Opportunity for Court Hearing Do-Overs

Many matters in Wisconsin family law, domestic abuse and restraining order matters are heard by a court commissioner. If a party to a hearing disagrees with the ruling of the commissioner, under law that party can ask for a do-over, so to speak.

When a party requests a de novo hearing, a judge of the circuit court retries the case anew.  As the Wisconsin Court of Appeals explained in Stuligross v. Stuligross, 2009 WI App 25, 316 Wis. 2d 344, 763 N.W.2d 241, the de novo hearing is “literally a new hearing,” not simply a review of the court commissioner record: 

The commonly accepted meaning of a de novo hearing is “[a] new hearing of a matter, conducted as if the original hearing had not taken place.”  Black’s Law Dictionary 738 (8th ed. 2004).  A de novo hearing requires a fresh look at the issues, including the taking of testimony (unless the parties enter into stipulations as to what the testimony would be).  The hearing is literally a new hearing, not merely a review of whatever record may have been made before the … court commissioner. Id., ¶12. 

Accordingly, the court commissioner’s hearing and decision are replaced by the circuit court judge’s de novo hearing and decision based on that de novo hearing. Indeed the unsatisfied party gets a do-over.