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Wisconsin Republicans Jump The Shark & Proclaim They Are Above the Law

more from Sarah Jones
Thursday, March, 31st, 2011, 11:16 am

Republicans in Wisconsin have decided that they are above the law, and so they will ignore Dane County Judge Maryann Sumi’s second ruling that the anti-union bill not be implemented until further hearings.

In order to jump this shark, the Republicans have had to ignore the basic tenets of our government, while attempting to untie themselves from various positions they’ve taken which invalidate their current position and of course, this will all cost millions of dollars to sort out via endless court challenges – a fact which in and of itself invalidates the false premise they started this entire war on workers with. Killing collective bargaining never had anything to do with money as it relates to budgets.

The Daily Reporter wrote:

Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen has advised Walker that because Sumi didn’t specifically name the administration in her order barring further action on the law, it can proceed with the payroll changes. Justice Department Executive Assistant Steve Means said Wednesday that the state’s position had not changed.

Republican Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald went further, openly questioning the judge’s right to rule in the case, saying it “flies in the face of the separation of powers between the three branches of government.”

“It’s disappointing that a Dane County judge wants to keep interjecting herself into the legislative process with no regard to the state constitution,” Fitzgerald said in a statement.

Walker’s top aide, Department of Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch, said Tuesday that work on the payroll changes would stop if Sumi ruled the law hadn’t taken effect. But on Wednesday, he issued a statement that suggested the administration hadn’t decided on a course of action, saying the effects of Sumi’s order on efforts to implement the law are “unclear.”

Sumi’s orders were abundantly clear both the first and second time she ruled that the law not be implemented, so the Republicans decision to again operate within contempt of court appears to be both arrogance and desperation.

The Republicans claim that the judge doesn’t have the authority to stop a bill before it’s law. They’ve presented precedent for this position, however dubious. However, the proper course of action is to argue that position in court, not do as they please and determine the answer before the court can hear the evidence.
There are further problems with their position, and they know it; a) they claim they’ve already published the bill and that it is law, therefore the judge could very well stop it within her bounds and b) the judge stopped the implementation because she found that the case against the way they passed it would likely succeed. As remedy for this, she suggested the Republicans take the bill through the process again (if you remember, they passed this bill at night, within minutes, and without proper notice and access). The Republicans refused to do that, most likely because they can’t get their caucus again.

As for their arguments that the judge doesn’t have the authority to make this ruling because the bill wasn’t law (an argument Republicans invalidated themselves when they claimed the bill was law), that she is over-stepping her authority by violating the 3 branches of government, that they can step around her ruling based on technicalities they have imagined and that as county judge she doesn’t have the authority to rule on their big boy process, either the Republicans are too ignorant to hold their positions or they are too arrogant to hold them.
As an exercise in wading through the Nixonian waters, let’s examine their positions.

Republicans invalidated their first argument all on their own when they published the bill and claimed it was law.
As for the argument that the judge over-stepped her authority regarding the three branches of government, perhaps the Wisconsin Republicans need to pay attention to themselves, because the judicial branch has the authority to check the legislative and executive branches; that is exactly how the three branches were intended to operate, in fact. The entire purpose of the judiciary is to make sure the other two branches do not over step their bounds. I realize that post-Bush, this might not be obvious to the average American, but if Republican lawmakers don’t understand this, I’m not sure recalls are good enough for them. This is truly Bushian.

The irony in this position is, of course, that it invalidates Republicans who are trying to have mandates thrown out of the healthcare reform law via trial courts across the land. And while we are on this subject, Republicans want to familiarize themselves with the notion that the law was passed properly and is not a bill any longer. It was never enjoined from implementation, so any attempts at false equivocation are disingenuous at best. There was never any question that healthcare reform was passed improperly (among sane, law-abiding, informed people, that is). Whereas, the judge determined that there was ample reason to believe that the anti-union bill was passed in violation of open meeting laws, without a quorum, and using a senate law that did not apply.

Republicans argue that they can side-step her order based on supposed technicalities, but the spirit of the law was made clear on both occasions and they know it. Some of the press accept this argument as valid only because they apparently never read her rulings on either occasions, but merely report what the Republicans tell them her ruling said. This is the dog ate my homework level bs.

All cases start at the trial level and in Wisconsin, county courts are trial courts. The judge hears the testimony and determines what laws are applicable. In this case, she heard the testimony, determined that it appeared the Republicans had violated the open meeting law and that their argument of the open meeting law not applying to them was not applicable. Upon these criteria, she enjoined the bill from being published until further exploration of the merits of the arguments of both sides.

Sumi’s order to enjoin and restrain the bill from being published was an attempt to save the state from harm because it seemed it would cause damage to the state to allow the bill to become law. One only need look at the cluster mess the state is in now to understand her concern; Republicans announced this past weekend they would dock pay of state workers, but then they were told by a judge that they must not act to implement the bill. If they dock pay, which they say they will keep doing, you can bet there will be lawsuits littering the streets of Madison and that will cost the state more than they “saved” with the anti-union bill.

The claim that the anti-union bill “saves money” opens up another can of worms, since Walker originally claimed he needed to kill collective bargaining because it would save the state money, but then when he couldn’t get it passed that way, he decided to pass it separately and took it out of the “budget bill” and passed it without the quorum necessary for fiscal issues. So, why does he need this bill again?

Obviously it was never about money, because they are going to waste millions of dollars litigating this both now and into the future trying to fix the mess of implementing a law that was enjoined by a judge as well as passed improperly. In no way does this bill appear to have made it legally into being a law. Sorry, but it doesn’t.

This is what cheap labor fiscal conservatism looks like.

Governor Walker and the Republicans are ignoring the orders of judges, the opinions of their Secretary of State (a person whose job has been mysteriously suggested to be phased out in 2012 after he refused to publish the bill immediately, but instead took the full ten days allowed), and most egregiously, appear to have worked in a conspiracy to force another body to publish the law against their wishes.

The attorney general (a Republican) is advising the Republicans to press full speed ahead in this case, claiming the judge did not specifically enjoin the administration in her ruling. In order for one to accept this stance, they must believe that a ruling that enjoins and restrains the bill from implementation somehow exempts the executive branch, who is, according to the attorney general, above the law.

The AG might want to look at other attorney generals who cleared the path for power mad executives before he continues down this road (hint: they are always the first fed to the rabid press when the barest hint of the scandal hits the public’s conscience). However, as I wrote about earlier, by choosing to claim the bill is law, Republicans opened themselves up to the law being killed because this action invalidates the only somewhat legitimate claim they had, which was that the county court may not have the authority to stop a bill from becoming law. Ironies abound.

If legal nooses amuse you, you might find the conundrum of the Wisconsin Republicans fodder for a Thursday (which comes before Friday – are the Republicans the Rebecca Black of the political world now, popular for all the wrong reasons? You betcha) laugh as they are now trying to get their appeal of Judge Sumi’s ruling canceled because an appeal assumes the bill is not law. This request, however, was denied.

One wonders where the Wisconsin Republicans were in history class during the Nixon chapters. Ah, taking notes on how to rule, no doubt.

Wisconsin Republicans Jump The Shark & Proclaim They Are Above the Law was written by Sarah Jones for PoliticusUSA.
© PoliticusUSA, Thu, Mar 31st, 2011 — All Rights Reserved




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