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Intro: "A Dane County judge overstepped her authority when she voided Gov. Scott Walker's measure limiting public sector collective bargaining, the state Supreme Court ruled Tuesday in a fractious 4-3 decision."

A protester shouts as he holds an American flag after storming the State Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin, 03/09/11. (photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
A protester shouts as he holds an American flag after storming the State Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin, 03/09/11. (photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Wisconsin High Court Sides With Walker on Anti-Union Law

By Ed Treleven, Wisconsin State Journal

15 June 11


Dane County judge overstepped her authority when she voided Gov. Scott Walker's measure limiting public sector collective bargaining, the state Supreme Court ruled Tuesday in a fractious 4-3 decision.

In a nine-page decision - followed by about 60 pages of concurring and dissenting opinions - the court's conservative majority said Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi "usurped the legislative power which the Wisconsin constitution grants exclusively to the Legislature" when she voided the law.

Sumi ruled that a legislative conference committee violated the state's open meetings law when it hastily met in March to amend the bill, allowing the Republican-controlled Senate to get around a boycott by Senate Democrats.

But in a stinging dissent, Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson accused the authors of the court's order - Justices Patience Roggensack, Annette Ziegler and Michael Gableman, along with concurring Justice David Prosser - of naked partisanship in rushing out a decision that contained "unsupported conclusions."

State Department of Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch said DOA is reviewing the order "and will begin implementing (the law) when appropriate."

The court's order came just as the state Assembly was preparing to reinsert the collective bargaining language into the two-year budget Tuesday night to move beyond the legal impasse. Members of the Legislature's Republican majority greeted the order with delight.

"We've been saying since day one that Republicans passed the budget repair bill correctly, so frankly this isn't much of a surprise," state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said. "We followed the law when the bill was passed, simple as that."

State Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, said she was "thrilled."

"We knew we hadn't done anything wrong," she said. "Today was a day of justice. Today is a day of victory."

The court, however, declined to step into the dispute over whether the March 9 conference committee meeting violated the state's open meetings law, leaving it to the Legislature to set its own rules.

Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, said the court's decision validates secrecy by the Legislature.

"The majority of the Supreme Court is essentially saying that the Legislature is above the law. It's now clear that unless the constitution is amended, the Legislature is free to ignore any laws on the books," Barca said.

Alex Hanna, co-president of the Teaching Assistants' Association, questioned the timing of the ruling as "almost too perfect" and said it's an "incredibly awful precedent."

Majority: Doors Were Open

The court majority also said Sumi erred in barring publication of the law by Secretary of State Douglas La Follette, and it ruled that a constitutional requirement that the doors to both houses of the Legislature be open during business was met. When the conference committee met, the court said, the doors to the Senate and Assembly and the room where the conference committee was meeting were open to the press and to the public.

"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," the court wrote.

In his concurrence, Prosser wrote that he was "troubled" by Sumi's "apparent indifference" to established law allowing the Legislature to operate by its own rules.

"The circuit court second-guessed not only four legislative leaders but also the Senate chief clerk - an attorney - when it determined that no senate or assembly rule ... governed the notice requirement of the special session conference committee," Prosser wrote. "The circuit court, in effect, told the Senate chief clerk that he did not know what the Senate rule meant."

Prosser wrote that only a clear constitutional violation would justify voiding the collective bargaining law, and then only after the law was properly published.

'Partisan Slant'

In her dissent, Abrahamson said the high court erred in taking the case up directly instead of waiting for one party or the other to appeal a lower court's ruling. She singled out Prosser, whose concurrence, she wrote, "is long on rhetoric and long on story-telling that appears to have a partisan slant."

Abrahamson said she agreed with Justice Patrick Crooks' separate dissent, that the case should come to the Supreme Court as part of an "orderly appellate review of the circuit court's order with a full opinion."

"Only with a reasoned, accurate analysis can a court assure the litigants and the public that a decision is made on the basis of facts and law," Abrahamson wrote, "free from a judge's personal ideology and free from external pressure by the executive or legislative branches, by partisan political parties, by public opinion or by special interest groups."

Crooks wrote that the majority reached "a hasty decision" that doesn't address important questions about the Legislature's constitutional requirements to provide public access to its hearings and the courts' role in holding it to those requirements.

