Wisconsin judge invalidates union bargaining law

[JURIST] Dane County Circuit Court [official website] Judge Maryann Sumi on Thursday voided [opinion, PDF; findings of fact, PDF] the Budget Repair Bill [Senate Bill 11 text, PDF], Wisconsin's controversial measure limiting the collective bargaining rights of public employee unions, for violating the state's open meeting rules. Sumi, the judge who temporarily enjoined the law [JURIST report], clarified that her ruling is not on the legality of the law, but merely the violation of procedure. Wisconsin's open meetings law [materials] requires, "24 hours' notice, or two hours' notice if 'good cause' is shown." She clarified that legislative privilege does not bar this requirement:

This case is the exemplar of values protected by 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 11 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.
Republican state Senator Scott Fitzgerald [official website] has been the only supporter of the law to comment [press release] on the ruling, saying: "There's still a much larger separation-of-powers issue: whether one Madison judge can stand in the way of the other two democratically-elected branches of government. The Supreme Court is going to have the ultimate ruling, and they're still scheduled to hear the issue on June 6."

In March, Sumi issued an order [JURIST report] clarifying that the temporary restraining order prohibits not only publication of the bill, but implementation of its provisions as well. Sumi's order was issued in response to debate among government officials [JURIST report] that the law went into effect after it was published on the Wisconsin Legislative Bureau's website. The judge's temporary restraining order stemmed from a lawsuit [JURIST report] filed earlier in March month by District Attorney Ismael Ozanne claiming that Republican legislators passed the bill in violation of Wisconsin's open meetings law.

 

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