History: Sup. Ct. Order, 67 Wis. 2d 585, 690 (1975).
In order to demonstrate that a dismissal order based on failure to prosecute was an abuse of discretion, the aggrieved party must show a clear and justifiable excuse for the delay. Trispel v. Haefer, 89 Wis. 2d 725
, 279 N.W.2d 242
A judgment dismissing an action was void for lack of advance actual notice of dismissal that defined the “failure to prosecute" standard. Neylan v. Vorwald, 124 Wis. 2d 85
, 368 N.W.2d 648
Dismissal for failure to prosecute within a year of filing required actual or constructive notice of the applicable standards. Rupert v. Home Mutual Insurance Co., 138 Wis. 2d 1
, 405 N.W.2d 661
(Ct. App. 1987).
Dismissal under this section is presumptively with prejudice. When the plaintiff failed to show “good cause" for delay, the appeals court erred in dismissing without prejudice. Marshall-Wisconsin v. Juneau Square, 139 Wis. 2d 112
, 406 N.W.2d 764
The court of appeals' remand “for trial" after reversal of a summary judgement order did not mandate the court to schedule and hold a trial. Dismissal for failure to prosecute was not an abuse of discretion. Prahl v. Brosamle, 142 Wis. 2d 658
, 420 N.W.2d 372
(Ct. App. 1987).
When conduct in failing to comply with a court order is egregious and without clear and justifiable excuse, the court may, in its discretion, order dismissal. Johnson v. Allis Chalmers Corp. 162 Wis. 2d 261
, 470 N.W.2d 859
Ordering a criminal defendant to pay the state's trial expenses upon mistrial for violation of a pretrial order was authorized by this section. State v. Heyer, 174 Wis. 2d 164
, 496 N.W.2d 779
(Ct. App. 1993).
In cases that do not fit squarely within this statute, a trial court has certain inherent powers to sanction the parties including the awarding of attorney fees. Schaefer v. Northern Assurance Co. 182 Wis. 2d 148
, 513 N.W.2d 16
(Ct. App. 1994).
A party's failure to appear at a scheduled hearing, after writing the court indicating that unless it heard otherwise from the court it would consider itself excused, was insufficient to excuse the party's appearance and was grounds for dismissal of the party under this section. Buchanan v. General Casualty Co. 191 Wis. 2d 1
, 528 N.W.2d 457
(Ct. App. 1995).
The trial court erred in not considering other less severe sanctions before dismissing an action for failure to comply with a demand for discovery when no bad faith was found. Hudson Diesel, Inc. v. Kenall, 194 Wis. 2d 532
, 535 N.W.2d 65
(Ct. App. 1995).
Default judgment entered as a sanction is not governed by s. 806.02 and does not require a full evidentiary hearing if damages are contested. The proper form of hearing on damages is left to the trial court's discretion. Chevron Chemical Co. v. Deloitte & Touche LLP, 207 Wis. 2d 43
, 557 N.W.2d 775
Sections 802.10 (7) and 805.03 apply in criminal cases. A court has power to sanction a tardy attorney under these sections. Failure to delineate the reasons for the sanctions is an erroneous exercise of discretion. Anderson v. Circuit Court for Milwaukee County, 219 Wis. 2d 1
, 578 N.W.2d 633
If the constitution or statutes require proof before the circuit court can enter a particular judgment or order, the court cannot enter the judgment or order without the appropriate showing. The circuit court may determine that a party's action or inaction provides adequate cause for sanctions against that party. But that does not allow the court to dispense with any constitutional or statutory burden of proof that must be satisfied prior to entering a judgment or order. Evelyn C.R. v. Tykila S. 2001 WI 110
, 246 Wis. 2d 1
, 629 N.W.2d 768
The trial court abused its discretion by ordering the defendant in a civil suit to forego its rights to insurance coverage for punitive damages when the issue of rights to insurance coverage was not before the court. City of West Allis v. WEPCO, 2001 WI App 226
, 248 Wis. 2d 10
, 635 N.W.2d 873
