Court of Appeals Puts a Hold on Dane County Right to Work Decision

On May 24, a state court of appeals reversed Dane County Circuit Judge William Faust’s ruling not to grant a stay of his controversial decision that the state’s new right-to-work law was unconstitutional. The appeals court decision allows the right-to-work law to be in effect and enforceable pending appeal of Faust’s underlying decision.

Wisconsin became the 25th right to work state last year. Right-to-work laws bar businesses and unions from reaching labor agreements that force workers to pay fees to the union. Various state unions challenged the constitutionality of the law.

On April 15, 2016, Faust granted the unions’ request for summary judgment, concluding that the right-to-work law effects an unconstitutional taking of private property of Wisconsin’s labor organizations. As a result, the Dane County court enjoined the state and the attorney general from enforcing the statute.

The decision by the Wisconsin Court of Appeals District 3, based in Wausau, does not directly go to the merits of the case. But presiding judge Lisa K. Stark rested her decision on the finding that the law was presumed constitutional and that the state established “there is sufficient likelihood of success on appeal to warrant the grant of the stay.”

Attorney General Brad Schimel had initially requested Faust stay his own decision during the pendency of the appeal. Faust refused to do that, which moved that request to the court of appeal. The attorney general filed a memorandum in support of the stay on April 29, 2016. Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC) and the National Federation of Independent Business Small Business Legal Center also filed briefs in support of the state.

The bulk of the attorney general’s brief focuses on his argument that the state is “extremely likely to succeed on the merits.” Schimel issued a May 24 press release lauding the Court of Appeals decision and expressing his confidence “the law will ultimately be found constitutional.” WMC also issued a press release praising the decision.