Wisconsin Judge Issues Temporary Restraining Order Against Anti-Union Law

The Los Angeles Times appears to have broken the story, that a Wisconsin judge has blocked the implementation of the Wisconsin legislation against public sector unions. Notice that the challenge to the validity of the law was based on procedural grounds. One reader insisted no court would ever take up that sort of challenge. Funny, this judge looks pretty interested in trying that case.

From the Los Angeles Times:

A Wisconsin judge on Friday issued a temporary restraining order blocking the new state law that curbs collective bargaining rights for most public employees.

Dane County Judge Maryann Sumi …was acting on a request by Dist. Atty. Ismael Ozanne, a Democrat, who had filed a lawsuit contending a legislative committee had violated Wisconsin’s open meetings law by pushing the measure onto the floor. That maneuver was key in unblocking the legislative stalemate and allowing the bill to be signed by Walker on March 11.

Dave Dayen at FireDogLake provides additional commentary:

Sumi stressed that she was not judging on the merits of the legislation, but on the specifics of the open meeting requirements. Wisconsin law requires that public meetings are announced with 24 hours notice, 2 hours if there’s some extenuating circumstance which prevents advanced planning. The meeting in question, the conference committee, actually had less than two hours notice. “I have been shown no rule that overrides the statutory requirement,” Judge Sumi said.

The legislature in Wisconsin could simply re-do the conference committee, under the rules, and pass the bill again. Since they believe it’s a “non-fiscal” bill, quorum requirements would not apply. Alternatively, with the Fab 14 Senators back in Madison, they could just pass the budget repair bill they wanted all along, and have the quorum to do so, unless the Democrats leave the state again.

But this temporary restraining order will stop the implementation scheduled for March 25. And it drags out the process once again, keeping it in the headlines. This is not at all what Scott Walker and the Republicans facing recall elections wanted to see.

In addition, it gives time for other legal cases to be brought. There could be municipal challenges that the law’s changes in pension contributions violates “home rule” provisions that allow the cities and towns to govern their own pensions for their workers.

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  1. Ina Deaver

    Yves, as I understand it, the issue the reader may have been referring to is the old “political question” theory of abstention – at least in Federal courts. There are some things that are so intertwined with the way that another branch does business that the judiciary just won’t get involved out of deference.

    The open meetings act, on the other hand, is a statute. The legislature has bound itself to perform its function according to certain disclosure rules, and codified that. The court should feel fairly comfortable about interpreting a statute. I expect there to be a defense that it is not a justiciable issue, or that the Legislature didn’t intend to bind itself to the open meeting act – just everybody else – bla bla bla. I’m sure that you can come up with some of the same things I can. But any statutory handle is a good one as far as courts are usually concerned.

    1. bob goodwin

      Since I am the reader, I will pipe into your comments. I am no expert on the open meeting rules, but will parrot what republicans are saying: they met the letter of the law. The judge will sort that out.

      In Yves previous posts she was claiming they ‘split the law’ wrong to overcome quorum rules. Those were the points that I felt no court would touch.

      But frankly I am surprised on the open meeting challenge by a court. If a party was bypassing the open meeting law as a form of trickery to obfuscate their true intentions I think you can make a good case for court action. Where the intention was long telegraphed, and the democrats left the state to stop discussion, I don’t think you can make a case that a specific meeting was relevant to the outcome. There really is no doubt that absent the quorum issue the bill was going to pass.

  2. ReaderOfTeaLeaves

    Open public meetings statutes are about as straightforward as laws get. They are about as open to interpretation as the instructions for rotating car tires.

    1. Punch My Ticket

      I live in a jurisdiction, not Wisconsin, where open meeting statutes are routinely ignored by a local government. No one cares. I can’t get the state to pay attention, even though the municipality is a creature of the state.

      1. attempter

        There are two fundamental misconceptions in this, one structural and one empirical.

        1. The empirically disproven notion is that we can petition higher levels of government to get better results at lower levels. But we know that doesn’t work in a terminal kleptocracy. On the contrary, the only way we’re going to take back the country is through direct action at the lower levels. We’ll need to become de facto governments and then supplant the existing fraudulent de jure ones.

        2. It’s exactly upside down to think with Hobbes and other authoritarian political philosophers, including the framers of the US Constitution, that sovereignty exists at the higest elite level and then trickles authority down upon lower governments.

