The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that the controversial collective bargaining reforms passed by the State Legislature in March can go into effect. The 4-3 ruling found that circuit-court judge Maryann Sumi, exceeded her authority in overturning the law:
The court found a committee of lawmakers was not subject to the state’s open meetings law, and so did not violate that law when they hastily approved the measure and made it possible for the Senate to take it up. In doing so, the Supreme Court overruled a Dane County judge who had struck down the legislation, ending one challenge to the law even as new challenges are likely to emerge.
The majority opinion was by Justices Michael Gableman, David Prosser, Patience Roggensack and Annette Ziegler. The other three justices – Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson and Justices Ann Walsh Bradley and N. Patrick Crooks – concurred in part and dissented in part…
Legislative leaders had said they would have inserted the limits on collective bargaining into the state budget late Tuesday if the court hadn’t acted by then. But the high court ruled just before that budget debate was to begin…
In its decision, the state’s high court concluded that “choices about what laws represent wise public policy for the state of Wisconsin are not within the constitutional purview of the courts.”
Frankly, the court’s decision shouldn’t come as surprise to anyone, and despite what some will argue the court’s decision has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with separation of powers, a fact noted by the court in it’s decision:
¶6 IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that all orders and judgments of the Dane County Circuit Court in Case No. 2011CV1244 are vacated and declared to be void ab initio. State ex rel. Nader v. Circuit Court for Dane Cnty., No. 2004AP2559-W, unpublished order (Wis. S. Ct. Sept. 30, 2004) (wherein this court vacated the prior orders of the circuit court in the same case).
¶7 This court has granted the petition for an original action because one of the courts that we are charged with supervising has usurped the legislative power which the Wisconsin Constitution grants exclusively to the legislature….
¶9 Although all orders that preceded the circuit court’s judgment in Case No. 2011CV1244 may be characterized as moot in some respects, the court addresses whether a court can enjoin publication of a bill. The court does so because whether a court can enjoin a bill is a matter of great public importance and also because it appears necessary to confirm that Goodland remains the law that all courts must follow. State v. Cramer, 98 Wis. 2d 416, 420, 296 N.W.2d 921 (1980) (noting that we consider questions that have become moot “where the question is one of great public importance . . . or of public interest,” or “where the problem is likely to recur and is of sufficient importance to warrant a holding which will guide trial courts in similar circumstances”). Accordingly, because the circuit court did not follow the court’s directive in Goodland, it exceeded its jurisdiction, invaded the legislature’s constitutional powers under Article IV, Section 1 and Section 17 of the Wisconsin Constitution, and erred in enjoining the publication and further implementation of the Act.
¶10 Article IV, Section 17 of the Wisconsin Constitution vests the legislature with the constitutional power to “provide by law” for publication. The legislature has set the requirements for publication. However, the Secretary of State has not yet fulfilled his statutory duty to publish a notice of publication of the Act in the official state newspaper, pursuant to Wis. Stat. § 14.38(10)(c). Due to the vacation of the circuit court’s orders, there remain no impediments to the Secretary of State fulfilling his obligations under § 14.38(10)(c).
¶11 IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that we have concluded that in enacting the Act, the legislature did not employ a process that violated Article IV, Section 10 of the Wisconsin Constitution, which provides in relevant part: “The doors of each house shall be kept open except when the public welfare shall require secrecy.” The doors of the senate and assembly were kept open to the press and members of the public during the enactment of the Act. The doors of the senate parlor, where the joint committee on conference met, were open to the press and members of the public. WisconsinEye broadcast the proceedings live. Access was not denied. There is no constitutional requirement that the legislature provide access to as many members of the public as wish to attend meetings of the legislature or meetings of legislative committees.
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¶13 It also is argued that the Act is invalid because the legislature did not follow certain notice provisions of the Open Meetings Law for the March 9, 2011 meeting of the joint committee on conference. It is argued that Wis. Stat. § 19.84(3) required 24 hours notice of that meeting and such notice was not given. It is undisputed that the legislature posted notices of the March 9, 2011 meeting of the joint committee on conference on three bulletin boards, approximately 1 hour and 50 minutes before the start of the meeting. In the posting of notice that was done, the legislature relied on its interpretation of its own rules of proceeding. The court declines to review the validity of the procedure used to give notice of the joint committee on conference….
Bottom line: this a sweeping victory for Governor Scott Walker and the Republicans in the state legislature, and stinging rebuke of judge Sumi’s purely partisan judicial activism. The only open question is how this ruling will effect next month’s recall elections? I’m not convinced will have any significant impact, but given the furor surrounding the Prosser/Kloppenburg race, it may turn out to animate the left far more than they would otherwise be… Time will tell.