Wisconsin Asks Court to Throw Out Unions’ Lawsuit to Block State Labor Law

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s administration asked a state court judge to throw out a lawsuit filed by unions challenging the legality of a law limiting public workers’ collective bargaining rights.

Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen filed the dismissal request today with Dane County Circuit Judge Peter C. Anderson in Madison. The state argued that a court order issued by another judge, Maryann Sumi, blocked the law.

“The court has no jurisdiction to determine the constitutionality of an act not in effect,” Van Hollen said in the filing. Madison, the state capital, is the Dane County seat.

The law championed by Walker, a first-term Republican, requires annual recertification votes for union representation by public employees and makes payment of union dues voluntary. Firefighters and police officers are exempt from the law.

Unions representing public works employees, firefighters and other public safety officers sued on March 25, claiming the state senate passed the legislation signed by Walker on March 11 without a constitutionally required quorum.

Bruce Ehlke, a lawyer for the union plaintiffs, didn’t immediately reply to voice-mail and e-mail messages seeking comment after regular business hours.

Sumi had stayed enforcement of the legislation on March 18 after a lawsuit was filed by Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne, alleging the law was drafted in violation of the state’s open meetings law. She later declared the law wasn’t in force in a March 31 ruling.

Wisconsin’s Supreme Court on June 6 will hear arguments on whether it can take control of the Ozanne case and, if warranted, dismiss it.

The union case is Laborers Local 236, AFL-CIO v. State of Wisconsin, 11-cv-1421, Dane County, Wisconsin, Circuit Court (Madison). The prosecutor’s case is State of Wisconsin Ex Rel. Ozanne v. Fitzgerald, 11cv1244, Dane County, Wisconsin, Circuit Court (Madison).

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Harris in Chicago at aharris16@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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