        On the contrary, sovereignty resides only in the people, so by definition the lower the level of government, the more potentially legitimate it is. That’s the essence of true federalism. So it’s precisely upside down to think “the town is a creature of the state”. I’m not talking about whatever the illegitimate technicalities are of state law where you are. I’m talking about the overarching fact that towns and states are creations of the people. A legitimate system would only confederate upward.

        So here too, the only possible solution is to recognize that the only legitimate power is lying abdicated and neglected at the local level, and start restituting that power to ourselves.

        1. Κασσάνδρα τριάντα

          sovereignty resides only in the people, so by definition the lower the level of government, the more potentially legitimate

          We forget the de facto of this truism until something like Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Iran begins to transpire. Or something like the expulsion of Nixon. You don’t believe it — then you see it unfold before your very eyes. The sleeping Paul Bunyan stands up and speaks for itself. Res ipsa loquitur.

          Cives civilitates omnes localiter determinare expectate.
          ~~Marcus Aureolus~

          All politics is local.
          ~~Tip O’Neill~

  3. GYSC

    Typical baby whiner politicians (either side); when they lose they look for some dufus judge to get funny with the law. Total joke.

    1. Pixy Dust

      Dufus judge? Get funny with the law by requiring the law be adhered to? That’s a joke?
      I hope that was a snark.

  4. john

    Yes, the statutes are clear. One can hope the good folks in Wisconsin renew their vigorous attempts to ‘throw the bums out.’ If an elected official is willing to screw you once, you can count on the fact this person has no conscience, and should hold no public office—-these people like Scott Walker should be forced to work as, say, road pavers. These are the guys that follow the dump truck as it spews out hot tar—and the workers spread it out accordingly with handtools—you don’t need a conscience to spread hot tar.

    1. steelhead23

      No can do. I suspect that tar-spreading is a union job. Nope, the proper role of tar in this circumstance is as an adhesive for the application of feathers.

  5. David

    Imagine that. Not following the law when making a new law.

    I’m just waiting for this judge to be labeled an “activist”.

  6. Sam

    Scott gave the corporation a tax break so he could manufacture a “budget crisis.” What I never heard the Republicans say is how many jobs the corporation turned around created in Wisconsin as a result of the tax cuts. Skipped right over that part. Republicans in and of themselves seem to have abandoned their BS that “tax cuts create jobs.”

  7. bob goodwin

    The one reader was me :)

    Clearly a judge ruled in a way that I think is highly historically abnormal. I am still of the belief this will go the way the Rahm Emanuel decision went (he was thrown off the ballot, but then the decision was instantly rebuked by the higher court.)

    But as you said, Yves, I am over my head on this one.

  8. grunk

    In my state, the remedy for an open meetings/FOIA violation is a re-do. Ratify the vote taken at the “bad” meeting.

    Punch My Ticket is correct that governments routinely ignore open meeting/FOIA requirements, especially at the local level.

  9. mike

    I have a question on this. Can the State of Wisconsin tell it’s employees that only part of them have the right to collectively bargain? The police, firemen, and probably others (I don’t know) were exempted from this. Aren’t we all supposed to be treated equally under the law? Fourteenth Amendment protections.

  10. Comical Ali

    Funny, this judge

    ~~Yves Herself~

    This Economy Is So Bad that…

    The bank returned my check marked “Insufficient Funds” and I had to call them to ask if they meant me or THE BANK.

    al-Q has started a war just to jump start his economy.

    Exxon-Mobil laid off 25 Congressmen.

    Stock in Hot Wheels is trading higher than GM.

    The Mafia is laying off judges.

    Dead-eye Dick Cheney took his stockbroker hunting.

    I opened the mail and found a pre-declined credit card.

    I ordered a Whopper at Burger King and they asked me, “Can you afford fries with that?”

    McDonalds is selling a quarter-ouncer.

    CEO’s now play miniature golf.

    Beverly Hills parents fired their nannies and had to learn their kid’s names.

    A truckload of Americans was caught sneaking into Mexico.

    Motel Six has stopped leaving the red light on.

    Add one and pass it on

  11. Andre

    This country has yet to grow up. I’m just wondering, who is going to pay for this kinder-garden type of behavior?

Comments are closed.