Wisconsin Judge Issues Temporary Restraining Order Against Anti-Collective Bargaining Bill

A Dane County judge Friday issued a temporary order blocking implementation of Gov. Scott Walker’s controversial measure limiting collective bargaining for public employees, saying a legislative committee likely violated the state Open Meetings Law when it rushed passage of the bill earlier this month.


Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi’s decision was made soon after hearing arguments from Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne and Assistant Attorney General Maria Lazar. There was no witness testimony. Sumi also denied a motion by Lazar to stay the restraining order pending an appeal.


Sumi ruled that a March 9 meeting of a joint Assembly-Senate conference committee violated Wisconsin’s Open Meetings Law and went on to emphasize the importance of open government in remarks during her ruling.
“This was something that would and did catch the public unaware,” Sumi said, “what ended up being a closed session of a body in propelling legislation forward.”

Assistant Attorney General Steven Means said afterward that an appeal of the ruling is likely.
Friday’s ruling bars Secretary of State Doug La Follette from publishing the law, the last step before it can take effect. La Follette had planned to publish the law on March 25, which would cause it to take effect the following day.
Walker, who signed the bill last week, had asked La Follette to publish it sooner. But La Follette said he saw no urgency to move the law ahead and wanted to give legal challenges a chance to run their course.


Cullen Werwie, spokesman for Gov. Scott Walker, said the legislation is still working through the legal process.
“We are confident the provisions of the budget repair bill will become law in the near future,” Werwie said in a statement.


Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, who is also suing the state to block the bill from becoming law, congratulated Ozanne.


“The District Attorney is right and courageous to protect the rule of law, respect for citizens, the need for open, honest government from a Governor and Republican legislators who have trampled those values,” Falk said.
A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, had no immediate comment about the ruling. Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, R-Horicon, could not be immediately reached for comment.