Maryann Sumi continues to make up the law as she goes along

She’s issued a ruling today saying Dane County does not have standing to sue regarding the budget relief bill. Fine. Whatever. It’s not like this matter is cleaned up yet, right?

It’s the wording of that ruling that gets me going.

The answers are straight forward: the District Attorney has explicit statutory authority to enforce the open meetings law; Dane County does not. Moreover, ss 19.97(2) and (3), Wis. Stats., grant the circuit court express authority to void action taken in violation of the open meetings law and to issue injunctive relief. The statute, however, does not authorize the court to declare statutes unconstitutional. Dane County’s claims are not statutory; they are constitutional.

That’s not exactly what it says. We’ve been through this before. I’m not an attorney, but I still think Sumi is overstepping her boundaries when stating she prohibits the law from being implemented. In fact, she pretty much demands admission of her mistake in this writing. She can only void the action, not the law. Wisconsin Statutes are clear in a number of areas where injunctive relief may be sought, but implementing this law isn’t one of them.

19.97 (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.

Oh, sure, the administration is deferring at this point to keep the hostility down, but I think it’s going to be a problem for her down the road.

No one wants to vote this thing again until all the recalls are settled, but I swear, if they only voted one component, the one that no longer allows unions to automatically deduct dues from paychecks, you’d still get the same results. As we’ve seen, districts and municipalities are really making progress on cutting down the benefits in this round of contracts.


  1. Randy in Richmond says:

    Well Cindy, this does answer one question. It is a law. That has been debated at length on this site and others. To my knowledge the only action that took place was the passing of the law and there is nothing else to void.

    Since the law quoted by the Judge specifically states the Circuit Court cannot declare statutes unconstitutional, what now is the remedy–any remedy? Sounds like a “who’s on first” situation to me. It appears to be a poorly worded law that attorneys can argue till the cows come home unless the Republicans can show they did not violate the law–and this doesn’t mean they had to give the notice. I also believe that a good argument can be made for the public interest section that states :

    “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.

    A strong argument can be made for the financial damage already incurred by the “public” interest, not unions or individual employees, and that public entities have no standing to withhold personal pay to public employees for a private organization that contributes to any person running for public office.

    But as in the Waukesha County election, the Republicans were very sloppy to even be where they now are.

  2. I agree the Republicans have been sloppy.

    Sumi couldn’t possible say that voiding the action would have merit as the action would immediately be voted again and negate her ruling. If she wants to slap their hands, fine, but she doesn’t have the power to do what she is attempting. I suspect that’s the way it will all end up, but it will take a while. I do see the Republican stance that they will just let it play out, though. To put her in her place, she has to be shot down by the courts, not lawmakers.

  3. the decision passes legal mustard. obviously it does not pass political mustard. talk to your lawyers friends and get their opinions about the legal reasoning. my time is short on an extensive study of this case.

  4. Oh, this decision is fine. It’s the injunction I’m still complaining about.

  5. ok. an injunction is an equitable remedy and is highly within the discretion of a judge to issue. most judges do not like to issue injunctions and would rather maintain the status quo until a final decision is made. a temporary injuction is just that, temporary and is not binding on the final decision. the entire case is probably going to the wi. supreme court, or beyond, where it starts all over. both sides know that . as an American army general said when asked by the nazi general to surrender: “nuts”. same for both sides in this case.