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Wisconsin Supreme Court heading to Sparta in long-running program

Brad Williams

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The Monroe County courthouse will roll out the red carpet next month for the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Once a year, the state’s highest court goes to a county courthouse to conduct oral arguments in a few cases, for its Justice on Wheels program.

The seven-member Wisconsin Supreme will convene Oct. 12 in Sparta to show the public how the court conducts its business and hears attorneys argue cases to be decided.

The proceedings have attracted standing-room-only crowds. Before each argument, local attorneys provide the audience, including students and teachers, an explanation of the case to be heard and a short civics lesson.

Court information officer Tom Sheehan says the court members want to talk with people around the state, especially students. He believes the road sessions are a good way of teaching young people how the Supreme Court works.

“They don’t know what to expect necessarily and they’ll come out and go, ‘Wow, that was interesting and now I get it,'” Sheehan said.

La Crosse and Grant counties have hosted the high court in recent years.

Sheehan said spectators can sit in on the oral arguments in three cases where the justices will rule on matters of law this session.

“It’s also not a trial court,” he explained. “People are used to sometimes, there’s no jurors. You often won’t even have a defendant in the courtroom. Sometimes it’s a little different from what people expect.”

Sheehan has been visiting the Sparta courthouse to scout locations in the building where the Supreme Court can listen to arguments, meet with area students and have lunch.

The program has been running since 1993, visiting 27 courthouses. Over 10,000 have witnessed or participated in the program.

A native of Prairie du Chien, Brad graduated from UW - La Crosse and has worked in radio news for more than 30 years, mostly in the La Crosse area. He regularly covers local courts and city and county government. Brad produces the features "Yesterday in La Crosse" and "What's Buried on Brad's Desk." He also writes the website "Triviazoids," which finds odd connections between events that happen on a certain date, and he writes and performs with the local comedy group Heart of La Crosse. Brad been featured on several national TV programs because of his memory skills.

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