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Wisconsin court vacates contempt order against anti-collective bargaining law

The Wisconsin Supreme Court [official website] on Thursday vacated a contempt order against a state commission for implementing a law ending collective bargaining [text] for most public workers. In a 5-2 decision, the court held that the Dane County Circuit Court erred by holding in contempt the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission for preparing certification elections for hundreds of unions, because only the state's high court could do that. The court declined to put on hold the lower court's ruling that found the law's restrictions were unconstitutional when applied to a Madison teachers union and a Milwaukee public workers union. Governor Scott Walker [official website] and his administration believes that the lower court ruling does not apply to all local unions across the state.

Last month a Wisconsin judge dismissed [JURIST report] a challenge to the collective bargaining law brought by the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Association (WLEA) [union website], holding that the state legislature's limitation on the right to collectively bargain did not infringe on the constitutional right to freely associate. The WLEA filed the lawsuit [JURIST report] last November, contending that the Budget Repair Bill's limitations on unions' collective bargaining rights violates unions' association, speech, petition, advocacy and equal protection rights. Both the US District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin, in September, along with the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit [official website], in January [JURIST reports], upheld the law as a constitutional exercise of power. A Dane County Circuit Court judge struck down [JURIST report] the law as it applies to school district and local government workers in September of last year. Wisconsin Attorney General JB Van Hollen filed an appeal [JURIST report] days later. In July 2012 the Wisconsin Supreme Court refused to reopen a case challenging the Budget Repair Bill because of a justice's refusal to recuse himself [JURIST report]. The Supreme Court's upholding of Act 10 in June 2011 overturned a Dane County Circuit Court's decision [JURIST reports] that struck down the law for violations of the open meetings rule.

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