Johnson v. Masters

By Attorney Gregg Herman
May 17, 2013

This morning, the Wisconsin Supreme Court issued its decision in Johnson v. Masters.  The court reversed the decision of the court of appeals which denied Patricia Johnson’s motion for a QDRO because her action was barred by Wis. Stat. §893.40, a statute of repose, which states that “action upon a judgment or decree . . . shall be commenced within 20 years after the judgment or decree is entered or be barred.”

The Supreme Court found that while Wis. Stat. §893.40 does apply to family law actions,

“[I]t would be absurd and unreasonable to construe the statute of repose in such a way that it would begin to run at the time of a judgment with regard to a provision that assigned Masters’ interest contrary to existing law, which was and continued for the next nine years to be that WRS pension interests were not assignable.

In my analysis of the case when the Wisconsin Supreme Court accepted review, I questioned why the court, with so many important family law issues which could use guidance, accepted a case with such limited applicability.  In just a quick scan of the 56 pages of opinions (there are three concurring opinions and one dissenting opinion) it appears my concern was justified.

I’ll be writing a full analysis of this case in my column in the Wisconsin Law Journal. Stay tuned …

Attorney Gregg Herman is a founding partner of Loeb & Herman S.C. in Milwaukee, WI. He practices family law exclusively, and can be reached via e-mail or by calling (414) 272-5632.