Gretchen Schuldt
Court Watch

Municipal Court Cases Drop By 54%

Court handles 75,000 fewer cases than 5 years ago. Are fewer judges needed?

By , Wisconsin Justice Initiative - Jan 24th, 2017 10:27 am
City of Milwaukee Municipal Court.

City of Milwaukee Municipal Court.

The number of cases filed in Milwaukee Municipal Court plunged by almost 8,000 in 2016 and by more than 75,000 — 54% — in the last five years, records show.

The three Municipal Court judges presided over 65,007 cases in 2016, down 11% from the 72,923 Cases heard in 2015. In 2011, there were 140,181 cases in Municipal Court, or 75,174 more than there were last year, according to Municipal Court statistics.

The continuing decline is bound to raise new questions about the need for three full-time Municipal Court judges, as the average caseload in the three regular branches (excluding Branch A, a court for in-custody defendants) dropped from 46,032 in 2011 to 21,392 last year, a decline of 24,639 cases per judge.

Ald. Terry Witkowski during 2017 budget deliberations proposed eliminating a court branch, but that was defeated after judges suggested the lower case loads allowed them to spend more time on each case. In addition, according to the city’s proposed budget, caseloads were up as of July. Witkowski could not be reached for comment Monday. The 2017 budget for Municipal Court is $4.8 million.

Traffic offenses remain the most common type of Municipal Court case and account for 68% of all cases, Still, while traffic offenses are of increasing concern to aldermen and city residents, the number of traffic cases was down, by seven percent from 2015 to 2016 and by 54% from 2011 to 2016.

Municipal Court Caseloads.

Municipal Court Caseloads.

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.”

2 thoughts on “Court Watch: Municipal Court Cases Drop By 54%”

  1. blurondo says:

    “while traffic offenses are of increasing concern to aldermen and city residents, the number of traffic cases was down, by seven percent from 2015 to 2016 and by 54% from 2011 to 2016.”
    Anyone who drives in Milwaukee is keenly aware of the blatant disregard of traffic laws by drivers. Those offenders must be aware that enforcement has been systemically reduced. Who decided that and why?

  2. State Rep Josh Zepnick says:

    Blurondo is correct. The caseloads are down not because of anything the Muni Court is doing, its a deliberate MPD strategy to not use resources for many offenses. Milwaukee’s sheer traffic volume, lousy road conditions, excessive drivers without licenses or insurance, should merit our own Traffic agency that can take the burden off MPD’s more serious crime fighting work. Parking enforcement is a scandal in this town, a regressive taxation system often in areas where there is not even congestion or lack of parking spots. Shift those resources into staff that can ticket people driving recklessly, OAR, no insurance, etc… have traffic force to manage large scale clogs on roads during construction, special events, high volume rush hour intersections

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