Wisconsin Won't Ask Top Court to Stay Union Law Ruling

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker won’t ask the state’s highest court to delay enforcement of a lower court’s ruling that a law curbing the collective-bargaining rights of some public employees is invalid.

The state’s intermediate-level appellate court on March 12 declined to stay Madison Judge Juan B. Colas’s September decision that measures including requiring annual recertification votes and making union dues voluntary unduly burdened the free-association and free-speech rights of union members.

Walker’s legislation, known as Act 10, also required local referendums to authorize negotiations for any wage increase in excess of a cost-of-living boost. The measure touched off protests at the state Capitol in Madison and an unsuccessful bid to have the 45-year-old Walker, a first-term Republican, recalled from office.

“We asked for a stay because of our concern that municipal employers and others would misconstrue Judge Colas’s order as something that would prevent them from following Act 10,” Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said today in a statement.

“While the Court of Appeals denied our motion for a stay, it also was very clear that Judge Colas’s order does not have statewide application and does not apply to any nonparties,” the attorney general said.

Additional Litigation

The three-judge appellate panel said it wasn’t swayed by the state’s claim that, absent a stay, confusion over whether Colas’s ruling was applicable statewide would prompt additional litigation.

Litigation seems “inevitable” until the Wisconsin Supreme Court either rules on or declines to consider the merits of the dispute, the appeals court said.

A lawyer for the plaintiff Madison Teachers Inc., Lester Pines, disputed the attorney general’s interpretation of the three-day-old ruling in a phone interview today.

“The Court of Appeals did not rule that the decision does not have statewide effect. That is absolutely false,” Pines said. “The court of appeals specifically did not reach that issue.”

The chairman and two commissioners of Wisconsin’s Employment Relations Commission, a state agency that hears labor-relations grievances, were also parties to the suit and are bound by Colas’s ruling, Pines said.

Should they fail to abide by it, the attorney said he would ask the court to hold them in contempt.

“I don’t bluff,” he said.

Ruling in a separate case, a U.S. Appeals Court in Chicago upheld Act 10 in its entirety on Jan. 18, reversing a decision by a federal judge in Madison last year.

The case is Madison Teachers Inc. v. Walker, 2012AP2067, Wisconsin Court of Appeals, District IV (Madison). The trial-court case is Madison Teachers Inc. v. Walker, 11-cv-3774, Dane County, Wisconsin, Circuit Court, Branch 10 (Madison).

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