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Wisconsin appeals court passes union bargaining case to state supreme court

The Wisconsin Court of Appeals [official website] on Thursday declined to rule [certification, PDF] on an order [text; JURIST report] enjoining Wisconsin Secretary of State Douglas La Follette [official website] from publishing a legislative measure designed to curb the collective bargaining power of unions. The case will move on to the state Supreme Court [official website], which will decide whether a court has the authority to enjoin the secretary of state's publication of the Budget Repair Bill [SB 11 text, PDF] before it becomes law. The lawsuit [JURIST report], filed last week by District Attorney Ismael Ozanne (D) [official website], alleges that Republican legislators did not follow the state's open meetings law [text], a rule requiring 24 hours notice or two hours if there is an emergency, before a public meeting. The Court of Appeals passed the case to the state's Supreme Court because it involves "significant issues" and cited the high court as the "proper forum" to resolve them:

This case presents several significant issues involving justiciability and the remedies that are available under Wisconsin's Open Meetings Law. As we will explain below, we believe that resolution of these questions will require clarification of the interaction between the Open Meetings Law and a line of cases dealing with the separation of powers doctrine... Plainly, this case has broad statewide implications for the general public and those most directly affected by the challenged Act, in addition to those interested in the manner of its passage. Accordingly, we certify the petition for leave to appeal and accompanying motion for temporary relief to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
A majority of the court's seven justices must agree to hear the suit before the case can move forward.

Ozanne's suit was the second such challenge by a state official, following a similar suit [complaint] filed by Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk (D) [official profile]. On Wednesday, Attorney General JB Van Hollen (R) [official website] asked the court to block [motion, PDF] the Dane County Circuit Court [official website] order. He also asked for leave to appeal the order and for relief consisting of an order to stay the circuit court's ruling. Van Hollen argues that the Dane County Circuit Court did not have jurisdiction to hear the case because the four named defendants, who are all state legislators, enjoy legislative immunity during the regular legislative term. He also argued that the circuit court did not have jurisdiction to enjoin the publishing of the law. The provisions of the Budget Repair Bill limiting bargaining rights incensed unions and their supporters, sparking protests which have been ongoing since mid-February, when the bill was introduced. The bill was signed [JURIST report] into law by Governor Scott Walker (R) [official website] on March 11.

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