Chapter 980 and Mental Health Practice Group

The Chapter 980 (Sexually Violent Person Commitment) and Mental Health Practice Group conducted a creative, interdisciplinary training that gave Client Services Specialists, Psychologists, and Attorneys a chance to compare notes and exchange knowledge with one another. Wisconsin State Public Defender (SPD) attorneys and private bar lawyers have been more successful in winning 980 cases. Daubert issues continue to percolate, and the Chapter 980 Practice Group is staying on top of the issues regarding scientific analysis of experts. 

The Chapter 980 and Mental Health Practice Group has three priorities:

1) Improving 980 practice:  We've held interdisciplinary trainings for our staff and for DHS; we've increased collaboration and communication, and we've made it easier to get direct support for SPD staff.

2) Changing Paradigms:  We've assembled a web page that will encourage holistic defense and reduce costs at the same time; we've built bridges with other elements in the system that share our client centered ethic; we've explored new narratives and new ways to handle the powerful emotions that decide these cases.

3) Planting Seeds for the Future - we've taken the early steps to begin:  Using the learned treatise statute to build flexible tools for Daubert challenges; Partnering with research psychologists to develop our own, more truthful and defense friendly risk predictions; and participating in an APA exploration of ethics and use of risk assessment tools by psychologists.

For more information, please contact the Chapter 980 and Mental Health Practice Group Coordinator:  


Robert Peterson is the Wisconsin State Public Defender Chapter 980 and Mental Health practice coordinator. Bob received his undergraduate degree in Economics from Marquette University in 1983, and his law degree from St. Louis University in 1993. Bob began his career with the Wisconsin State Public Defender's Office in 1997, working first in the Racine Trial Office and then as a Chapter 980 specialist in the Milwaukee Trial Office. In 2005, Bob went into private practice before returning to the State Public Defender's Office in 2015. Bob served as a Public Defender in Missouri from 1993 to 1997. He received the David Niblack Award from the Wisconsin Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers in 2005. Prior to becoming a lawyer Bob was an Air Traffic Controller.

Contact Robert Peterson: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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Download this file (980 Handout.doc)Overview of Chapter 980 Cases