We all know how this turned out the first time, but for the record, Judge Maryann Sumi extended the temporary restraining order against the anti-union law which strips most collective bargaining rights from public employees, and warned of sanctions for any public official who continues to implement the law.
The court hearing arose from the publication of the law by the Legislative Reference Bureau, essentially a printer for the legislature. Republicans took that to mean the bill was now law, despite the fact that a temporary restraining order was already in place blocking the Secretary of State, the only constitutional officer with the power to publish laws, from any action. Judge Sumi was clearly angered by the disregard for her order displayed by the Scott Walker Administration in this case, saying that they acted in “willful defiance” of the TRO. She added that any further actions would lead to punishment.
Walker, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau), Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald (R-Horicon), Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen and Department of Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch all had contended the bill became law after it was published by the Legislative Reference Bureau.
In doing so, Sumi, who was appointed to the bench by former Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson, said they either “ignored or misunderstood” her original restraining order, which prohibited Democratic Secretary of State Douglas La Follette from publishing the law. According to statutes, the Secretary of State must publish a bill in the newspaper of record (Wisconsin State Journal) before it becomes a law.
“Apparently that language was either misunderstood or ignored, but what I said was the further implementation of Act 10 was enjoined. That is what I now want to make crystal clear,” Sumi said.
Sumi also noted that the Republicans could avoid the costly delays and legal proceedings by reconvening the legislature and properly approving the bill.
Judges definitely don’t like it when their rulings are completely ignored, I think that’s the moral here.
As Judge Sumi says, there’s a simple fix to the question at hand: simply run the meeting again, with the proper notice under open meetings laws. There’s no stopping the Republicans, who control both houses of the Legislature and who, according to them, are forwarding a non-fiscal bill with no quorum implications, from putting that in motion today. They have curiously refused to do so. Do they think they won’t have the votes?
Now, whether or not the bill has a fiscal impact is the subject of future litigation. But with the Democrats back from Wisconsin and the second half of the budget repair bill, the part with fiscal implications, set to come up for a vote, technically speaking this isn’t even a hurdle at the moment, granting that the Fab 14 could leave at any time.
UPDATE: Here’s the thing. Though the judge blocked the law again from being published by the Attorney General, there is a bit of a gray area as to whether it’s currently law now. Judge Sumi’s latest restraining order “does NOT declare that the bill is not law. Sumi said she needed to hear more arguments to that effect,” according to Jessica Arp. However, she did say she would sanction anyone who tried to implement the law.
None of this matters to the state Attorney General:
But minutes later, outside the court room, Assistant Attorney General Steven Means said the legislation “absolutely” is still in effect.
“There is so great a divergence now between the position that the attorney general is taking in this court and the court of appeals and now the Supreme Court and the interests of the secretary of state and the office of the secretary of state that I believe Mr. La Follette is entitled to independent counsel at the expense of the state,” said Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi.
The issue arose after La Follette grew frustrated that his attorneys were not asking questions of a witness.
“My attorney won’t ask a question on my behalf,” La Follette told the court.
The Attorney General gave an attorney to the Secretary of State who wouldn’t work on his behalf.
It’s hard to be surprised anymore by anything these guys do.