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Wisconsin Public Worker Union Law Remains Blocked During Appeal

Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen failed to persuade a judge to delay enforcement of his ruling that invalidated parts of Governor Scott Walker’s legislation curbing public worker collective bargaining rights.

State court Judge Juan Colas in Madison, who on Sept. 14 ruled that portions of the 2011 law unduly burdened municipal workers’ constitutional rights to free speech and free association, yesterday rejected Van Hollen’s request for an order staying the effect of that ruling while the state pursues an appeal.

“Defendants have failed to show that they will suffer irreparable harm if the stay is not granted,” Colas said in a nine-page written ruling.

“We’ll likely be asking the Court of Appeals for a stay soon,” Dana Brueck, a Van Hollen spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.

The legislation championed by Walker, the first-term Republican governor, required annual recertification votes for union representation and made the payment of union dues voluntary. Some groups of public safety officers were exempt from its provisions.

Seeking to preserve the status quo while pursuing his appeal, Van Hollen, also a Republican, argued that continuation of the law, which had been in effect for more than a year before Colas’s ruling, was the only way to afford certainty to those governmental units affected by the decision.

‘Rug Pulled’

“A stay would ensure that municipalities and school districts can determine employee compensation, design workplace policies and plan their budgets without having the rug pulled out from under them if the court’s decision is reversed,” the attorney general argued in Sept. 18 court filing.

The state has a high burden to meet on appeal, said Lester Pines, a lawyer for plaintiffs in the case.

“They will have to show an ’erroneous exercise of discretion’ on the part of Judge Colas,” Pines said in an interview. “His decision was a thoughtful, rational review of the issues and the application of the correct law.”

Colas was the second judge to block parts of the legislation.

U.S. District Judge William Conley in Madison, who was appointed by President Barack Obama, invalidated parts of the law in a March 30 ruling. The state has appealed that decision as well.

The state case is Madison Teachers Inc. v. Walker, 11-cv-3774, Dane County, Wisconsin, Circuit Court, Branch 10 (Madison). The federal case is Wisconsin Education Association v. Walker 12-2011, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit (Chicago).

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