Court Watch

Most Reversed Judge Of The Year

Judge William Gabler had four cases overturned by higher courts in 2016.

By , Wisconsin Justice Initiative - Jan 12th, 2017 04:19 pm
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Milwaukee County Courthouse

Milwaukee County Courthouse. Photo by Jeramey Jannene

Judges do not like it when their decisions are overturned by a higher court.

They take it personally — getting overturned is seen as a public rebuke delivered by a bunch of Court of Appeals judges who have probably forgotten what it’s like down in the trenches.

William Gabler

William Gabler: most reversed

So it was a very bad year for Eau Claire County Circuit Judge William Gabler, who was appealed five times, reversed four times and affirmed just once, according to the Wisconsin Law Journal. Gabler, first appointed to the bench in 1999 by Gov. Tommy Thompson, had more cases overturned by the Court of Appeals than any other judge in the state.

Gabler’s 20 percent affirm rate is well below the 86 percent statewide rate. There were 783 Appeals Court decisions last year, with 672 cases affirmed and 111 overturned, according to the Law Journal, which published its annual statistical analysis of Appeals Court decisions.

Two Dane County judges, William Hanrahan and Rhonda Lanford, had three reversals each, the second highest number in the state. Hanrahan’s rulings were appealed 11 times and Lanford’s were appealed nine times. Hanrahan was first appointed to the bench in 2007 by Gov. Jim Doyle; Lanford was elected in 2013.

Jeffrey Wagner

Jeffrey Wagner: most appealed

Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Jeffrey Wagner was appealed 21 times, but reversed just once.

There were nine judges appealed 10 times or more (all from Dane or Milwaukee Counties). The number of their decisions affirmed and the number reversed:

Dane County – Juan Colas (10,0); Hanrahan (8, 3)

Milwaukee County – Rebecca Dallet (11, 1); Christopher Foley (11, 0); William Pocan (10, 0); Stephanie Rothstein (11, 0); Mark Sanders (11,0); Jeffrey Wagner (20, 1); Glenn Yamahiro (11, 0).

Overall, according to the Law Journal, the District 1 Court of Appeals, which includes all of Milwaukee County, was far more likely to affirm lower court decisions than any of the other three district courts. District 1 affirmed 93 percent of the time; in District 2, 85 percent of cases were affirmed; in District 3, 81 percent; and in District 4, 82 percent. You can see a map of Court of Appeals districts here.

The Law Journal cautions that an Appeals Court reversal could ultimately be undone by the State Supreme Court.

Gretchen Schuldt writes a blog for Wisconsin Justice Initiative, whose mission is “To improve the quality of justice in Wisconsin by educating the public about legal issues and encouraging civic engagement in and debate about the judicial system and its operation.”

Categories: Court Watch

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