Opponents of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s bill recasting negotiating rights for the state’s public-employee unions won a round in court today — and the judge hinted that they have a strong chance of winning overall. Judge Maryann Sumi issued a temporary restraining order blocking publication of the budget-repair bill, instructing the Secretary of State to hold off until Smith can rule on the merits:
Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi issued a temporary restraining order Friday, barring the publication of Gov. Scott Walker’s 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 – and allowing it to take effect – until she can rule on the merits of the case. Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne is seeking to block the law because he says a legislative committee violated the state’s open meetings law in passing the measure, which Walker signed on Friday.
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.
There have been varying opinions on whether the committee meeting required more advance notice than a note on the bulletin board, but Sumi appears to believe it did. A TRO is not usually granted unless the plaintiff has a substantial chance of winning the overall case. However, that statement also acknowledges that the legislature likely followed the law — which an appellate court might use to overturn the TRO and tell Sumi to stick to the statutes.
However, this is strictly a ruling on the process used to enact the law. If it came down to it, the Wisconsin legislature could simply pass it again, and it could do so rather quickly. The TRO is not based on any defect in the legislation itself.
I’d expect the legislature to take that up very quickly. I’d also expect some of the protesters to return in anticipation of that effort, although most of them probably won’t get away with taking more sick time to do so. Walker and the GOP could render this issue moot by Monday or Tuesday of next week, if need be, although they’d be wise not to tip their hand until Monday.
Update: Why issue a TRO today? Because, er … Sumi was going on vacation, as reported last Tuesday (via GR contributor Patrick Ishmael):
Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi warned she likely won’t decide whether to stop implementation of Gov. Scott Walker’s law when she hears testimony on a preliminary injunction on Friday. And after that hearing, Sumi said, she will be out of state on a family vacation until March 28, three days after the expected publication date of the bill.
Also, I wrote “Smith” rather than Sumi. My apologies for the error.