April 1, 2011- Having declared that Wisconsin’s divisive union law isn’t really a law yet, a judge was set to return to one of the underlying questions dogging the measure — whether Republicans violated the state’s open meetings law during the frenzied run-up to passage.
Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s administration reluctantly suspended efforts to enact the law Thursday after Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi unexpectedly declared the measure hadn’t been properly published. The move marked another round in a messy legal fight over the law, which requires most public workers to pay more for their benefits and eliminates most of their collective bargaining powers.
Democrats and unions have filed three lawsuits challenging the law. Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne’s action has taken center stage so far; he alleges Republicans didn’t provide the proper public notice when it convened a special committee to amend the plan before its passage.
Sumi earlier issued an emergency restraining order blocking the secretary of state from publishing of the bill while she considered the case, but Republicans persuaded another state office to publish it, raising questions of whether the law was in effect. Sumi settled that unequivocally with her declaration early Thursday morning: No.
The judge is scheduled to take more testimony on the open meetings allegations on Friday. It’s unclear when Ozanne may rule, but any decision almost certainly will trigger a storm of appeals that could stretch to the state Supreme Court.
"Either Judge Sumi will have lifted the (emergency order) … or, what I consider the more likely outcome, she’ll issue an injunction and we’ll all be in the position of waiting for the Supreme Court to say something," said University of Wisconsin-Madison law professor Howard Schweber.