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Wisconsin Top Court Seeks Collective-Bargaining Case Briefs

Wisconsin’s Supreme Court asked state Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen and opponents of a law limiting public employee collective-bargaining rights for briefs on whether it can take over and dismiss a challenge to the measure.

Dane County District Attorney General Ismael Ozanne in March won a lower court order barring enforcement of a law the prosecutor claims was created by legislators in violation of the state’s open meetings law.

Wisconsin’s capital city, Madison, is also the seat of Dane County. Ozanne is a Democrat.

The law requires annual recertification votes for union representation of public employees and makes their payment of union dues voluntary. Democrats and organized labor have opposed the measure, which was signed March 11 by Republican Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, as an attack on worker rights.

Van Hollen has appealed state Circuit Court Judge Maryann Sumi’s order blocking enforcement of the law and has brought a separate lawsuit on behalf Mike Huebsch, secretary of the state’s Department of Administration, asking the high court to take original jurisdiction over the Ozanne case and dismiss it.

The Supreme Court today ordered Ozanne, Sumi and six state legislators -- four Republicans and two Democrats -- named as respondents in the Huebsch case to brief the court by May 18 on whether it can take over the Ozanne case and dispose of it.

Six Legislators

Defendants in the lawsuit filed by Ozanne, the six legislators were all members of the joint Senate-Assembly committee that crafted the challenged legislation.

Van Hollen, who is a Republican, and Huebsch must reply by May 27. The Supreme Court said it will hear argument on the issues on June 6.

The attorney general also appealed Sumi’s injunction to the intermediate-level state Court of Appeals, which has asked the Supreme Court whether a law can be voided if it is the product of an open meetings law breach.

The prosecutor’s case is State of Wisconsin Ex Rel. Ozanne v. Fitzgerald, 11cv1244, Dane County, Wisconsin, Circuit Court (Madison). The Huebsch case is State v. Circuit Court for Dane County, 2011AP000765, Wisconsin Supreme Court.

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