Wisconsin State Law Library

Serving the Wisconsin Supreme Court and State of Wisconsin

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WSLL @ Your Service July 2020


We’re Here for You (So You Don’t Have To Be) - Carol Hassler

One of the Library’s defining features has always been our ability to help our users wherever they’re located. For decades, we’ve been able to provide friendly, fast service to people who can’t visit one of our Dane or Milwaukee county locations. While the pandemic has changed many aspects of our daily routines, our remote services continue. Since our first day of Safer at Home, we’ve been responding to email and helping our users navigate our online subscriptions.

New! Sidewalk pickup service

Risser Justice Center entrance

We’re pleased to provide sidewalk pickup service to our users! Use our library catalog to locate the items you would like to check out. Fill out our Borrow Materials form, email wsll.ref@wicourts.gov, or call us at 608-267-9696 to place your request. A librarian will schedule a pickup time for you outside of the library entrance on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, between the hours of 9:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday. Please allow yourself enough time to park and walk to the library entrance. Pickups will be under the overhang next to the glass entrance doors. 

We take the health and safety of our staff and users very seriously. Before we pull your materials, staff will wear a mask and sanitize their hands. Your items will be placed in a sealed bag or box and labeled with your name and the due date of your items. Return information will be included on the package as well.

Contact the library

Anyone can email or phone the library! Librarians are in the library to answer phone calls and handle requests that require access to our print collection. We respond to email Monday through Friday, and answer phone calls Monday through Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

What kind of questions are we getting? We’re helping people get copies from books or archival collections, and help formulate research strategies. We’re sending out requests for information and forms (like Wisconsin Basic Wills). While libraries are closed, we facilitate research in our specialized collections with legislative histories and appellate case history.

Our branch libraries in the Dane and Milwaukee County courthouses have always had strong ties to legal clinics. While those locations are closed to the public, we are helping to connect users to remote legal clinic appointments. Our partnerships with civil legal clinics are important, and we’re proud to help our users access these services.

Request information

Individuals with Wisconsin State Law Library cards have always been able to research at home through the Library’s online subscriptions. Last month, we announced that we were cutting our Books by Mail fee to $7.50 to make it easier for our cardholders to check out materials from home or their remote offices. This service has always extended library access to users throughout Wisconsin. With our new sidewalk pickup service, our library materials are even more accessible to our users while helping to protect the health of our staff and users.

Stay informed

Watch our website and social media pages for further updates about library services. We are dedicated to helping you get the information you need! Send us an email at wsll.ref@wicourts.gov or call us at 608-267-9696.

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New Books - Kari Zelinka

New Update! Wisconsin Open Records and Public Meetings Handbook 2019-2020 update, State Bar of Wisconsin
Call Number: KFW 2862.5 .A25 S926

If you need to familiarize yourself with Wisconsin’s public records and open meetings laws, look no further. This State Bar book provides an overview and delves into making and responding to a public records request. Law enforcement records and school district records are covered in detail. On the subject of Open Meetings Law, how to give the public notice is discussed as well as closed meetings. Voting, record keeping, enforcement, and penalties are all given attention.

This supplement addresses recent developments including:

  • The Wisconsin Court of Appeals discussion of paper printouts of emails and if these are the legal equivalent to emails provided in electronic form.
  • The Wisconsin Legislature enacted legislation including the storage and release of data from body cameras and increasing privacy rights to the public who appear on body camera video.
  • The Wisconsin Legislature amended the open meetings laws to include more specific details on how notice can be provided to the public.

New Update! Wisconsin Attorney’s Desk Reference, State Bar of Wisconsin
Call Number: KFW 2481 .W57 A6

If you are an attorney who practices in several areas of law, this 2020 update is a good primer. In the area of domestic abuse, it includes new information on immigration protections for domestic abuse and trafficking victims. In the area of mental health, there is a discussion of whether a reasonable fear of a violent act can meet the dangerousness standard in commitment cases.

Other topics include:

  • Animal Law
  • Bankruptcy
  • Costs Upon Frivolous Claims
  • Divorce and Actions Affecting the Family
  • Guardianship
  • Landlord Tenant Law
  • Lemon Law
  • Trademark Secrets

New Titles RSS Feed See our latest New Titles list for a list of new books and other resources.

For assistance in accessing these or other resources, please contact our Reference Desk.


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Tech Tip - Heidi Yelk

Citation Research Using Free Legal Research Tools

We all know free or low-cost legal research tools do not have the features you get with more expensive systems. However, free tools have some great features you may have overlooked. Here are some "best features" for citation research from Google Scholar, Fastcase, and HeinOnline (integrated with Fastcase).

