Justices on the Wisconsin Supreme Court sharply questioned a county judge's decision to halt a law limiting collective bargaining for public employees yesterday.
Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne filed a lawsuit in March charging that the law was invalid because lawmakers violated a procedural rule preventing state lawmakers from locking their doors when in session. Judge Maryann Sumi agreed, striking down the law and prompting an appeal that yesterday commenced with the Wiscosin Supreme Court hearing arguments from both sides.
Some of the justices appeared to be wary of the notion that Sumi was overstepping her authority by trying to block the law from going into effect. Justice Michael Gableman said her decision raised the prospect of the judiciary taking an active role in stymying legislation, including preventing bills from being proposed.
Where does it stop? Gableman asked, according to Reuters.
Assistant Attorney General Kevin St. John, who was defending the law in his capacity as a lawyer for the administration of governor Scott Walker, also pressed this line of attack. He said that lawmakers disobeying the open meetings law did not override the statues of the collective bargaining law. Attorneys for Democratic legislators said that this argument diluted the open meetings law to the point that it would be meaningless.
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If the open meetings law doesn't mean anything to the Wisconsin Legislature... then it doesn't mean anything ever, said Robert Jambois, the attorney for Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, according to the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel.
The law in question was a highly contentious measure to strip some public employees of most of their collective bargaining rights. Championed by Walker and supported by Republican lawmakers, the legislation ignited furious protests that filled the capitol building and led Democratic lawmakers to flee the state in an attempt to forestall a vote.