Evers signs new laws designed to bolster safety of judges, combat human trafficking

By SCOTT BAUER Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Tony Evers on Wednesday signed into law bipartisan bills that are designed to better protect the safety of judges following the killing of a retired judge and combat the rise in human trafficking.

In total, Evers signed 29 crime-related bills, most of which passed with broad bipartisan support.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court had recommended three of the bills that Evers signed, which were initiated in response to threats of violence against judges.

The bills were introduced after 68-year-old retired Wisconsin judge John Roemer was shot and killed in his New Lisbon home in 2022. The man accused of killing Roemer had been sentenced to prison by Roemer years earlier. He shot himself in Roemer’s home and later died in the hospital.

One new law makes it a crime to picket, parade, or demonstrate at or near a judge’s home with the intent to influence or interfere with their work. Another gives new privacy protections to judges to halt publication of personal information about them and their families, including home addresses. And the third bill Evers signed exempts a judicial security profile form from disclosure under the public records law.

There have been 142 threats made against Wisconsin judges in the past year, according to the Wisconsin Supreme Court Marshal’s Office.

Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Annette Ziegler, in a statement praising enactment of the new laws, cited Roemer’s killing as one of many acts of increasing violence against judges across the country.

She called the package of new laws a “much-needed step in the right direction to provide safety and security to our judicial officers.”

Evers also signed a package of bills that were proposed by a legislative task force that studied human trafficking.

One law creates a human trafficking council starting in July 2025 at the state Department of Justice. It is charged with collecting and maintaining information and data about human trafficking, developing model training and creating a state strategic plan to prevent human trafficking.

Another bill Evers signed requires training in identifying and preventing human trafficking for employees who are likely to have contact with the public and vulnerable people. That includes private security officers, public transit managers, hotel and motel owners and those who own and manage strip clubs.

Expanding training to identify human trafficking “will be a critical tool in our efforts to intervene and prevent human trafficking crimes,” Evers said in a statement.

Evers also signed into law a measure that makes $10 million available in grants for services that support crime victims, including sexual assault and domestic violence abuse survivors. Another bipartisan bill Evers signed will ensure full staffing of an office that assists schools with addressing safety concerns.

The new law would use state money to replace federal pandemic relief funds to fund about 14 positions in the state Department of Justice’s Office of School Safety for nine months.

Other bills Evers signed will increase the penalty for fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer; create a new crime for possessing child sexual abuse material created with Artificial Intelligence technology and create a new crime for possessing sex dolls intended to resemble minors.