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Judge voids law limiting union rights

Decision to be appealed in Wis. Supreme Court

By Scott Bauer
Associated Press / May 27, 2011

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MADISON, Wis. — The fight over stripping collective bargaining rights from Wisconsin’s public workers will move into the state Supreme Court, and possibly back into the Legislature, after a judge ruled yesterday to strike down the law that passed despite massive protests that paralyzed the Capitol.

Republican backers of Governor Scott Walker’s proposal said they were confident the state Supreme Court would overturn the judge’s ruling that the law is void because lawmakers broke open meetings statutes during the approval process. She had temporarily blocked the law shortly after it passed in March.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments in the case June 6. Republicans who control the Legislature also could pass the measure a second time to avoid the open meeting violations.

Still, Democrats and union leaders who helped organize protests against the measure praised the victory.

“It tells legislators ‘You can’t be arrogant,’ ’’ said Marty Beil, executive director of the state’s largest public employee union. “You have to do it in the light of day. You can’t take stuff away from people in a back-room deal.’’

The last time the Legislature took up the issue, tens of thousands of protesters descended on Madison. .

Meanwhile, all 14 Democratic senators fled to Illinois to prevent a 20-member quorum needed to pass the bill. Senate Republicans eventually called a special committee meeting with roughly two hours’ notice so it could amend the bill to take out spending items to avoid the quorum requirement.

Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi noted in her ruling yesterday that the open meetings law typically calls for 24-hour notice of meetings, or, in cases with just cause, two hours. Sumi said nothing justified such short notice.

“Our form of government depends on citizens’ trust and confidence in the process by which our elected officials make laws, at all levels of government,’’ she wrote.

The Republican cochairs of the Legislature’s budget committee reacted by labeling Sumi an activist judge. Sumi was appointed to the bench by former governor Tommy Thompson, a Republican.

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