Contract Case of Atty. Michael Brown Named by Wisconsin Lawyer to “Top 12” Wisconsin Supreme Court Decisions Last Term

The November 2012 issue of Wisconsin Lawyer magazine has an article titled “Top 12 2011-12 Wisconsin Supreme Court Decisions,” and it lists as number 5 the case of Kroner v. Oneida Seven Generations Corporation.

The plaintiff John Kroner was represented by myself, blog author (attorney) Michael Brown.

Mr. Kroner was formerly the CEO of the defendant Oneida Seven Generations Corporation (OSGC), a corporation affiliated with the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin.  Mr. Kroner alleged he had years of good performance with OSGC and was discharged without notice or a good reason.  He further alleged he had a contract-law right, under Wisconsin law, that his employment with OSGC was such he could only have been discharged for “cause.”  (In contrast, many employers have “at-will” employment, where an employer does not need “cause” or a fair reason to terminate an employee’s employment).

Mr. Kroner asserted, to the Brown County Circuit Court, that he should have a trial in that Court to determine whether OSGC’s termination of his employment violated Wisconsin law.  OSGC attempted twice to have the Brown County Court drop the case, for reasons relating to OSGC’s tribal affiliation.  First, OSGC filed a motion to dismiss the case, based in large part on an argument that sovereign immunity applied and that the Oneida tribal forum had exclusive jurisdiction over the parties’ dispute.  That motion was denied by the Brown County Court.

OSGC also filed a motion seeking to transfer the case to the Oneida tribal forum, pursuant to a Wisconsin law allowing tribal transfer in certain situations.  The Brown County Court granted the motion, and the case was to be transferred to the tribal forum.  However, Mr. Kroner appealed.  The Wisconsin Court of Appeals agreed with the first Court’s decision, and upheld the transfer.  Mr. Kroner appealed again to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court found in Mr. Kroner’s favor (per its decision here), holding that tribal transfer was not permissible under the circumstances.  Mr. Kroner had argued that the fair decision was that his case be allowed to continue in the Wisconsin courts, based on issues of time and resources, procedure, the availability of fundamental Wisconsin-law rights, and other factors.  Some of the details are discussed at the Wisconsin Lawyer article above, which provides a helpful analysis of the case.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court agreed with Mr. Kroner that OSGC had not established legal grounds to transfer the case, overturned the tribal transfer decision, and remanded the case back to the Brown County Court to proceed there.

The case is set for a jury trial in the Brown County Circuit Court starting April 22, 2013.

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