Google Scholar

Google Scholar is easily accessible and great for full text searching or a quick citation lookup. One of the best overlooked features is the "How cited" link. When viewing a case, look for the "How cited" link in the upper left corner. This takes you to a page listing the cases that cite your case. The best feature is how Google Scholar sorts out the quotes (or similar quotes) for which your case is most often cited. For example, see Green Spring Farms v. Kersten, which is most often cited for the ruling on summary judgment.

"We review a circuit court's grant of summary judgment de novo, applying the same methodology as the circuit court.") (555 times)

Google scholar results


Wisconsin attorneys receive complimentary access to Fastcase with their State Bar membership. A unique feature of Fastcase is the Authority Check Report. When displaying a case, look for Authority Check at top of the screen, just under the menu bar. 

An Authority Check Report will generate a visual timeline of how often your case has been cited and how your case's authorities have been used over time. (Read more about this feature in this article about the timeline feature.) Another useful part of the report is the Citation Summary which includes the most recent date the case has been cited.

Fastcase screenshot


HeinOnline partners with Fastcase to provide access to the Fastcase database within the HeinOnline interface. To access Fastcase, choose the "Case Law" tab from the main search screen. 

Like Google Scholar and Fastcase, HeinOnline also includes a "cited by" tool. When viewing a case, click the "cited by" link in the upper right. Look for the "search within results" option, which is available when displaying the list of "cited by" cases. Click the down arrow in the menu bar to open an advance search and search within the citing cases.

HeinOnline results

The best way to verify the status of a case (overruled, questioned) is still Westlaw (KeyCite) or Lexis (Shepards).

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State Law Library Art Tour (Part One) - Jaime Healy-Plotkin

The Wisconsin State Law Library was formerly located in the State Capitol. Renovations in the 1990’s and 2000’s brought several modernizations to the Capitol building, but required the library to move out of the Capitol building and seek new space downtown. After some temporary locations, the State Law Library moved into our current space in the Risser Justice Center on Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard.

The Library was not able to take furniture or artwork from its previous space in the Capitol. 1999 Wisconsin Act 4 meant that the Capitol restoration project kept “historically significant furnishings” in the Capitol building. Therefore, our Library walls are now decorated by purchases and borrowed items, including several portraits.

Several of the prominent figures featured in Library portraits are buried in the Forest Hill Cemetery located to the west of Camp Randall and the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. During this time of social distancing we connected the artwork in the library to the gravesites of prominent figures of law and Wisconsin and Madison history. This series walks you through the halls of the Wisconsin State Law Library and amongst the graves in the Forest Hill Cemetery.

Silas U. Pinney

Silas U. Pinney watches over the Reference Collection on the library’s main floor. He was a Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice from 1892 to 1898, resigning from his term over ill health just months before his death at age 66. According to Portraits of Justice, Pinney received no formal education in Wisconsin but spent his free time reading and studying. Before turning twenty, Pinney had studied fundamental law books and acted as legal counsel for his neighbors.” Upon his death in 1899, it was believed that he had argued more cases before the Wisconsin Supreme Court than any other lawyer in the state.

Pinney is the namesake of the Pinney Branch of the Madison Public Library, located on the East side of Madison. In 1875, in the middle of his two year tenure as Mayor of Madison, he was instrumental in opening the first public library in the city. To round out his influence in local and state politics, he was also a Wisconsin Legislator having served at the same time as he was mayor, from 1875-1876. He is the namesake of Pinney’s Wisconsin Reports volumes v.1-3 (1872-1876), a compilation of the territorial decisions of the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Silas U. Pinney is buried in Section 31 of Forest Hill Cemetery.

Silas Pinney portrait and gravestone

Left: Portrait of Silas U. Pinney which hangs on the second floor of the library Right: Pinney gravestone

Read more about artwork in our libraries, and their connections to walking destinations in Madison in our next issue.

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Library News - Carol Hassler

Librarians reach out

State Law Librarian Amy Crowder joined a panel of librarians on June 23 to discuss how we are planning for the safe reopening of our libraries. During the panel, they discussed procedures and models for reopening, and methods for providing library services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

New legal topic page

We have gotten many questions about researching police procedure over the years. While we pull information from our books and help researchers navigate Wisconsin laws, we also help users navigate local government websites.
One of the projects we completed while we worked remotely was a comprehensive directory of Wisconsin police websites, with links to procedures, complaint forms, and manuals. Our new Law Enforcement Directory is now on our website.

Screenshot of webpage


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July Snapshot

Decorative plaque

Stamp and Seal
Photo by Carol Hassler

A parting gift from former State Law Librarian Julie Tessmer Robinson, this plaque modeled after our logo is mounted next to our entrance doors in the David T. Prosser Jr. Library. On the opposite wall hangs a current photo of Wisconsin Supreme Court justices. Thank you for this beautiful addition to our library, Julie!

We are accepting snapshots! Do you have a photo highlighting libraries, attractions or points of historical interest? Send your photo the editor at carol.hassler@wicourts.gov to be included in a future issue.

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