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Posted by on Mar 18, 2011 in Law, Politics | 0 comments

Judge Temporarily Blocks Wisconsin’s Anti-Collective Bargaining Law

This is being touted on some websites and progressive talk programs as a huge development, but it clearly seems to be a t-e-m-p-o-r-a-r-y block — a delay — in the implementation of Wisconsin’s GOP-rammed-through anti-collective bargaining law:

Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi issued a temporary restraining order Friday, barring the publication of a controversial new law that would sharply curtail collective bargaining for public employees.

Sumi’s order will prevent Secretary of State Doug La Follette from publishing the law until she can rule on the merits of the case. Dane County Ismael Ozanne is seeking to block the law because he says a legislative committee violated the state’s open meetings law.

Sumi said Ozanne was likely to succeed on the merits.

“It seems to me the public policy behind effective enforcement of the open meeting law is so strong that it does outweigh the interest, at least at this time, which may exist in favor of sustaining the validity of the (law),” she said.

The judge’s finding – at least for now – is a setback to Republican Gov. Scott Walker and a victory for opponents, who have spent weeks in the Capitol to protest the bill.

Asst. Atty. Gen Steven Means, who was part of the state’s legal team, said after the ruling that “we disagree with it.”

“And the reason they have appellate courts is because circuit court judges make errors and they have in this case.”

Means said the state would “entertain an appeal.”

“If the Legislature decides to go back and re-act on these provisions, they have the right to do that. And we will see what happens,” he said.

Means said he had no idea what the Legislature might do.

Means said no final decision had been made on an appeal. “But that’s where we are pointing at,” he said.

Given the huge number of top state and national Republican politicos, lawyers, and businesses with a huge interest in this law, it stands to reason that the chances that this will be anything but temporary are remote, no matter how it is hyped.

Here’s what the legal blog Vookh Conspiracy says:

The basis for the judge’s decision is the legislature’s alleged violation of the state’s open meetings law. A representative from the state Attorney General’s office says his office disagrees with the ruling and may appeal. In the alternative, if there was in fact a legal violation, the legislature may need to reenact the measure.

I would be curious if any readers know more about the law in question and the precedent for applying it to legislative actions. At the federal level, a court challenge to a law alleging that one house of Congress failed to follow its own rules would have tremendous difficulty, even if there were a strong case on the merits. (See, e.g, here.) States may adopt different standards and practices, however, and I’d be interested in hearing how Wisconsin (or other states) have handled such questions historically.

The key is “re-enact.” Is there any real, authentic, genuine doubt that should Gov. Scott Brown and his GOP majority decide to revote that no matter waht the clamor, no matter what is going on with recalls, and no matter how many people protested outside it will pass?

The bigger question is how this plays out in courts — and elections — further down the road. Consider this a detour.