Wisconsin Circuit Courts are the state’s trial courts where all cases are first heard. There are 249 judges representing 70 different judicial circuit courts.
On April 5, 1977, the voters of Wisconsin approved a ballot proposition that reorganized Wisconsin’s judicial system. This created the current circuit court system that exists in Wisconsin. Before 1977, there were two levels of trial courts in Wisconsin called County and Circuit courts. County courts were responsible for handling probate, juvenile, and traffic cases. The circuit courts were responsible for handling solely civil and criminal courts. After voters approved the changes to the circuit court system, the current format merges the functions that were separately handled by the former county and circuit courts.
The circuit courts handle all civil, criminal, traffic, probate, juvenile, and small claims cases.
All judges to the Circuit Courts are elected to six year terms using non-partisan elections. All vacancies to the Circuit Court are filled by gubernatorial appointment until a successor is elected during the next scheduled non-partisan Spring election.
Article VII of the Wisconsin State Constitution states that in order to pursue judicial office an individual must attain the following:
- Be an Attorney licensed in the State of Wisconsin for a minimum of (5) five years prior to being elected or appointed.
- Be no older than (70) seventy years old after July 31st of the year they reach age 70.
- Hold no other office of public trust at the time he or she is sworn in as a judicial officer.
Circuit Court Judges earn $128,600 a year.
Circuit Courts in Wisconsin
The table below lists how many circuit court judges are in each county along with a link to each court’s individual page which highlights the judges of each court.
|County||Number of Judges||Location of Court|
|Crawford||1||Prairie du Chien|
|Eau Claire||5||Eau Claire|
|Fond du Lac||5||Forest|
|Green Lake||1||Green Lake|
|Jackson||1||Black River Falls|
|La Crosse||5||La Crosse|
Each one of Wisconsin’s Circuit Courts is administered by a District Chief Judge in one of the state’s ten judicial administrative districts. The Chief Judge is responsible for the day to day operations of each county’s circuit court in their administrative district. The Chief Judges are appointed by the Chief Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Each circuit court has a Clerk of Circuit Courts that is duly elected by the voters of the respective county. The Clerk assists the Chief Judge in their court’s day to day operations.