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State Public Defender Public Records

The State Public Defender (SPD) is an independent, executive-branch state agency providing legal representation to indigent individuals in criminal cases and other cases in which the individual has a constitutional right to the assistance of an attorney.  The SPD has 36 local trial offices, 2 appellate offices, and a central administrative office.  The agency also certifies and appoints private bar attorneys to handle conflict and overflow cases.

What Is A Public Record?
In general, state agency records are public and available for inspection.  A record may be in any form if it has been created or received by the SPD during the course of business and kept in connection with the official purpose or function of the agency.

There are exceptions to the public records law, including records that contain confidential information that is protected by state law.  In addition, most records relating to clients are confidential and are generally not subject to public records law.  (See SCR 20:1.6).  Clients of the SPD have a right to their own case files, and a request for your own file is not a public records request.  If you are a client of the SPD, you may contact your attorney or the local SPD office to request your file.  The location of the file will differ depending upon whether you were represented by an SPD staff attorney or a private attorney appointed by the SPD.

State agencies are not required to create a new record by extracting and compiling information from existing records into a new format or record.

Procedure For Making Requests
A public records request may be made orally or in writing.  Requests must reasonably describe the records sought in order to avoid delays caused by misunderstanding or miscommunication.

Requests for public records should be directed to the SPD Records Custodian:

Devon Lee
Legal Counsel 17 S. Fairchild St., 5th Floor
Madison, WI  53703
608-261-0633
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The SPD will respond to all public record requests as soon as practicable and without delay.  The time it takes the SPD to respond will depend on factors including the nature and scope of the request, the availability of staff, and the other resources necessary to process the request.  The SPD will notify the requester whether the records requested are available, or the SPD may deny the request in whole or in part if the records do not exist or are not accessible under the public records law.  If the SPD denies a written request, it will provide the denial in writing.

Fees
The SPD is authorized to impose fees in responding to public records requests.  The SPD may charge the actual, necessary, and direct cost of reproducing a record.  When the request calls for a copy of a record that can be photocopied, the SPD may charge its standard fee of $.15 per printed page.  The SPD may charge a $.07 per-page fee for converting paper records to electronic format.  If records are provided on a CD or DVD, the SPD may charge $0.14 per disc.  When requested and whenever practicable, the SPD will provide electronic copies of records that already exist in electronic format without charging reproduction fees on a per-page basis.  However, if the record requested is not in a readily comprehensible form (e.g. computer file, database entry), the SPD may charge the actual cost of creating a readily comprehensible copy.  The SPD will not charge for the cost of reviewing records for possible redaction or removal of confidential information.

The SPD may charge the actual, necessary, and direct costs of locating the records if its exceeds $50.  Any staff time for locating records will be billed at the hourly rate of salary for the lowest-paid employee capable of performing the task.  The hourly rate charged for locating records may also include the cost of benefits, but will not exceed $30 per hour.  If the records are mailed or shipped to the requester, the SPD may charge the actual, necessary and direct mailing or shipping cost.

The above fees apply except when a different fee is authorized by law.  The SPD may request pre-payment if the total costs are greater than $5.

All fees for record requests should be made payable for the exact amount to Wisconsin State Public Defender.

General Information About Public Records
Wisconsin's public records law can be found at Wis. Stat. ss. 19.31-19.39.

The WI Department of Justice Public Records Law Compliance Guide (2015) provides a comprehensive review of Wisconsin's public records law.

General Information About Confidentiality Of Client Files
The Wisconsin Rules of Professional Conduct regarding confidentiality of client information can be found at SCR 20:1.6.

The State Public Defender statute regarding confidentiality of SPD files can be found at Wis. Stat. s. 977.09.


Created: March 10, 2017