Walker v. Sumi

No, it’s not a court case, but it is playing out in Dane County.

I’m going at this a bit backward, and no, that won’t surprise you, but I had to come to terms with the statement from Mary Ann Sumi from her temporary restraining order hearing. According to Jessica Arp from WISC-TV in Madison:

(By the way, a real junkie will follow Jessica’s Twitter feed. She’s really provided some great insight the last few weeks.)

Judge Sumi wanted to know what I wanted to know, and that’s why the Republican led Senate wouldn’t go in and pick up the whole bill the Assembly gave them, stretch out an absolute notice, and vote the thing again including the budget this time. The action would render the need for her court’s decision moot. It is my instinct that “moot” is exactly what Sumi was hoping for in her decision. I am speculating loudly here, but I think Sumi wanted a quick hurrah! before she could shrug her shoulders and explain there was nothing she could do. The action would let her appease those dear to her with obvious union ties, but really be of no consequence in the end.

And this is where we talk about the Walker administration’s decision to play Sumi, even if it takes some time, instead of passing the law again.

On first blush one might think that Walker is just being stubborn; that he wants to be right over getting the job done. However, it looks a lot like he’ll get an extra piece of collateral – Sumi’s reputation – if he just plays the game more slowly. Legal minds are wondering on what law Sumi was basing her decision. I don’t claim to be a great legal mind, but I did point to the remedy for an open meeting violation the other day. The remedy clearly points to the law being voidable:

(3) Any action taken at a meeting of a governmental body held in violation of this subchapter is voidable, upon action brought by the attorney general or the district attorney of the county wherein the violation occurred. However, any judgment declaring such action void shall not be entered unless the court finds, under the facts of the particular case, that the public interest in the enforcement of this subchapter outweighs any public interest which there may be in sustaining the validity of the action taken.

(If no one acts in 20 days after the complaint, an individual may file.)

It does not entitle a judge to prohibit the law from being enacted. That’s what Sumi is doing with her TRO. She’s sweeping into the legislative branch with a very long judicial arm. I don’t think she’s going to have much of a chance keeping it attached.

With the Walker’s administration’s patience, Sumi will go down. The law will be enacted. It won’t be quick, but it will get done. Yes, technically AG Van Hollen is in fact not of the administration but indeed a Republican, and yes, technically he’s heading the appeal, but I’m pretty sure we can confidently assume there is a quality of like-mindedness in the approach.

So that’s my take of what’s happening here. Walker is much more patient than I, or in particular one of my girlfriends, would choose to be. She’s a bit perturbed that so many local communities would have the extra time to strike a more expensive version of the contracts unions want to hold through 2013. I argue those local governments, municipalities and school districts, do so at their own risk. It’s going to be a very expensive lesson to have union-led contracts in conjunction with the sharply reduced state aid now in the budget future. Voters will absolutely feel their wallets pinched in the long run should their local elected make that mistake.


  1. That is the most amazing piece of spin for denying the fact that if they ran with a second vote, it very well might not pass this time, that I could ever have imagined.


  2. Baloney. It would easily pass. You are quite delusional, Capper.

  3. Randy in Richmond says:

    I suspect Walker has received expert legal advice this TRO will legally go away in some fashion. Much better to let it play out that way as opposed to giving the left the PR stage again in the legislature–as that bus has left town for the most part. The TRO could actually be a blessing in disguise because it’s much more difficult to protest a hearing than the legislative process. In summary, if Walker is doing as you say it is a brilliant move. If not by design the process will still achieve the results desired by Walker and the Republicans–with much less fanfare. How it will affect the judge is anybody’s guess.

    As an aside I find it astonishing that in Wisconsin you elect your state Supreme Court Judges.

  4. 22 states including Wisconsin still hold elections for their state supreme court justices. While there are pros and cons to this process, there are also pros and cons to what is known as the Missouri plan which is the method (or similar process) used in the remaining states.

  5. If I were thinking this morning I’m sure I could come up with a list of pros and cons on each method that would be about even. Maybe appoint with a voted affirmation? I don’t know. I didn’t follow the state supreme courts in Oklahoma the years I was there.

    I do want to get a piece up soon about the Wisconsin “non partisan” elections. I think it’s time they go.