March 3, 2022

12:00 pm - 1:00 pm, Central Time

ACS Madison: The Wisconsin Business Court: An Assault on Judicial Independence and Equal Treatment by the Courts

Join the ACS Madison and Milwaukee Lawyer Chapters for a conversation on business court. The Wisconsin Business Court fundamentally changes the manner in which large commercial litigation has been handled in Wisconsin circuit courts for over 100 years. It is a special court created by business interests for business cases only, employing an exclusive set of judges hand-selected by the Chief Justice acting on recommendations from business. Adopted as a “Pilot Project” by the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 2016 without public comment or hearing, the Business Court has been continuously opposed by our presenter Attorney (then-Circuit Judge) Richard G. Niess as unethical, unnecessary, unproven after 5 years, and otherwise ill-advised. This presentation will explore how this Business Court came to be in Wisconsin, how it was promoted by its proponents with flimsy justifications, and why it must be radically reformed or, better yet, abolished altogether to restore the people’s trust in the full integrity of our court system.

Hon. Richard G. Niess served as a Dane County Circuit Court judge from 2004 to 2020, and was the presiding judge of the court’s civil division for 13 years. He served on the Wisconsin Judicial College faculty for five years, annually teaching civil litigation case management to new and experienced judges. Before taking the bench, Attorney Niess was a board-certified civil trial lawyer, representing individuals and corporations in federal and state courts throughout Wisconsin for twenty-six years. Attorney Niess earned his A.B. degree from Dartmouth College in 1975 and his J.D. degree from Duke University School of Law in 1978. He was inducted as a Fellow into the American College of Trial Lawyers in 1995. His practice is currently limited to mediating/arbitrating complex civil cases, including commercial disputes.