year.
60.05(4)(b) (b) A judge may, subject to the requirements of this chapter, hold and manage investments of the judge and members of the judge's family, including real estate, and engage in other remunerative activity.
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Wisconsin Supreme Court Rules updated by the Legislative Reference Bureau. Current through all Supreme Court Orders entered before October 2, 2017. Report errors at (608) 266-3561, FAX 264-6948.