"Those who would rush to judgment on these matters are essentially taking the position that getting this opinion out is more important than doing it right and getting it right," he wrote. "It is rather astonishing that the court would choose to decide such an unusual and complex case without benefit of a complete record."

State Journal reporters Dan Simmons, Clay Barbour and Mary Spicuzza contributed to this report. your social media marketing partner


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+51 # Capn Canard 2011-06-15 09:37
The wealthy interests will do anything to hold onto power. No law will stand in their way and if a law does stop them then they will get wooden puppets like Scott Walker to make new laws. It is the power of wealth to usurp democracy.
+2 # Pickwicky 2011-06-17 11:38
How true Capn--everyone pucker up and kiss the middle and working classes goodbye.
-60 # MidwestTom 2011-06-15 10:06
I am not in Wisconsin, but when I read that Federal Employees on average make twice what those in private industry do, and state employees on average now are paid 15% more than their equivalents in private industry, plus have much better vacation and health plans, I find it hard to have a lot of sympathy for state workers. Governments in general tend to lay people off when times get tight, while private industry tends to cut hours and pay, but tries to keep the employment base together. Private industry wages are down on average 7% over the past two years according to Bloomberg.
+45 # Judy Gottlieb 2011-06-15 11:22
to Midwest Tom: You must be a paid shill because the facts you offer are false. I worked as a wastewater engineer for the state of Wis for almost 30 yrs, was recognized by my peers in the mid 1990s for the quality of my service, and I can assure you that in the world of consultants, no experienced engineer would accept the wages I got. $75K. Private engineers with equivalent experience and education probably make double that. It was much worse for the biologists and others who didn't have an engineering degree but had a comparable professional education. You speak about things you know nothing about. Federal employees do not make double the wages of comparably educated and experienced private workers. You are being fed some line of b***sh*t by a right wing lie generating organization. Go out and talk personally with 10 federal and 10 state employees, and then write something you know from your own experience.
+41 # conniejo 2011-06-15 11:27
Tom - You are mistaken. Whatever you read was not a factual report by an independent, non-partisan body or individual. Every study done in the past decade or more shows Wisconsin state workers making less than their counterparts in private industry, even if one includes the deferred compensation (health "benefits" and retirement contributions) that the State pays. For a non-partisan analysis of WI state worker pay, see: BUT, this really is not the issue. What is happening in Wisconsin (and Ohio, Michigan, Florida, Maine, and other places) is right out of a single playbook created by the Koch Brothers and their ilk and adopted by their purchased government officials. The most important part of that playbook is to split the middle class and turn private against public employees. By focusing on public employees who are "bleeding taxpayers dry," the uberwealthy take the focus off how they are stealing from ALL middle class workers. Please don't be duped by this divide and conquer strategy of the wealthy. We need to work together to keep our beautiful country from becoming a corporatocracy, run by the upper 1% FOR the upper 1% at the expense of the remaining 99%. If we don't work together, we will find ourselves in a virtual state of serfdom to the corporate overlords.
+40 # granny 2011-06-15 11:29
Poor Tom! If you want to go back to sweat shops and the related conditions, feel free. But know what you are in for. If public employee unions can be smashed, so can private industry unions Know, too, that the public employee unions gave the "Governor" every concession he asked for. It was NOT about budget or money. It was and is about his Napoleonic need to swagger and bully and pretend to be a big man. And it was about pleasing his big-money friends and feeding his Koch habit. And about sneaking around at late hours and pushing for votes in secret and "extraordinary" sessions.
+26 # michelle 2011-06-15 12:35
Think about it Tom. Maybe the answer should be to improve the working conditions in the private sector through unionizing rather than get rid of the gains the workers in the public sector have managed to secure. Just maybe all of us are entitled to a reasonable standard of living. How revolutionary.
+5 # KittatinyHawk 2011-06-15 14:16
However if you have these and were willing to give up cuts to help budget than the Koch Walker should have worked with the Employees. But to take away rights of employees without allowing a referendum on the matter across the State Is Nazi like.