Circuit courts have inherent authority to sanction by dismissal a party who has attempted to suborn perjury from a witness. In assessing the severity of the misconduct and need for an appropriate sanction, a trial court was within its authority to consider a previous attempt to suborn perjury in another case, in addition to the attempt in the case before it. Schultz v. Sykes, 2001 WI App 255
, 248 Wis. 2d 746
, 638 N.W.2d 604
The American Rule does not bar courts from exercising their inherent power to assess attorney fees, and when a court does so, the limitations of fee awards under [former] s. 814.025 do not control. Schultz v. Sykes, 2001 WI App 255
, 248 Wis. 2d 746
, 638 N.W.2d 604
Because a guardian ad litem's allegedly contumacious act or omission had nothing to do with the violation of a pretrial, scheduling, or procedural order, the circuit court's authority to sanction the guardian ad litem for noncompliance with its substantive order directing the disposition of a minor's settlement proceeds was more firmly grounded in s. 785.03 (1) (a). Reed v. Luebke, 2003 WI App 207
, 267 Wis. 2d 596
, 671 N.W.2d 304
It is an erroneous exercise of discretion for a circuit court to enter a sanction of dismissal with prejudice, imputing the attorney's conduct to the client, if the client is blameless. Industrial Roofing Services, Inc. v. Marquardt, 2007 WI 19
, 299 Wis. 2d 81
, 726 N.W.2d 898
There is no requirement that conduct must be persistent in order to be egregious. When a defendant in a medical malpractice case destroyed all of his medical records in a single act, the magnitude of the loss under the circumstances was sufficient to constitute egregious conduct. Morrison v. Rankin, 2007 WI App 186
, 305 Wis. 2d 240
, 738 N.W.2d 588
In light of the facts and the need of circuit courts to control their calendars to ensure the orderly administration of justice, the circuit court did not erroneously exercise its discretion when it determined that a civil defendant's violation of a scheduling order was “egregious" and grounds for entering default judgment when the defendant failed to attend the scheduling conference, file his witness list, file an itemization of damages in connection with his counterclaim, file a pretrial report, and attend the pretrial conference. East Winds Properties, LLC v. Jahnke, 2009 WI App 125
, 320 Wis. 2d 797
, 772 N.W.2d 738
When the trial court imposed sanctions because it found that a party had brought what was essentially a motion for reconsideration without any new evidence or evidence of manifest error of law by the trial court, that was a basis for the court to deny the motion for reconsideration. It was not a basis for an award of attorney fees without a finding of bad faith or egregious conduct. No statute authorizes sanctions for bringing a motion for reconsideration, and the trial court made no finding of misconduct nor does the record reveal misconduct. Lee v. Geico Indemnity Company, 2009 WI App 168
, 321 Wis. 2d 698
, 776 N.W.2d 622
Dismissal for failure to prosecute violated due process requirements when the petitioner had no actual or constructive notice that her conduct might result in dismissal before the motion to dismiss for failure to prosecute was filed. More than notice of a motion to dismiss for failure to prosecute and a hearing are required to provide due process. Before imposing a sanction as drastic as dismissal, advanced notice is required that a party's conduct might result in dismissal to satisfy due process requirements. Theis v. Short, 2010 WI App 108
, 328 Wis. 2d 162
, 789 N.W.2d 585
When a circuit court concludes that a party's failure to follow court orders, although unintentional, is “so extreme, substantial and persistent" that the conduct may be considered egregious, the circuit court may make a finding of egregiousness. Conversely, a party may also act in bad faith, which by its nature cannot be unintentional conduct. To find that a party acts in bad faith, the circuit court must find that the noncomplying party “intentionally or deliberately" delayed, obstructed, or refused to comply with the court order. Dane County Department of Human Services v. Mable K. 2013 WI 28
, 346 Wis. 2d 396
, 828 N.W.2d 198
Voluntary dismissal: effect thereof. 805.04(1)(1)
By plaintiff; by stipulation.
