Wisconsin Secession: “The Adventures Of ‘Judge’ Wickstrom: Part One”
Talk about a sore loser! What should you do if you were “overwhelmingly defeated” in an election for a town’s highest public office? If you are James Wickstrom of Fairbanks, WI, that’s an easy question: secession! And although “the history of secession in this country should have suggested to Wickstrom that his efforts would be futile,” Wickstrom “seceded” from Shawano County, Wisconsin.
He immediately “formed” his own municipality. He printed a public notice in the local newspaper announcing the creation of the “Constitutional Township of Tigerton Dells” and a meeting date to hold elections for officers. Not surprisingly, Wickstrom was “elected” both clerk and municipal judge of Tigerton Dells. But Wickstrom didn’t stop there. He issued liquor and cigarette licenses, filed documents with legitimate state and local offices indicating his judgeship, and even threatened to sue—in his “official capacity”—the Shawano County Clerk “if she did not cooperate with his demand for official printed ballots.”
So what happened to Wickstrom? Was he laughed out of Tigerton Dells? Sentenced to community service?
Nope. He was charged with violating Wis. Stat. §946.69(1) (assuming to act as a public officer), even though his position and municipality didn’t exist! Wickstrom didn’t exactly win over the judge during his trial, partly because he used his own “judicial power” to subpoena the real judge! The judge wasn’t amused, and Wickstrom received two consecutive nine-month sentences.
The real Judge summed it up nicely: “No man is an island, John Donne wrote. Likewise, no man is a municipality. James Wickstrom discovered this in a most unpleasant manner.”
The case is Wickstrom v. Schardt, 798 F.2d 268 (7th Cir. 1986).