State ex rel. Coogan v. Michek

CourtCourt of Appeals of Wisconsin
Citation2020 WI App 37,392 Wis.2d 885,945 N.W.2d 752
Docket NumberAppeal No. 2018AP2350
Parties STATE of Wisconsin EX REL. Jamie A. COOGAN, Petitioner-Appellant, v. Steven R. MICHEK, Sheriff, Iowa County Sheriff's Office, Respondent-Respondent.
Decision Date28 May 2020

392 Wis.2d 885
945 N.W.2d 752
2020 WI App 37

STATE of Wisconsin EX REL. Jamie A. COOGAN, Petitioner-Appellant,
Steven R. MICHEK, Sheriff, Iowa County Sheriff's Office, Respondent-Respondent.

Appeal No. 2018AP2350

Court of Appeals of Wisconsin.

Submitted on Briefs: January 22, 2020
Opinion Filed: May 28, 2020

On behalf of the petitioner-appellant, the cause was submitted on the briefs of Jeremiah Wolfgang Meyer-O'Day of Martinez & Ruby, LLP, Baraboo.

On behalf of the respondent-respondent, the cause was submitted on the brief of William S. Cole of Axley Brynelson, LLP, Madison.

Before Fitzpatrick, P.J., Blanchard and Kloppenburg, JJ.


392 Wis.2d 887

¶1 Jamie Coogan was serving a jail sentence when Iowa County Sheriff Steven

392 Wis.2d 888

Michek determined, based on an inmate classification system created by the Sheriff, that Coogan would not be released under the Huber Law, even though the circuit court had expressly ordered Huber release for Coogan. See WIS. STAT. § 303.08 (2017-18) ("Huber Law" permits a sentencing court to order that a county sheriff allow a county jail inmate to pursue certain types of opportunities, such as employment or education, outside the jail facility "during necessary and reasonable hours").1 Coogan brought this action for a writ of mandamus against the Sheriff that would direct the Sheriff to follow the court order in Coogan's judgment of conviction that granted him Huber release. The circuit court dismissed the writ petition on the ground that the Sheriff has authority under the state constitution and statutes other than the Huber Law to disregard an order for Huber release contained in a judgment of conviction.

¶2 We agree with Coogan. The legislature, through specific directions in the Huber Law, has defined the circumstance in which a Wisconsin sheriff may temporarily suspend an order for Huber release. In addition, a Wisconsin sheriff may ask a circuit court to withdraw an order for Huber release. But neither of these circumstances were present here. Therefore the Sheriff had a "positive and plain" duty to

945 N.W.2d 754

grant Huber release to Coogan. Accordingly, we reverse the circuit court's decision to deny mandamus relief and remand

392 Wis.2d 889

with directions that the circuit court enter an order granting mandamus relief.2


¶3 Coogan was convicted in a criminal case, he received a disposition of probation, his probation was revoked, and he was sentenced after revocation to a jail term. Only one aspect of those criminal proceedings is pertinent here. The pertinent aspect is that the circuit

392 Wis.2d 890

court expressly ordered that Coogan's jail term following revocation be served with the release privilege created by the Huber Law.3

¶4 We turn to the inmate classification system used by the Sheriff. It is undisputed that Wisconsin sheriffs are obliged under WIS. STAT. § 302.36 to use inmate classification systems to make decisions about the types of housing assignments, services, and programs that the sheriffs provide for jail inmates, while the specifics of these classification systems are left to the discretion of each sheriff.4 In particular, § 302.36

945 N.W.2d 755
392 Wis.2d 891

does not require Wisconsin sheriffs to include any feature that can be or must be used to disregard court orders for Huber release. The Sheriff here, as part of his operation of the classification system that he created, would establish a "custody status" for each inmate in the jail at any given time.

¶5 In October 2017, shortly after the court imposed Coogan's one-year-with-Huber sentence and while Coogan was a jail inmate, the Sheriff used his classification system to assign Coogan a custody status of "maximum." As a result, Coogan could not be released on Huber. The exception to that would be if the Sheriff decided in his discretion, to Coogan's benefit, to "manually override" Coogan's "maximum" classification.

