Friday, March 18, 2011

Court blocks union-busting bill - temporarily

So Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi issued a temporary restraining order earlier today blocking the law that busts collective bargaining rights for public sector workers.  Judge Sumi's ruling prevents the law from taking effect until she rules on the merits of the case.

An appointee of former Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson, Judge Sumi seems supportive of the argument made by Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne, saying:
"It seems to me the public policy behind effective enforcement of the open meeting law is so strong that it does outweigh the interest, at least at this time, which may exist in favor of sustaining the validity of the (law)."
Of course, this doesn't mean the law will not eventually take effect. Republicans may appeal, or they may wait and then reconsider the bill, this time in a manner consistent with the law.  They still have the majority, after all - unless and until recall efforts months down the road.

However, it does constitute a legal reprimand of anti-democratic tactics in the State Senate, and especially for Senate Majority leader Scott Fitzgerald. It matters - it matters a whole lot - that we have courts prepared to challenge this type of shady procedure, to defend open democracy. That's what the third branch was created to do, part of our essential checks and balances. While some find the courts inconvenient for their intentions, it is incumbent upon all of us to make sure, given this era of elected judges (I have problems with that), that we elect people who intend to defend constitutional and political rights not only for the powerful and the rich, but also for the rest of us.

If Republicans do decide to appeal, the issue could eventually end up in the State Supreme Court, which only raises again the profile of the race between incumbent State Supreme Court Justice David Prosser, a conservative, and JoAnne Kloppenburg for a seat on the court. The election is April 5. In the past, an election like this would not draw a big voter turnout, but this time, things are different. It is now proving to be one of the highest profile races in the history of the state court, the beginning of a popular referendum on the barely-started Walker administration and rule of the right-wing of the Republican Party.

Prosser had been considered a shoo-in until Walker was inaugurated and his political program of draconian budget cuts for vital government services, assaults on worker rights, and support from corporate backers like the Koch brothers began to be clear.  Now the state is engaged in a serious race for the seat.


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