Perhaps you work for yourself or in a low based pay job or for someone who just needs robots, but these people whether reachers or white collar workers in State Jobs have rights...when you start taking them away you are no better than Bin Laden, Ghaddafi etc. Remember they do not care whose rights they take away..including Yours
+8 # Steve S 2011-06-15 14:47
It is possible to misuse statistics to give the impression that government employees are paid more than private industry workers. For example, it is likely that professors at public universities are better paid than Wal-Mart cashiers, or that doctors at state-run hospitals make more than landscape day laborers. But such statistics are clearly misleading; government jobs _should_ pay more if they have more advanced professional requirements.
+6 # Bill Bjornson 2011-06-16 00:02
Quoting MidwestTom:
I am not in Wisconsin, but when I read that Federal Employees on average make twice what those in private industry do, and state employees on average now are paid 15% more than their equivalents in private industry, plus have much better vacation and health plans, I find it hard to have a lot of sympathy for state workers. Governments in general tend to lay people off when times get tight, while private industry tends to cut hours and pay, but tries to keep the employment base together. Private industry wages are down on average 7% over the past two years according to Bloomberg.

“They must find it difficult…Those who have taken authority as the truth, rather than truth as the authority.”-Ger ald Massey, Egyptologist
+39 # Rara Avis 2011-06-15 10:41
Being from Wisconsin I can tell you that this decision is an invitation to all units of government to do what they like in secret. Even the Democrats in the legislature were not properly notified of what was happening the night the law was passed. Justice Prosser said the proper 24 hour notification was given. It was not. That is factually incorrect. And the two hour bar for emergencies (and we will assume this whas though it was not) also was not met.

The majority said the legislature itself can decide what laws it obeys and what laws it ignores. The Constitution of the State of Wisconsin now is a meaningless piece of paper consigned to a drafty library archive.

Look for Wisconsin so-called lawmakers to do things in the coming months without regard to anybody but their wealthy donors and no longer will they have to worry about anything getting in their way.

Even the recall elections make it clear that short of armed rebellion here nothing can be done.
+38 # Tamsin Taylor 2011-06-15 10:53
Isn't this the same David Prosser who stole the Supreme Court election just a little while ago? Somehow County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus, who had worked for Assembly Republican Caucus when Prosser was Speaker, "found" just enough votes to turn his opponent's lead into a loss two days after the election. It was a "dramatic turn of events" indeed.
+29 # conniejo 2011-06-15 11:31
Yes; the same David Prosser who said in his campaign literature that he was looking forward to supporting Scott Walker's agenda. Supreme Court elections/appoi ntments should be everyone's number one concern. People who voted for Bush are responsible for our "Supreme" Court allowing corporations to buy elections. It doesn't matter if you'd enjoy a beer with the candidate. What matters is will s/he appoint fair judges.
+22 # granny 2011-06-15 11:33
Maybe the word "coup" is the most appropriate term for the way in which the Rethuglicans have stolen Wisconsin. Gotta give them credit: they planned the coup carefully, paid the right people, and took the right bribe money, even as they sold their souls to the devil.
+24 # Speaksense 2011-06-15 11:07
Is it any surprise that the "Justice" who won under suspicious circumstances is rushing to pay back those who helped him secure a "victory"? If you still had any doubts that justice in America is no longer secure, just wait until it's you and yours who need it. Today it's firefighters, teachers and public workers who are being cast as the enemy but soon it will be anyone and everyone who threatens the narrative.
This case is just a glimpse into the coming fascism we will all face under of a Corporate controlled judiciary and legislature.