An action may be dismissed by the plaintiff without order of court by serving and filing a notice of dismissal at any time before service by an adverse party of responsive pleading or motion or by the filing of a stipulation of dismissal signed by all parties who have appeared in the action. Unless otherwise stated in the notice of dismissal or stipulation, the dismissal is not on the merits, except that a notice of dismissal operates as an adjudication on the merits when filed by a plaintiff who has once dismissed in any court an action based on or including the same claim.
By order of court.
Except as provided in sub. (1)
, an action shall not be dismissed at the plaintiff's instance save upon order of court and upon such terms and conditions as the court deems proper. Unless otherwise specified in the order, a dismissal under this subsection is not on the merits.
Counterclaim, cross claim and 3rd-party claim.
This section applies to the voluntary dismissal of any counterclaim, cross claim, or 3rd-party claim. A voluntary dismissal by the claimant alone shall be made before a responsive pleading is served, or if there is none, before the introduction of evidence at the trial or hearing.
Costs of previously dismissed action.
If a plaintiff who has once dismissed an action in any court commences an action based upon or including the same claim against the same defendant, the court may make such order for the payment of costs of the action previously dismissed as it deems proper and may stay proceedings in the action until the plaintiff has complied with the order.
Sup. Ct. Order, 67 Wis. 2d 585, 691 (1975); 2005 a. 253
; 2007 a. 20
; 2015 a. 55
Assessment of attorney fees as a condition of voluntary dismissal without prejudice was within the trial court's discretion. Dunn v. Fred A. Mikkelson, Inc. 88 Wis. 2d 369
, 276 N.W.2d 748
Voluntary dismissal with prejudice rarely entitles the defendant to an award of fees and costs. Bishop v. Blue Cross & Blue Shield, 145 Wis. 2d 315
, 426 N.W.2d 114
(Ct. App. 1988).
A condemnee may voluntarily dismiss an appeal to a circuit court under s. 805.04 without court order. Dickie v. City of Tomah, 160 Wis. 2d 20
, 465 N.W.2d 262
(Ct. App. 1990).
If any adverse party to an action files a responsive pleading prior to the time that the plaintiff attempts to dismiss the action under sub. (1), a voluntary dismissal without prejudice is no longer obtainable. Gowan v. McClure, 185 Wis. 2d 903
, 519 N.W.2d 692
(Ct. App. 1994).
The trial court did not abuse its discretion in granting the plaintiff's motion for dismissal without prejudice in order that the plaintiff could refile in an attempt to take advantage of a new statutory enactment. The prejudice this section protects against is that of putting the defendant through the expense of a lawsuit without being able to obtain a final determination on the merits, not from being disadvantaged by a legislative policy change. Estate of Rita Engebose v. Morraine Ridge Limited Partnership, 228 Wis. 2d 860
, 598 N.W.2d 584
(Ct. App. 1999), 98-3019
Sub. (1), the voluntary dismissal statute, does not apply in a CHIPS proceeding because it is different from and inconsistent with s. 48.24 (4), which is construed to provide that a district attorney may withdraw a CHIPS petition only with the approval of the court. Kenneth S. v. Circuit Court for Dane County, 2008 WI App 120
, 313 Wis. 2d 508
, 756 N.W.2d 573
If doubt exists regarding the finality of an order of dismissal, the court may look beyond the words “with prejudice" to determine if the dismissal was meant to be conclusive. Brye v. Brakebush, 32 F.3d 1179
Consolidation; separate trials. 805.05(1)(a)(a)
When actions which might have been brought as a single action under s. 803.04
are pending before the court, it may order a joint hearing or trial of any or all of the claims in the actions; it may order all the actions consolidated; and it may make such orders concerning proceedings therein as may tend to avoid unnecessary costs or delay.
