August 27, 2011

Huebsch v. Dane County: It could have been worse

A revelation:
There was some internal disagreement among the four people who wanted to [vacate Judge Sumi's decision]. Some of the people thought that the order should say that the bill that was the subject of this order had been published. My view was, 'No, it has not been published.' And in that, the three dissenters agreed with me. — Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser
Which is interesting because it was my understanding that the near-unanimity of informed commentary — including, we now learn, Justice Prosser's — agreed that 2011 Wisconsin Act 10 had not been published, in the sense required by both the State constitution and the State statutes. There is no discussion of this question of publication in either the court's unsigned order or Justice Prosser's concurring opinion.

There is this, from Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson's dissent:
¶111 The order and concurrence fail to examine carefully the arguments of the Secretary of State about the respective roles of the Secretary of State and the Legislative Reference Bureau in the publication of legislative acts, the printing of notice in the official state newspaper, and the effective date of a statute. See Wis. Stat. §§ 14.38(10), 35.095(3)(b), 991.11.
Indeed, between the two cases that the Huebsch majority claimed were supposed to have controlled Judge Sumi's deliberations — as opposed to their being controlled by, you know, the plain text of the Open Meetings Law — one, Goodland v. Zimmerman, was about an unpublished bill, and the other, La Follette v. Stitt, was about a published bill. Nevertheless, wrote Justice Prosser, "In my view, this case is governed by Stitt."* On the other hand, the court's unsigned order relied primarily on Goodland.

That's exactly the opposite of what an observer might expect, in terms of judicial precedent relied upon being "on point," as they say in the biz.

All of which, it seems to me, serves to support the dissenters' position that the case merited either further argument or at least further explication by the four conservative justices who made up the court's majority. I would like to have seen the reasoning of "some of the people" who thought 2011 Wisconsin Act 10 was published and not just printed. Because that would have taken some serious contortions beyond what the court did perform, which was to manufacture a unique form of judicial branch authority not bestowed by the State constitution.

And, while Justice Prosser claims that Assembly Leader Jeff Fitzgerald's public exhortation to the court to produce a decision in keeping with the Republican-controlled legislature's deadline was "separate" from the court's internal timetable, he sure got pretty excited when he learned that the WISGOP's requirements were in danger of not being satisfied.

One thing's for certain, this is an extremely politicized court.

* Then-Republican legislator David Prosser filed an amicus brief in Stitt.


gnarlytrombone said...

he sure got pretty excited

Still trying to get my head around how he believes he's fighting valiantly to preserve separation of powers while admitting Jeff Fitzgerald has the power to put the court "in a bad position."

illusory tenant said...

This is way more intriguing than the physical scuffling.

gnarlytrombone said...

So assuming there wasn't any improper ex parte communication (and assuming that's the right term), if the brothers Fitz had acted a week or even a couple of hours earlier than it did the court would have been fux0red. Amazing.

gnarlytrombone said...

IOW, SCOWI is Fitzwalkerstans' bitch.

illusory tenant said...

Everybody's somebody's bitch nowadays.