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Charlie Sykes: Sykes Writes

A Judicial Smackdown Part II

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More from Justice Prosser's decision... as he walks through the absurdity of the argument that the legislative vote violated the Open Meetings Law... I especially like his passing reference to the Fleebaggers.


¶57 Subsection (2) provides: "No provision of this subchapter which conflicts with a rule of the senate or assembly or joint rule of the legislature shall apply to a meeting conducted in compliance with such rule." Wis. Stat. § 19.87(2). The circuit court second-guessed not only four legislative leaders but also the Senate Chief Clerk——an attorney——when it determined that no senate or assembly rule, including Senate Rule 93 (on which the Senate Chief Clerk relied), governed the notice requirements of the special session conference committee. The circuit court, in effect, told the Senate Chief Clerk that he did not know what the Senate rule meant.

¶58 The circuit court concluded that the legislature should have provided public notice of the special session conference committee 24 hours in advance. The court did not acknowledge that thousands of demonstrators stormed and occupied the State Capitol within a few hours of the notice that a conference committee meeting would be held.

¶59 The circuit court found that 20 seats were set aside for the public in the Senate Parlor, but it did not report that the entire proceedings were broadcast on WisconsinEye and events were observed online by Wisconsin state senators in Illinois.

¶60 The circuit court determined that the Senate Parlor did not provide adequate public access under Wis. Stat. § 19.87(3), but it overlooked the fact that conference committees on state budgets routinely met in the Senate and Assembly Parlors until the State Capitol was renovated in the 1990s.

¶61 The circuit court voided 2011 Wisconsin Act 10 on the basis of a committee meeting that lasted less than five minutes——in a room packed with reporters and television cameras. This reality was captured on television and in photographs, one of which appeared on the front page of the Wisconsin State Journal on March 10, 2011 (see attached).

¶62 The circuit court has retained jurisdiction over the prosecution of four legislative leaders for alleged violations of the Open Meetings Law, but the additional remedy it imposed in voiding 2011 Wisconsin Act 10 effectively punished the executive branch as well as legislators who were not involved in the meeting.

¶63 The actions of the circuit court exceeded the court's authority and must be vacated.

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