When actions which might have been brought as a single action under s. 803.04
are pending before different courts, any such action may be transferred upon motion of any party or of the court to another court where the related action is pending. A conference involving both judges and all counsel may be convened on the record as prescribed by s. 807.13 (3)
. Transfer under this paragraph shall be made only by the joint written order of the transferring court and the court to which the action is transferred.
The court, in furtherance of convenience or to avoid prejudice, or when separate trials will be conducive to expedition or economy, or pursuant to s. 803.04 (2) (b)
, may order a separate trial of any claim, cross claim, counterclaim, or 3rd-party claim, or of any number of claims, always preserving inviolate the right of trial in the mode to which the parties are entitled.
Sup. Ct. Order, 67 Wis. 2d 585, 692 (1975); Sup. Ct. Order, 141 Wis. 2d xiii (1987); 2005 a. 253
; 2007 a. 97
Judicial Council Note, 1988: Sub. (1) (b) is amended by allowing conferences regarding consolidation of actions to be conducted by telephone conference. [Re Order effective Jan. 1, 1988]
The trial court's order to bifurcate the issues of liability and damages and to try the separate issues before separate juries contravened sub. (2) and cannot be reconciled with the requirement of s. 805.09 (2) that the same five-sixths of the jury must agree on all questions necessary to sustain a verdict. Waters v. Pertzborn, 2001 WI 62
, 243 Wis. 2d 703
, 627 N.W.2d 497
A court in which an action is pending may appoint a referee who shall have such qualifications as the court deems appropriate. The fees to be allowed to a referee shall be fixed by the court and shall be charged upon such of the parties or paid out of any fund or subject matter of the action, which is in the custody and control of the court, as the court may direct. The referee shall not retain the referee's report as security for compensation; but if the party ordered to pay the fee allowed by the court does not pay it after notice and within the time prescribed by the court, the referee is entitled to a writ of execution against the delinquent party.
A reference shall be the exception and not the rule. In actions to be tried by a jury, a reference shall be made only when the issues are complicated; in actions to be tried without a jury, save in matters of account and of difficult computation of damages, a reference shall be made only upon a showing that some exceptional condition requires it.
The order of reference to the referee may specify or limit the referee's powers and may direct the referee to report only upon particular issues or to do or perform particular acts or to receive and report evidence only and may fix the time and place for beginning and closing the hearings and for the filing of the referee's report. Subject to the specifications and limitations stated in the order, the referee has and shall exercise the power to regulate all proceedings in every hearing before the referee and to do all acts and take all measures necessary or proper for the efficient performance of duties under the order. The referee may require the production of evidence upon all matters embraced in the reference, including the production of all books, papers, vouchers, documents, and writings applicable thereto. The referee may rule upon the admissibility of evidence unless otherwise directed by the order of reference and has the authority to put witnesses on oath and may personally examine them and may call the parties to the action and examine them upon oath. When a party so requests, the referee shall make a record of the evidence offered and excluded in the same manner and subject to the same limitations as a court sitting without a jury.
When a reference is made, the clerk shall forthwith furnish the referee with a copy of the order of reference. Upon receipt thereof unless the order of reference otherwise provides, the referee shall forthwith set a time and place for the first meeting of the parties or their attorneys to be held within 20 days after the date of the order of reference and shall notify the parties or their attorneys. It is the duty of the referee to proceed with all reasonable diligence. Any party, on notice to the parties and the referee, may apply to the court for an order requiring the referee to speed the proceedings and to make the report. If a party fails to appear at the time and place appointed, the referee may proceed ex parte or may adjourn the proceedings to a future day, giving notice to the absent party of the adjournment.
