Wisconsin Court Won’t Stay Public Worker Union Law Ruling

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker lost a bid for a state appeals court order staying enforcement of a court decision declaring invalid laws curbing the collective bargaining rights of public employees.

A three-judge panel of Wisconsin’s intermediate-level Court of Appeals today rejected the governor’s request to delay enforcement of the decision last year by Judge Juan B. Colas in Madison.

Colas, in a September ruling, said the measures requiring annual recertification votes for union membership and making the payment of union dues voluntary unduly burdened the free association and free speech rights of union members. He declared them “void and without effect.”

A month later, Colas denied the state’s request for an order staying his decision while it was challenged on appeal.

“We conclude that the circuit court acted within its discretion in denying the stay,” the appeals court judges said in an 18-page ruling.

The legislation, signed into law by Walker in March 2011, exempted some types of public safety workers. It touched off protests outside the state’s capitol and sparked a drive to recall the first-term Republican elected in 2010.

Walker defeated Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, a Democrat, in the recall election last June.

‘Middle-Ground Case’

The state argued it was almost certain to win its appeal, so an order blocking the lower-court ruling was warranted. The appeals court rejected that assertion.

“We are not persuaded that this is a near-certain-to-win situation,” the three-judge panel said. That level of certainty would have allowed Colas to accept a lesser showing of irreparable harm resulting from his decision, the panel said.

“We conclude, instead, that this is a middle-ground case,” the judges said.

They also said they weren’t swayed by the state’s claim that confusion over whether Colas’s trial court-level ruling was applicable statewide would trigger additional litigation.

“It seems that ongoing litigation is inevitable,” until Wisconsin’s Supreme Court either rules or declines to take up the dispute, the appeals court said.

‘Next Level’

Dana Brueck, a spokeswoman for state Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, said the administration would consider the appeals court’s reasoning “when deciding whether to continue seeking a stay at the next level.”

“We asked the court of appeals to stay the district court order and are disappointed that it did not do so,” Brueck said in an e-mailed statement. “On the other hand, the court of appeals expressly recognized that our position has a very high chance of success on appeal and rejected out of hand any suggestion that the circuit court decision has the same precedential, statewide effect as a published appellate decision.”

In January, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago reversed a Madison federal judge’s ruling last year that deemed some parts of the legislation known as Act 10 unconstitutional.

The case is Madison Teachers Inc. v. Walker, 2012AP2067, in Wisconsin Court of Appeals, District IV (Madison).

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