March 22, 2011

Quick note on Van Hollen's appeal by permission

Sorry I'm assuming some familiarity with the case, but it's late ...

I wondered earlier how non-compliance with an Open Meetings Law can be a "purely internal legislative proceeding" (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel v. Wisconsin Dept. of Administration, 2009 WI 79, emphasis added). The distinction is crucial to the question of whether the Wisconsin courts have the constitutional authority to review the legislature's activities in following its own internal rules, even when those rules conflict with the Wisconsin statutes (a.k.a., "The Law").

In turn, that question is crucial to the case.

Then I returned to WisEye and found this exchange from last Friday's hearing in Dane County circuit court, which I hadn't heard earlier:
Judge Sumi: We're not talking about the legislature enforcing its own rules, we're talking about the legislature obeying a law that gives people public access to government.

AAG Lazar: Correct.

Judge Sumi: It's not an internal rule, it's a vastly external expectation — [a] right — that people have under the Open Meetings Law.

AAG Lazar: Absolutely correct.
The AAG's emphatic concessions are in direct contradiction to the legal arguments J.B. Van Hollen advanced to the court of appeals Monday morning.* And JBVH has at least one other problem as well.**

A big problem, I reckon.

* Petition For Leave To Appeal (.pdf; 39 pgs.)

** And don't tell me that "in no case" means "in no civil case."

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