Wisconsin Court Records
Recent Opinions & Records
Case dockets (summary of events and filings in a case) for most counties are available from 1994 to present on the Circuit Court Records (WCCA) database.
The library does not have access to county court records. Request copies of documents and get more information on a case from the Clerk of Court in each county.
Court of Appeals and Supreme Court
Court of Appeals and Supreme Court opinions can be found online on the Wisconsin Court System website from 1995 to present. Opinions can also be found in Google Scholar; they are available from the Court of Appeals back to 1978 and from the Supreme Court back to 1950.
Select briefs and opinions may be found on the WSCCA website from 2009 onwards. Electronically filed (eFiled) briefs are available for filings made on or after July 1, 2009. Non-eFiled briefs from cases decided on or after July 2009 (318 Wis.2d - forward) are also available and scanned briefs will continue to be added over time. Appendices, petitions for review, and briefs from confidential case types are not available on WSCCA but can be requested.
Opinions and briefs for published and unpublished cases are also available in paper or microfiche in the Wisconsin State Law Library starting with the first case heard in each court (1839 for the WI Supreme Court; 1978 for the WI Court of Appeals). Also in the library, search for opinions in Westlaw. Briefs that are not currently available can be requested through the Wisconsin State Law Library's document order service or from the Clerk's Office.
Older briefs are available on the University of Wisconsin's briefs database for published and unpublished case decisions appearing in 173 Wis. 2d (November 1992) through 317 Wis. 2d (June 2009). More information on locating briefs online and in the library can be found on our Wisconsin Briefs page.
Federal Court Records
Federal court case dockets and filings can be researched in PACER; coverage varies depending on the court but many courts go back to the 1990s. Opinions can also be found on Google Scholar back to 1923. U.S. Court Opinions are available on court and other websites.
Selected Eastern District court orders are available on their website.
Municipal court records are not available at the Wisconsin State Law Library. These records are maintained by individual municipal courts.
Older circuit and appellate court records are released to the Wisconsin Historical Society at the end of their defined retention period. The Historical Society has a statutory responsibility to collect, maintain, and make available for use valuable records of Wisconsin local governments and the court system. They also have the authority to weed or retain selected files from these records.
Search their library catalog to find what has been archived by the Wisconsin Historical Society.
Search tips for the catalog
- Instead of a party name search, under the Basic Search / Author Browse look for county information such as "Wisconsin Circuit Court Milwaukee County" or "Wisconsin Circuit Court Dane County."
Selected list of records available at the Wisconsin Historical Society
- Calendars, Wisconsin Supreme Court from 1891-1975 in 9 volumes, 16 archival boxes.
- Case Files, Wisconsin Supreme Court and Court of Appeals from 1839 (coverage dates), 110 archival boxes. Finding aid: Register; list of cases through 1908 filed with registers. Register available online.
- The summary states:
'Briefs, motion papers, court orders, documents required by Rules and Statutes, opinions, and correspondence on cases terminated by the Court of Appeals and/or Supreme Court. Included are cases originating by appeal, supervisory writ, leave to appeal, and original action. In archival custody as of 1991 are files originally designated "Original Actions" heard by the court. These include petitions for writs of certiorari, mandamus, habeas corpus, prohibition, injunction, remedial, pre-emptory, and consultation; orders to show cause sought under article VII, section 3 of the Constitution; and applications to vacate charters and dissolve corporations heard under section 286.13 of the Statutes. Each file contains initial petition and names of parties involved. Included also are judgment of court, petitions of the defense, secondary petitions; and background information leading up to initial action, which consists of case summaries and excerpts of testimony.
- The processed portion of this series is summarized above, dates 1839-1964, and is partially described in the list of cases filed with the registers. There are additional accessions dating 1965-1968 which are described below."
- Docket Books, Wisconsin Supreme Court, 1840-1975, 1979-1981, 87 volumes.
- Docket Records, Wisconsin Supreme Court, 1970-1986, 22 reels of microfilm.
- Minute books, Wisconsin Supreme Court, 1960-1979.
- Motion dockets, Wisconsin Supreme Court, 1856-1972.
- Orders admitting attorneys to practice, Wisconsin Supreme Court 1920-1951.
- Original actions--disbarments, Wisconsin Supreme Court, 1925-1963.
Federal district court records
Historical records for district courts of the United States are stored in archives throughout the country. Learn more about coverage for each court at the National Archives website.