The parties may procure the attendance of witnesses before the referee by the issuance and service of subpoenas. If without adequate excuse a witness fails to appear to give evidence, the witness may be punished as for a contempt and be subjected to the consequences, penalties, and remedies provided in ss. 885.11
When matters of accounting are in issue, the referee may prescribe the form in which the accounts shall be submitted and in any proper case may require or receive in evidence a statement by a certified public accountant who is called as a witness. Upon objection of a party to any of the items thus submitted or upon a showing that the form of statement is insufficient, the referee may require a different form of statement to be furnished, or the accounts or specific items thereof to be proved by oral examination of the accounting parties or upon written interrogatories or in such other manner as the referee directs.
The referee shall prepare a report upon the matters submitted by the order of reference and, if required to make findings of fact and conclusions of law, the referee shall set them forth in the report. The referee shall file the report with the clerk of the court and in an action to be tried without a jury, unless otherwise directed by the order of reference, shall file with it a transcript of the proceedings and of the evidence and the original exhibits. The clerk shall forthwith mail to all parties notice of the filing.
In an action to be tried without a jury the court shall accept the referee's findings of fact unless clearly erroneous. Within 10 days after being served with notice of the filing of the report any party may serve written objections thereto upon the other parties. Application to the court for action upon the report and upon objections thereto shall be by motion and upon notice. The court after hearing may adopt the report or may modify it or may reject it in whole or in part or may receive further evidence or may recommit it with instruction.
In an action to be tried by a jury the referee shall not be directed to report the evidence. The referee's findings upon the issues submitted are admissible as evidence of the matters found and may be read to the jury, subject to the ruling of the court upon any objections in point of law which may be made to the report.
The effect of a referee's report is the same whether or not the parties have consented to the reference; but, when the parties stipulate that a referee's findings of fact shall be final, only questions of law arising upon the report shall thereafter be considered.
Sup. Ct. Order, 67 Wis. 2d 585, 693 (1975); 1975 c. 218
The findings of a referee have the effect of findings of fact by a trial court and are to be upheld unless they are contrary to the great weight and clear preponderance of the evidence. Thus, in this case, the trial court properly refused to admit additional evidence on an issue of fact that the referee was appointed to resolve. Kleinstick v. Daleiden, 71 Wis. 2d 432
, 238 N.W.2d 714
The order of reference in this case impermissibly delegated to the referee judicial power vested by Art. VII. s. 2, of the Wisconsin Constitution in Wisconsin's unified court system. Constitutional judges can take no power from the legislature to subdelegate their judicial functions. Referees may share in judicial labor but cannot assume the place of the judge. Universal Processing Services v. Circuit Court of Milwaukee County, 2017 WI 26
, 374 Wis. 2d 26
, 892 N.W.2d 267
Article VII. s. 8, of the Wisconsin Constitution provides that “the circuit court shall have . . . such appellate jurisdiction in the circuit as the legislature may prescribe by law." The legislature has not granted the circuit courts appellate jurisdiction over rulings by referees. A provision in a circuit court order of reference that the circuit court's review of the referee's rulings be based on the referee's erroneous exercise of discretion contravened the constitution, statutes, and rules regarding circuit court and appellate court authority and practice. Insofar as the order of reference authorized the referee to supervise pretrial discovery disputes, the order did not contravene the state constitution's vesting of judicial power in a unified court system. Universal Processing Services v. Circuit Court of Milwaukee County, 2017 WI 26
, 374 Wis. 2d 26
, 892 N.W.2d 267
A referee's fees increase the costs of litigation and may have a chilling effect on litigants. A reference to a referee in effect requires litigants to pay for the court system twice — once through the tax system and a second time by paying fees to a referee for resolution of their suit. Referee fees may offend constitutional mandates “if they chill advocacy severely enough to `effectively end the litigation' or impose `an intolerable burden on a losing litigant.'” Appointment of a referee is for the exceptional case; it is not the general rule. Universal Processing Services v. Circuit Court of Milwaukee County, 2017 WI 26
, 374 Wis. 2d 26
, 892 N.W.2d 267
While a referee's conclusion on a legal issue is a recommendation only, the referee's challenged findings of fact are to be accepted unless clearly erroneous. Because, in this case, the evidentiary record supporting the amended report was not provided to the circuit court, the court was unable to determine whether the referee's amended findings were against the great weight and clear preponderance of the evidence. Thus, the circuit court erred when it spontaneously accepted the referee's amended report without addressing the defendant's objection or even considering the referee's findings of fact or reviewing the factual evidence supporting those findings. Associated Bank, N.A. v. Brogli, 2018 WI App 47
, 383 Wis. 2d 756
, 917 N.W.2d 37
Issuance and service.
