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Wisconsin Supreme Court Refuses to Block Anti-Union Law

Posted Jun 15, 2011 9:16 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Citing separation of powers principles, the Wisconsin Supreme Court is declining to block the state’s anti-union law.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court acted “with unusual speed” when it reinstated the law that would end most collective bargaining for public workers, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. A judge in Dane County had barred enforcement of the law on May 26 because open meetings requirements weren’t followed.

In a 4-3 opinion, the Supreme Court noted arguments that the legislature failed to give 24 hours notice before the vote, as required by the open meetings law. In posting notice, the legislature relied on its own internal rules, and the court “declines to review the validity of the procedure,” the June 14 opinion (PDF) says.

The open meetings law is not a constitutional requirement, though the Wisconsin Constitution does require that doors of the state legislature remain open in most circumstances, the court said. The vote was open to the press and the public and was broadcast live, the majority said.

Three of the court’s seven justices concurred in part and dissented in part in an opinion that began with a reproduction of press coverage by the Wisconsin State Journal. The headline read: “Capitol Shocker: GOP’s Quick Maneuvers Push Bill Through Senate; Thousands Storm Building, Yell ‘General Strike!’”

Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson wrote that the majority has given the case “short shrift” in an order that is “lacking a reasoned, transparent analysis and incorporating numerous errors of law and fact. … The four justices are entitled to their opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts.”

Though Abrahamson’s opinion was labeled a partial concurrence and partial dissent, there were few areas of agreement. She agreed the case raised separation of powers issues and that one of two appeals before the court should be denied. The majority acted on a petition for original jurisdiction rather than a separate interlocutory appeal.

The New York Times also has coverage.

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