If you don't have time to watch yesterday's entire marathon Wisconsin Supreme Court oral arguments, just watch these three lawyers.
Wisconsin Eye Part 2 of 3:
01:07:44 — Robert Jambois, counsel for Rep. Peter Barca
01:33:12 — Lester Pines, counsel for Sen. Mark Miller
02:05:18 — Roger Sage, counsel for Sec. of State Doug La Follette
Mr. Sage's presentation might be said to be optional, as he is addressing the question of whether 2011 Wisconsin Act 10 was published in the constitutional sense, and you already know all about that. In fact many of the issues raised by Messrs. Jambois and Pines would already be familiar to regular readers of this here blog. And while the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel is reporting that the justices "expressed skepticism" toward the reasoning contained in Judge Sumi's temporary and final rulings, which is true to some extent, you won't hear much skepticism from the bench during either the Jambois or the Pines presentations.
And while the Journal-Sentinel reports* that "the most aggressive questioning came from Justice Michael Gableman," it came during the presentation of Dane County DA Ismail Ozanne (00:01:18) who, with all due respect, is probably less used to addressing the structural constitutional questions at issue in these two consolidated cases.
Last night apparently there were some rumors circulating that the court was preparing to vacate Judge Sumi's ruling, which would have the effect of codifying 2011 Wisconsin Act 10.** If that were to come to pass, I suspect the law might again be enjoined immediately, on the same factual grounds its publication was enjoined in the first place. And the said codification would have the effect of rendering Gableman's objections moot almost in their totality, insofar as those objections were grounded in the beloved 1943 case Goodland v. Zimmerman, which teaches that a court may not interfere with the legislative process until a bill becomes law (that is, in Wisconsin, once its publication is made).
Gableman's apparent objections appear to presume that the trial court, where Judge Sumi presides, is a rule-making authority rather than a circuit court making a narrow decision based only on the facts presented in evidence to that particular court.*** In other words, the concerns expressed by Gableman and appearing in the lead paragraphs of the Journal-Sentinel report are representative of a slippery slope fallacy.
Generally courts do not make rulings grounded in logical fallacies.
But you never know, with this one.
In any event, the guy you have to watch is Justice Patrick Crooks, who raised concerns similar to those of my friend Bill Tyroler, who suggests that the authority conferred on the district attorney by the Open Meetings Law to challenge the constitutionality of the legislative process is itself an unconstitutional delegation of power by the legislature to the executive branch, under which auspices the district attorney operates.
As this space has been observing practically since the outset of this controversy, it seems to me the only way the court can vacate Judge Sumi's very conservative, very restrained reasoning is to find the provisions of the Open Meetings Law upon which Judge Sumi relied to be themselves violative of judge-made — or at least judge-inferred — constitutional law doctrine. Why the Wisconsin Department of Justice is pursuing the objective of restricting public access to the operation of State government is either a mystery or completely typical and expected of the Republican Scott Walker administration and its disciples and allies.
* And once again, it is simply not correct to say that Judge Sumi was "allowed" to file a legal brief further to building maintenance supervisor Mike Huebsch's petition to the Supreme Court for a supervisory writ directed at Judge Sumi. Judge Sumi was ordered by the Supreme Court to file the brief. And now she is being criticized for not disobeying that order. This is how absurd the Wisconsin Department of Justice, under the direction of Deputy Attorney General Kevin St. John, has become.
** a.k.a. "legislating from the bench."
*** Among the more amusing moments during yesterday's proceedings was when Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson directed Deputy AG St. John to cease and desist from referring to the circuit court as an "inferior court." The circuit court's function is different; it is not "inferior." And indeed the expression "inferior court" is plucked from federal law — which has no bearing on the cases at bar — where it appears in the federal Constitution. In fact, as this space has pointed out previously, despite the U.S. Constitution's reference to "inferior courts" which may be created from time to time by the Congress, the Article III judicial power inheres equally among the United States Supreme Court, the United States Courts of Appeal, and the United States District Courts (the parallel entities to the State circuit courts). Shirley is the best.
St. John, like many a right-wing ideologue, is a devotee of ad hominem.