Subpoenas shall be issued and served in accordance with ch. 885
. A subpoena may also be issued by any attorney of record in a civil action or special proceeding to compel attendance of witnesses for deposition, hearing or trial in the action or special proceeding.
Subpoena requiring the production of material. 805.07(2)(a)
A subpoena may command the person to whom it is directed to produce the books, papers, documents, electronically stored information, or tangible things designated therein. A subpoena may specify the form or forms in which electronically stored information is to be produced. A command in a subpoena to produce documents, electronically stored information, or tangible things requires the responding party to permit inspection, copying, testing, or sampling of the materials.
Notice of a 3rd-party subpoena issued for discovery purposes shall be provided to all parties at least 10 days before the scheduled deposition in order to preserve their right to object. If a 3rd-party subpoena requests the production of books, papers, documents, electronically stored information, or tangible things that are within the scope of discovery under s. 804.01 (2) (a)
, those objects shall not be provided before the time and date specified in the subpoena. The provisions under this paragraph apply unless all of the parties otherwise agree.
If a subpoena does not specify a form for producing electronically stored information, the person responding shall produce it in a form or forms in which it is ordinarily maintained or in a reasonably usable form or forms. The person responding need not produce the same electronically stored information in more than one form.
If information inadvertently produced in response to a subpoena is subject to a claim of privilege or of protection as trial preparation material, the party making the claim may notify any party that received the information of the claim and the basis for it. After being notified, a party must promptly return, sequester, or destroy the specified information and any copies it has; must not use or disclose the information until the claim is resolved; must take reasonable steps to retrieve the information if the party disclosed it before being notified; and may promptly present the information to the court under seal for a determination of the claim. The producing party must preserve the information until the claim is resolved.
Upon motion made promptly and in any event at or before the time specified in the subpoena for compliance therewith, the court may (a) quash or modify the subpoena if it is unreasonable and oppressive or (b) condition denial of the motion upon the advancement by the person in whose behalf the subpoena is issued of the reasonable cost of producing the books, papers, documents, or tangible things designated therein.
The subpoena shall be in the following form:
State of Wisconsin
The State of Wisconsin, To ....:
Pursuant to section 805.07 of the Wisconsin Statutes, you are hereby commanded to appear in person before [.... designating the court, officer, or person and place of appearance], on [.... date] at .... o'clock ...M., to give evidence in an action between ...., plaintiff, and ...., defendant. [Insert clause requiring the production of material, if appropriate]. Failure to appear may result in punishment for contempt which may include monetary penalties, imprisonment and other sanctions. Issued this .... day of ...., .... (year)
Attorney for [identify party]
(or other official title)
For a subpoena requiring the production of material, the following shall be inserted in the foregoing form: You are further commanded to bring with you the following: [describing as accurately as possible the books, papers, documents or other tangible things sought].
A subpoena may be served in the manner provided in s. 885.03
except that substituted personal service may be made only as provided in s. 801.11 (1) (b)
and except that officers, directors, and managing agents of public or private corporations or limited liability companies subpoenaed in their official capacity may be served as provided in s. 801.11 (5) (a)
Motion hearing procedure.
Motions under sub. (3)
may be heard as prescribed in s. 807.13