Wisconsin Examiner

Evers Signs Bills Addressing Judges’ Safety and Human Sex Trafficking

29 bills signed by governor also address school safety and crime victims.

By , Wisconsin Examiner - Mar 28th, 2024 11:22 am
Wisconsin State Capitol (Baylor Spears | Wisconsin Examiner)

Wisconsin State Capitol (Baylor Spears | Wisconsin Examiner)

Gov. Tony Evers signed a slate of 29 bills Wednesday focused on public safety and reducing crime, by addressing issues including human sex trafficking, judges’ safety and safety in schools.

“Public safety continues to be an important priority for us as a state, and I look forward to continuing our bipartisan work in the next legislative session,” Evers said in a statement.

Three of the bills signed into law aim to protect judges’ privacy by prohibiting picketing in front of a judge’s residence; establish privacy protections for judicial officers and a way for them to request personal information not be published about them and their families; and exempt a judicial security profile form from disclosure under public records law.

The bills were developed by the Legislative Committee of the Judicial Conference at the request of Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Annette Ziegler. In a statement she called the legislation a “much-needed step in the right direction to provide safety and security to our judicial officers.”

“Judicial security has been a priority of mine throughout my time as the Chief Justice, particularly so following the senseless murder of Judge John Roemer in 2022,” Ziegler said. Roemer was shot and killed at his home by a man he had sentenced to six years in prison. “Unfortunately, this tragic situation is not an outlier. Across the country, threats and acts of judicial violence and intimidation have been on the rise. That reality is unacceptable: it is a basic tenet of judicial independence that judges should not be intimidated, influenced, threatened, or killed for doing their job,” Ziegler said.

Evers also signed two bills relating to sex trafficking. One establishes a Human Trafficking Council at the Wisconsin Department of Justice. Another requires employers to provide training to employees likely to interact with vulnerable people on how to identify and prevent human trafficking . He also signed a bill allowing witnesses who are under 18 in a criminal prosecution for a human trafficking crime to provide testimony remotely if they would suffer serious emotional distress and trauma.

“Expanding training for folks who regularly interact with the public to identify human trafficking when they see it will be a critical tool in our efforts to intervene and prevent human trafficking crimes,” Evers said.

The laws were the result of public hearings and research done by a bipartisan task force on the issue organized by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and chaired by Rep. Jerry O’Connor (R-Fond Du Lac).

“While today’s bill signings are a tremendous first step in addressing the problem of human trafficking in Wisconsin, there remains work to be done,” O’Connor said in a statement. “The Legislature will continue to collaborate with law enforcement and community stakeholders to better combat human trafficking, including by holding traffickers accountable and protecting and caring for victims.”

Evers also signed Assembly Bill 940, now 2023 Wisconsin Act 241, which appropriates $10 million to be used for crime victim grants administered by DOJ. The law includes $6.4 million for sexual assault victim services grants, $2.4 million for domestic abuse grants and $1.2 million for child advocacy grants.

Another piece of legislation funds positions for the Department of Justice’s Office of School Safety using funds collected by the DOJ through fees from conducting background checks on handgun purchases and concealed carry licenses.

“I’m glad that we were able to reach a bipartisan consensus to fund these additional positions so the Office of School Safety can continue their current operations, help prevent school violence, and keep our kids safe, including through the Speak Up, Speak Out tipline, which provides an important resource for kids, families, educators, and staff alike,” Evers said.

Attorney General Josh Kaul said in a statement that there is still work to do towards funding the office long term, but said the enactment of the law was a “critical step forward.”

Evers also signed a law that will increase the penalties for and establish a mandatory minimum for fleeing or attempting to elude an officer.

Evers signs bills aimed at increasing public safety, supporting victims was originally published by Wisconsin Examiner.

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