To no one’s great surprise, Judge Maryann Sumi struck down Wisconsin’s reform legislation that limits collective bargaining rights for all state employees save first responders. Her 33-page ruling relied on a technicality rather than the law itself, claiming that the state’s open-meeting law was violated and that all results from that action have to be voided:
In a 33-page decision issued Thursday, Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi said she would freeze the legislation because GOP lawmakers on a committee broke the state’s open meetings law in passing it March 9. …
“This decision explains why it is necessary to void the legislative actions flowing from those violations,” wrote Sumi, who was appointed to the bench by former GOP Gov. Tommy Thompson.
Except, according to Republican legislators, that rule didn’t apply. The legislature was in special session, which changes the requirements under the open-meeting law, so they claim that the violation was moot. This is disturbing in another sense, which is that the legislature sets its own rules as an independent branch of government. The judiciary should not intrude on their prerogative to set rules for their own operation, within the confines of the state and federal constitutions.
Sumi’s issuance of a temporary injunction on this basis gave a large hint to today’s decision, so no one should be stunned by her ruling. The case will quickly go to the Supreme Court, which will have to determine whether to allow district courts to dictate legislative rules. However, the legislature can just as easily pass the bill again — but if they want to do that, they should do it quickly before schools let out and teachers have a lot of free time on their hands.