-34 # DesignCreature 2011-06-15 11:07
Isn't colletive bargain just a nice way of saying "our way or we strike and close you down until we get what we want"? Using the word collective as opposed to strike will get a much better review for the public that really doesn't understand half of what they agree to.
+21 # Bob Griffin 2011-06-15 12:40
Collective bargaining and striking are not the same thing. Collective bargaining is the means by which an employer and an employee representative may seek agreement on wages and benefits. Lockouts and strikes are the responses by employers and unions respectively to a collapse of negotiation.
-7 # DesignCreature 2011-06-15 13:45
I figured I'd get hammered on my post. I thank you for taking the time to nicely respond to my question. However, I still see them as one and the same. Maybe I need some fresh air. Again, thanks, Bob G.
+24 # granny 2011-06-15 11:21
We must gear up for 2012 and throw all the slime buckets out. And we must hold the media accountable when they do not give proper coverage to all the evil things being done by Walker and his gang of thugs.
+18 # bluescat48 2011-06-15 11:55
What would one expect, fascists backing a fascist.
+14 # Saberoff 2011-06-15 12:09
The so-called justices, numbering four including Prosser, and thus the majority, that ruled against Sumi (the law, and democracy) were by-and-large simply purchased here by Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce. To put an end to their End of American Democracy Campaign, one of two (perhaps three) things has to happen: Get private money out of The People's election process; Somehow convince voters that television commercials LIE, and to TURN THEM OFF (please folks, if you don't know the consequences of your vote, then DON’T VOTE; stay home! Learn. Get over yourself. The lines are clearly drawn); and, if possible, uncover the myriad ways our elections are being stolen, and stop them. We have built our society around laws, and when we allow corrupt lawmakers and stacked courts - gained through ad campaigns, pride and greed, but mostly ignorance - to keep us down, we're dead.
+10 # in deo veritas 2011-06-15 12:26
Any of these fascist SOB's siding with Walker, if possible should be impeached or recalled. They are a disgrace to WI and the entire USA. Swastika armbands would look very stylish on their black robes.
+16 # Todd Williams 2011-06-15 12:27
You think Wisconsin is bad? How about Ohio? Our dear Gov. Kasich and his Rethuglican legislature just reneged on a deal made with casino developers that's put a halt to construction on about 4 casinos, throwing hundreds of people out of work. It seems that the earlier deal made to tax these casinos on their winnings wasn't enough for the pigs. Kasich now instead wants to tax the casinos on the total amount of bets made. Of course, Kasich and company have already screwed the public employees, refused to take Federal money for high speed rail development, and is forging ahead with plans to privatize more Ohio prisons as well as the Ohio Turnpike. Is there no limit to what these pigs will do?
+16 # michelle 2011-06-15 12:32
This is no surprise with the 'election' of Prosser after county clerk Kathy Nicholaus found a magical 7500 votes for Prosser on her computer. Democracy is dead folks. The votes aren't really counted and haven't been since 2000. How are we to make change if we can't do it through the democratic process of voting? Marx had it right. It's time for the workers of the world to unite.
Republicans here in California swear an oath of fealty to their boss/noble Grover Norquist. While our budget is stalled, lawmakers will not be paid. I wonder how many republicans will receive a check from conservative groups to hold up the budget. We, the people, are now powerless to make change through the system. The larger question includes things like why isn't Kathy Nicholaus prosecuted or at least fired. I don't know about the rest of you but I am tired of all of this nonsense.
+10 # Gurka 2011-06-15 12:34
Bye bye, Collective bargaining, Hello Stone Age!
+13 # davidhp 2011-06-15 12:34
Welcome to the fascist states of corporate America - where the rich are citizens and the working class and poor are serfs - it is time to give up on the two party system and get a working class party which is shilling to corporate robber barons.

