(Shutterstock image)
(Shutterstock image)

No growth in Walker era. Locations to be based on need, drug treatment programs.

Wisconsin’s court system is receiving its largest expansion in more than two decades.

On Thursday, Gov. Tony Evers signed a bill with bipartisan support that creates 12 new circuit courts branches. According to the governor’s office, this is the first addition of circuit court branches since 2010 and the largest expansion in two decades.

“Our justice system has been doing more with less for far too long,” said Evers in a statement. “Today, we are taking another step in ensuring that our justice system is operating efficiently and best serving our communities.”

The Director of States Courts will decide where the branches will be located based on need, resolutions and established infrastructure. To be eligible, counties will have to establish or apply for a treatment and diversion program grant or a drug court grant.

The courts will open on a rolling basis. The first four will open in August of 2021, with four additional courts opening in August of 2022 followed by the final four in August of 2023. Supreme Court Chief Justice Pat Roggensack said she looks forward to welcoming new judges to the bench.

“Whether it is circuit courts working to provide public safety while protecting individual rights in criminal actions or circuit courts responding to the needs of families or resolving commercial controversies, we all benefit from a court system that has sufficient quality jurists to meet the needs of the people,” said Roggensack in a statement. “The governor’s action today assists the courts in meeting its responsibilities in this regard.”

She and Evers acknowledged the bipartisan sponsorship and support to get the new courts approved this legislative session.

“It took a strong bipartisan effort to get Assembly Bill 470 to my desk and I want to thank the folks who pushed to get this done and to keep our justice system just and our communities safe,” said Evers in a statement.