The Wisconsin Supreme Court heard arguments this morning from lawyers representing both the State and Judge Maryann Sumi who, on Friday May, 27th, struck down the controversial anti-collective bargaining bill, Act 10. At the core of arguments is the Open Meeting Law of Wisconsin. Did the legislators give enough notice to the public before meeting to whittle down the bill? Does Judge Maryann Sumi have authority to decide a bill before it becomes law?
As expected the justices divided along political lines. Interpretation of the arguments are being filtered through beliefs. Liberal Chief Justice Abrahamson countered the argument that legislators are exempt from lawsuits by reminding them they did not exempt themselves from scrutiny when they wrote the law. Countering that, the State contends Judge Sumi has no authority to step into the legislative process before a bill becomes law.
Judge Sumi's attorney, Marie Stanton asked how the open meeting laws could be enforced if the circuit court has no authority to intervene. Conservative lawmakers should win this one. Since conservative justices outnumber liberals and one argument cancels out the other, Judge Sumi's decision should be overruled.
Left in question is a circuit court judge's authority to rule on a bill that is not yet law and legislators' exception from accountability. We will know once the bench issues its decision how these loose ends will be addressed and if there is a clear answer.
The decision may also affect the recall efforts against six republican representatives and Governor Scott Walker. The weight of the recall arguments stems from republican lawmakers breaking the Open Meeting Laws. A Supreme Court decision supporting conservative lawmakers would cloud the issue. Did they break the law or not? July 12th is the expected date of the first recall vote for six representatives. Scott Walker is not eligible for recall until January of next year.
More arguments are being heard this afternoon.