These politicians and their corporate masters are waging war on us, time to fight back with everything we have.
+12 # Lulie 2011-06-15 12:36
It's amazing how many workers are content to have no power over their own lives. They sit back and trust that management will do right by them. The pay, hours, and benefits that past generations of workers struggled and even died for are being taken away, and those at the top are getting obscenely rich. Meanwhile, many middle- and lower-class workers make excuses for their masters, and claim that everything's fine.
Government employees are no better or worse than those in the private sector, and even if it's true that they have better perks, it's because they organized and sacrificed a lot to get them.
+4 # sark 2011-06-15 13:22
To back up those posting about the supreme court election;
BradBlog has excellent coverage.

Also, posters may be interested in Richard Charnin's Wisconsin 2010 Senate True Vote Analysis

+2 # Saberoff 2011-06-15 14:46
So much to know and understand. Very interesting. Thanks for sharing this!
+2 # Coffeewriter 2011-06-15 17:48
The Democrats under Obama won't help the average Joe, and of course the Republicans never will. America really needs a new political party that cares about the majority of Americans.

Most people are wage-earners - by far. And if all of those people stood together and supported each other and a new brand of leadership, a vast majority of the country's ills could be healed. Under the current two-party 'alliance', nothing will change except that the rich will get richer...
+4 # DPM 2011-06-15 18:43
It makes little difference whether what was done was legal or not. The idea is that workers rights are to be taken away. Workers are little more than drones for corporate. Republicans are corporate soldiers and Democrats are...yeah what are Democrats? Oh yeah...a distraction to make us feel there is actually a choice for us. If there were, wouldn't we make an intelligent one? It's not happening. Why? Because our politicians, all bought, keep us fighting amongst ourselves while they reap the rewards. Most of the media, corporate management and politicians need to be "reorganized". I just haven't figured out how.
+3 # DesignCreature 2011-06-15 21:22
I guess before I am banished from this site forever, I want to say I am NOT in favor of what the governor has done. Nor any other Repug or Dem. I don't think ANY branch of government has the right to tell us, at least in this case, what the workers can and can't do. It is up to the people themselves that are involved and should not be dictated to by the state. Whether the results are not what everyone wants at least they have the right to choose! THEY not some pol making a political statement for his cronies.
+4 # bobby t. 2011-06-15 22:24
the american labor movement died when we, the workers of america, and i was a teacher in new york, failed to support the air controllers when reagan fired them.
i begged my fellow teachers to go on a wildcat strike to spread accross the country, with the teamsters, and the cops, and firemen, and the soldiers, to have a general strike at the times. they all thought i was crazy. was i?
teachers are mostly cowards. they will not have a complete state strike like in florida, where in 1968 the entire state went out against another sob governer, a republican who did some horrible things, and guess what? they lost, and many were fired. a stupid strike, where they could have won if only the big counties, like dade, broward, duvall, and pinellas, went out, and the others supported the strikers with money for food, rent, etc. these things are horrible, but if all workers don't work together, we are all doomed...there is supposed to be counter-vailing power in america. big business vs. big labor. now, big labor is little labor. move over slave.....i will take fries with that.
+4 # Lulie 2011-06-16 17:55
All workers need to get some backbone. Teachers are not any more cowardly than anyone else. In fact, teachers' unions have hit the line long after others have given up.
+3 # shortonfaith 2011-06-16 00:11
I hate to be the anarchist here but if the Governor & his allies, including the justice dept, aren't following the laws, then why do the citizen feel they have to? Why haven't the people just taken over the capital & thrown the bums out for good? Maybe place them in jail for not supporting the will of the people? Put in place your own government now, before it's too late. By the time the vote comes around too much damage may be done to clear up. Look at the mess Bush left behind & how hard & long it's taken just to re-establish some of the thought processes. And the cost is in the many $10s of trillions. Isn't this is too important to allow to continue. They will soon pass a law outlawing the special election & then what? Fight fire with fire, Eye of an eye, Always bring a gun to a knife fight, all those things & more.
I heard on the radio today the Justice didn't even read the law, just passed it. Isn't reading it first mandatory? Where there is no Justice, there is no peace.
0 # VSweet 2011-06-16 19:19
Sadly, we will see many things coming from our own people within government leadership. They will do everything to rub mud in our faces. It is known fact that men will be lovers of themselves in the latter days. We are the generation to witness this and much more.

Could our country be gearing up for the NEW WORLD ORDER?
+1 # bobby t. 2011-06-17 07:59
didn't you see the movie network? the new world order happened when reagan fired the air controllers. when the workers of this country allowed him to do that, workers were fininhed. i believe that the heads of the unions were working along with the heads of corporations at that time. company unions. now, after the bailout, the auto workers have to do what the government says, and if the government is right wing, then so be it.
freedom? give the people freedom, and in ten days they will come back and ask to be put in chains in order to get bread.
+1 # bobby t. 2011-06-17 09:01
when the fact of the matter is that we ought to be having a deficit in a time of recession. It’s an incredible propaganda achievement, for the Republicans particularly, to advocate a tax cut for the very wealthy that is extremely unpopular and that will of course substantially increase the deficit, and at the very same time present themselves as deficit hawks who are trying to protect future generations. But that’s only part of it, because at the very same time, Obama declared a tax increase for federal workers — it was called a pay freeze, but a pay freeze for workers in the public sector is the same as a tax increase on those workers. So here, a lot of shouting about how we’re cutting taxes and overcoming the deficit, and at the same time we’re raising taxes on public-sector workers.

This is part of the large propaganda campaign to try to undermine the public sector: demonizing teachers, police, and firemen with all kinds of fabrications about how they are overpaid, when in fact they’re underpaid relative to the skill levels in the private sector — denouncing their pensions and so on. These are major propaganda efforts, a kind of class war, and that ought to be combated, and I think that public opinion can be organized to combat it.
norm comsky in an interview with m. lerner....

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