¶6 The Sheriff's position is that this classification of Coogan's custody status as "maximum" resulted from a "major disciplinary violation" by Coogan that involved "a physical altercation in the jail" shortly after Coogan began serving his jail term. In this appeal, Coogan does not challenge the merits of the Sheriff's discipline or reclassification decisions in themselves. He challenges only the resulting decision of the Sheriff to use the classification system to disregard the sentencing court's order granting Coogan Huber release.

¶7 The parties and the circuit court all operated from the following factual premise, which we follow:

392 Wis.2d 892

for a period longer than five days, the Sheriff relied on his classification system and did not use a "manual override," thereby denying Coogan Huber release over that period. The fact that the Sheriff's no-Huber period for Coogan lasted longer than five days is significant under the Huber Law. Wisconsin sheriffs may, without court approval, suspend the privilege for up to five days in response to a given "breach of discipline or other violation of jail regulations." See WIS. STAT. § 303.08(10). Thus here, so far as the parties inform us, the Sheriff could have relied on this temporary suspension exception to deny Coogan the court-ordered release for up to five days as a result of a jail regulation violation, without leave of the sentencing court or even notice to the court.

¶8 Separately, as the Huber Law text quoted in footnote 3 above reflects, the circuit court could have withdrawn the privilege "at any time by order entered with or without notice." See WIS. STAT. § 303.08(2). Thus, the Sheriff here could have requested that the court withdraw its Huber order for Coogan. We are aware that it is routine for Wisconsin sheriffs to make such requests when there is evidence that an inmate has violated a jail regulation. Here, it is undisputed that the Sheriff did not ask the circuit court at any pertinent time to exercise the court's authority to withdraw Coogan's Huber release privilege, nor did the sentencing court do so on its own initiative or at the request of anyone else.

¶9 Coogan filed a petition for a writ of mandamus in the circuit court.5 As pertinent to the issue in

392 Wis.2d 893

this appeal, Coogan

945 N.W.2d 756

requested an order requiring that the Sheriff "refrain from refusing to allow Mr. Coogan to exercise his work release privilege for more than five days as a result of any single breach of discipline or violation of jail regulations." Coogan filed a motion and supporting brief for partial summary judgment, arguing in pertinent part that Wisconsin sheriffs may not unilaterally "restrict or deny the exercise of Huber privilege for any reason other than a breach of jail discipline or jail rule," and then only under the temporary suspension exception of up to five days in WIS. STAT. § 303.08(10).

¶10 The Sheriff's arguments in response focused on the rights and obligations of Wisconsin sheriffs under the Wisconsin Constitution and on WIS. STAT. § 59.27(1). Section 59.27(1) provides that a Wisconsin sheriff has the duty to "[t]ake the charge and custody of the jail maintained by the county and the persons in the jail, and [to] keep the persons in the jail personally or by deputy or jailer." The Sheriff argued in part: "[W]hile the legislature has determined that the judiciary is best suited to determine eligibility to exercise Huber privileges under WIS. STAT. § 303.08(2), the judiciary is not well suited to oversee the various decisions attendant to the execution of [the Huber] privilege."

¶11 The circuit court denied Coogan's motion for partial summary judgment and dismissed the petition, agreeing with arguments advanced by the Sheriff that the Sheriff now repeats on appeal. Coogan appeals.


¶12 Our discussion has three parts. First, we summarize the well-established mandamus requirements and standards of review, each of which applies

392 Wis.2d 894

here without dispute from either side. Second, we explain why we interpret the Huber Law to require Wisconsin sheriffs to follow all sentencing court orders granting jail inmates the release privilege created by the Huber Law, absent a legitimate temporary suspension by the sheriff or the withdrawal of the order by the sentencing court. Third, we explain why we reject the Sheriff's arguments based on the constitutional powers of Wisconsin sheriffs and statutes other than the Huber Law.

I. Requirements For Mandamus Relief; Standards Of Review; Interpretation Of Statutes

¶13 We recently had...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT