Divided They Sit

While the court ruled on what some are calling a split Conservative-Liberal line, many people, including Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, are questioning the validity of the opinion.

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Shirley Abrahamson and David Prosser

The Wisconsin Supreme Court announced on Tuesday that it would uphold Governor Walker’s Collective Bargaining Legislation. The court ruled that the Republican-controlled Senate was not in violation of the Open Meetings Law, and furthermore that the Supreme Court has no jurisdiction over the procedural rules of the Judiciary.

While the court ruled on what some are calling a split Conservative-Liberal line, many people, including Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, are questioning the validity of the opinion.

Chief Justice Abrahamson voiced her concern that the majority opinion was written without accurate analysis, and that the court overlooked significant facts as well as precedence. She even goes so far as to say that “the explanations are clearly disingenuous, based on disinformation.”

One of her main concerns was the failure of the court to factor precedence into the decision, especially since the recent 2009 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel v. Wisconsin Department of Administration case addressed the similar issue of the judiciary enforcing legislative procedural rules.  She says, “The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel case was based on at least three earlier cases, all concluding that a court may require the legislature to comply with a legislative procedural rule or statute if the procedural rule or statute furthers a constitutional directive.”

Read the court’s opinion and Chief Justice Abrahamson’s opinion here: http://www.wicourts.gov/sc/opinion/DisplayDocument.html?content=html&seqNo=66078

Her partially dissenting opinion calls into question the polarity and political nature of the court at this time.

Especially following the bitter battle between Justice Prosser and Kloppenburg in the spring for the Supreme Court seat, Wisconsinites have feared that the Supreme Court has become a tool in the hands of Governor Walker’s administration.

Now with this decision on collective bargaining, it seems that those fears have come true.

The Supreme Court decision, along with the budget debates, seems to have refueled recall efforts, with more Wisconsinites showing up this week to protest outside the capitol than have in the past couple of weeks. While a recall would not be able to change the composition of the Supreme Court, it would help to prevent anything similar to the collective bargaining legislation passing in the Legislature in the future.

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