Evolving Legal Strategies in Wisconsin

The Journal-Sentinel reports on the evolution of the legal arguments against the Wisconsin legislation that would curtail public employee collective bargaining rights.

Wednesday, Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne filed an amended complaint in circuit court in which he said GOP lawmakers had violated the constitution when a legislative conference committee voted on the budget-repair bill with restricted public access to the Capitol and without providing adequate public notice first.

The state constitution says that “the doors of each house shall be kept open except when the public welfare shall require secrecy.” Republicans have argued that there was adequate public access and that they followed legislative rules requiring less notice of the vote.

Ozanne’s complaint also added Democratic lawmakers and the entire Legislature to the list of defendants alongside GOP legislative leaders.

State lawyers for the GOP lawmakers have said they are protected by legal immunity while the Legislature is in session. But the Democratic leaders from both houses on the conference committee – Sen. Mark Miller (D-Monona) and Rep. Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) – have waived their immunity, Ozanne said Wednesday in a separate filing with an appeals court in Madison.

The district attorney is seeking to fine only the Republicans on the conference committee since Barca strongly objected to the vote and Miller was not present.

The  Journal-Sentinel notes in a separate item that the litigation could turn on a 1943 state Supreme Court opinion. has also posted  of some of the legal issues involved in the litigation.