Wis. Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments in Collective Bargaining Case

MacIver News Service | June 6, 2011

[Madison, Wisc…] At noon the Supreme Court recessed for lunch, but in the preceding hours the courtroom was packed as dozens of lawyers and spectators came to watch the latest developments in  State of Wisconsin v. Circuit Court of Dane County.

In this relatively rare case of a State suing a court, the justices took oral arguments from Marie Stanton, attorney for Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi. Earlier this year Judge Sumi put an injunction on the Budget Repair Bill to prohibit the Secretary of State from publishing the Actl, thereby keeping  the law from taking effect.

Deputy Attorney General Kevin St. John asked the Supreme Court to overturn Sumi’s ruling invalidating the collective bargaining changes, saying the judge overstepped her Constitutional authority and also violated the separation of powers. St. John argued that an action of the Legislature cannot be voided by any court over a violation of the open meetings law because it is a statutory, not Constitutional question.

Sumi’s attorney rejected that argument.

“The open meetings law invited the courts into the process, not the process of lawmaking, but the process of assessment with compliance,” said Stanton.

Much of the arguments today focused on the “findings of fact” made by the Circuit Court. During Judge Sumi’s review of the request for an injunction, she reviewed the facts and the law and published her opinion and the basis for that finding.

Justice David Prosser, who has just won a statewide recount for re-election to the Supreme Court asked the attorney for Judge Sumi and the Circuit Court why the Court stated the legislature was in violation of the Open Meetings Law. Prosser stated that he had deputy interns who wanted to come into the courtroom today to watch the arguments, but the marshall did not allow them to come in because the room was full.

He asked the Circuit Court’s counsel how that was different from the Budget Repair Bill deliberations.  Counsel replied that these arguments are being broadcast and therefore accessible. Justice Prosser asked if the Committe on Conference’s meeting in question was also broadcast. The attorney replied “perhaps.”

The Wisconsin Eye public service channel broadcast both meetings and also livestreamed them over the internet.

Oral arguments are scheduled to continue this afternoon.