Chief Justice Abrahamson Outlines History Sources Used by WI Supreme Court in Statutory Interpretation Cases

In a recent opinion of the Supreme Court of Wisconsin (2004 WI 58), Chief Justice Abrahamson has produced an excellent overview of extrinsic sources, including legislative history, used by the court in statutory interpretation cases.
From her concurrence (paragraph 68):

I write to alert the reader to the numerous forms of “history” this court has relied upon in past statutory interpretation cases, with and without a declaration of ambiguity, and to remind the reader that not all forms of “history” are legislative history or of equal value in determining the meaning of a statute.

She explains the following sources and how they are used by Wisconsin courts:

  • Nonstatutory provisions
  • Statutory history
  • Prefatory Notes (Analysis) to Bills
  • Judicial Council Materials
  • Joint Legislative Council Materials
  • Legislative Committee Records
  • Records of Special Legislative Committees
  • Bill Drafting Records
  • Legislative Journals
  • Bulletin of Proceedings
  • Governor’s Study Committees
  • Governor’s Veto Message
  • Cases Interpreting the Statute

Source: Bill Ebbott, Assistant Director for Information Services, UW Law Library