Public Defender Outcomes Compared to the “Field,” 2008-09 through 2013-14

This post compares some of the findings of the previous post (“Public Defender Outcomes, 1995-96 through 2013-14”) with the outcomes obtained by other attorneys who presented oral arguments in the same category of cases—those featuring criminal-defense issues and indigent-defense issues.  Here we will narrow our focus to the six terms (2008-09 through 2013-14) in which the Court’s current members have occupied the bench, and begin by considering the 88 cases in this category where defense attorneys from outside the Office of the Public Defender delivered oral arguments.[1]

Of these 88 cases, the attorneys in question obtained a favorable outcome in 13, or 15% of the total.  The year-by-year results are as follows.
2013-14: 2/16=13%
2012-13: 2/15=13%
2011-12: 3/12=25%
2010-11: 2/16=13%
2009-10: 3/16=19%
2008-09: 1/13=8%

As one would expect, the voting records of individual justices vary greatly.  In the ratios below, the denominator indicates the number of oral arguments heard by a justice out of the total of 88 cases.  The numerator indicates how many times a justice favored the position advocated by defense lawyers from outside the Office of the Public Defender.
Abrahamson 49/85=58%
Bradley 45/87=52%
Crooks 16/85=19%
Prosser 16/81=20%
Roggensack 11/88=13%
Ziegler 8/87=9%
Gableman 7/85=8%

The following tables compare results obtained by attorneys from the Office of the Public Defender with the outcomes in our batch of 88 cases handled by defense lawyers employed outside the ranks of the Public Defenders.

             Percentage of Cases in which a Favorable Result was Obtained

  Public Defenders Defense Attorneys from Outside the Office of the Public Defender
2013-14       13% (2/15)           13% (2/16)
2012-13       33% (3/9)           13% (2/15)
2011-12       33% (5/15)           25% (3/12)
2010-11         0% (0/7)           13% (2/16)
2009-10       10% (1/10)           19% (3/16)
2008-09         0% (0/5)             8% (1/13)

The six-term success rate for Public Defenders of 18% (11/61) was slightly, but not dramatically, higher than the six-term success rate of 15% (13/88) for defense lawyers who were not Public Defenders.

These two categories of attorneys also received similar percentages of favorable votes from individual justices—with the striking exceptions of Justices Abrahamson and Bradley, who voted in favor of Public Defenders at a considerably higher rate than they sided with defense lawyers outside the Office of the Public Defender.

Percentage of Cases in which a Favorable Vote was Received, 2008-09 through 2013-14

Justices Public Defenders Defense Attorneys from Outside the Office of the Public Defender
Abrahamson      70% (43/61)           58% (49/85)
Bradley      66% (40/61)           52% (45/87)
Crooks      18% (11/61)           19% (16/85)
Prosser      20% (11/56)           20% (16/81)
Roggensack      11% (7/61)           13% (11/88)
Ziegler      10% (6/61)             9% (8/87)
Gableman      13% (8/61)             8% (7/85)


[1] This total of 88 cases does not include three per curiam decisions, and it also omits State v. Long (2007AP2307-CR), which is difficult to categorize as either a favorable or unfavorable outcome for the defendant.  In Long the Court upheld the defendant’s conviction but accepted his argument that he was not a “persistent repeater.”

About Alan Ball

Alan Ball is a Professor of History at Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI.

SCOWstats offers numerical analysis of the voting by Wisconsin Supreme Court justices on diverse issues over the past 93 years.


  1. […] previous post found that public defenders and other defense attorneys attained similar success rates—18% […]

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