Dane County (Madison) Judge Maryann Sumi — who had previously blocked Wisconsin’s controversial anti-union law from taking effect, pending litigation — has now formally ruled that the manner in which the bill was passed violated the state’s Open Meetings law, and that the law itself is therefore not valid.
“This case is the exemplar of values protected by the Open Meetings Law: transparency in government, the right of citizens to participate in their government, and respect for the rule of law,” Sumi wrote in her decision, WisPolitics reports. “It is not the court’s business to determine whether 2011 Wisconsin Act 10 is good public policy or bad public policy; that is the business of the Legislature. It is this court’s responsibility, however, to apply the rule of law to the facts before it.”
The matter revolves around a key conference committee used to advance the bill — and to get around the state Senate Dems’ walkout from the state — and whether it violated the state’s Open-Meetings law by failing to give proper 24-hours notice. Therefore, it is ruling on procedural grounds, rather than on the substance of the bill itself.
Thus, Republicans have always had an option if they wished to avoid this litigation: Pass the bill again, giving full notice of all relevant hearings and legislative procedures. They have resisted that avenue, believing that to do so would be an admission of guilt on the Open Meetings law when they really concede no such thing. But in recent weeks, they have begun to talk up this very possibility as court action dragged on.
Two months ago, Sumi blocked the law on procedural grounds, issuing a temporary restraining order on the grounds the plaintiff, the Dane County District Attorney, had a likelihood of success in his complaint.