Wisconsin Collective Bargaining Bill Struck Down

Dane Country circuit judge Maryann Sumi struck down the controversial Wisconsin law restricting public employee bargaining rights this morning. According to Judge Sumi, the law is invalid because the Wisconsin legislature violated the state’s Open Records law when it passed the bill. Here is the opinion and coverage from the Journal Sentinel. Judge Sumi’s opinion concludes:

This case is the exemplar of values protected by the Open Meetings Law: transparency in government, the right of citizens to participate in their government, and respect for the rule of law. It is not this court’s business to determine whether 2011 Wisconsin Act 10 is good public policy or bad public policy; that is the business of the Legislature. It is this court’s responsibility, however, to apply the rule of law to the facts before it.

As an aside, whether or not Judge Sumi properly applied the state’s Open Records law, the opinion’s rhetorical flourishes are a bit much — something you could say about virtually any state court opinion addressing a state law issue that makes a half-dozen references to Marbury v. Madison and even has a subsection with a “Marbury v. Madison” caption.

UPDATE: The Journal-Sentinel story has been expanded significantly since I first posted the link. Among the new material is a discussion of the state attorney general’s office concerns about Judge Sumi.

Steve Means, the No. 3 official at the state Department of Justice, said the agency and GOP Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen have been surprised at Sumi’s handling of the case, and in a letter Wednesday agency attorneys asked whether Sumi would recuse herself from it.

“Obviously, we’re disappointed in the ruling. We do think it reflects a number of legal errors, but it’s for the appellate courts at this point,” Means said.

Means said courts have no authority to overturn the acts of lawmakers except as granted by the state constitution. He said that Sumi had made her decision without holding a trial or making clear beforehand that no trial would be held. . . .

The Department of Justice letter says that Sumi can no longer be considered impartial in the light of the brief and asks whether she will recuse herself from the Ozanne case.

“I’m not going to say she didn’t have the right,” Means said of Sumi’s decision to file the brief. “She did, but that carries some consequences.”

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