June 14, 2011

Of course, this is why the race between Prosser and Kloppenburg was so critical to both sides. The Wisconsin Supreme Court leans toward the ultra-conservative side of the spectrum with Prosser on it. And so it goes.

Via the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

Madison - Acting with unusual speed, the state Supreme Court on Tuesday reinstated Gov. Scott Walker's plan to all but end collective bargaining for tens of thousands of public workers.

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.

Update: Via WisPolitics Budget, the link to the justices' decision.

Some examples from the decision -- no partisan language here, oh no:

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.

...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.

But of course, the substituted bill was done behind closed doors. Which they address here:

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.

Update 2: Here's some quotes from Justice Shirley Abrahamson's dissent:

On the timing:

Today the majority announces for the first time that it is accepting the case. And today the majority decides the case.[3]

I write to emphasize that in a case turning on separation of powers and whether the legislature must abide by the Open Meetings Law and the Wisconsin Constitution in adopting the Budget Repair Bill, it is imperative that this court carefully abide by its authority under the Constitution and follow its own rules and procedures.

At its most basic level this case is about the need for government officials to follow the Wisconsin Constitution and the laws.

The District Attorney's challenge to the Budget Repair Bill asserts that the Open Meetings Law is a codification of the mandates expressly provided for in the Wisconsin Constitution. The District Attorney relies on Article IV, Section 10, "[t]he doors of each house shall be kept open," and also on Article I, Section 4: "The right of the people peaceably to assemble, to consult for the common good, and to petition the government, or any department thereof, shall never be abridged."

The legislature declared in the Open Meetings Law that the legislature would comply with the Law to the fullest extent "in conformance with article IV, section 10" of the Wisconsin Constitution.[4] Statutes are interpreted to give effect to every word. A court assumes that the legislature says what it means, and means what it says. The words in a statute are not to be treated as rhetorical flair.

Justice Crooks' dissent was even more pointed:

It is rather astonishing that the court would choose to decide to take and decide such an unusual and complex case without benefit of the complete record. 


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