Several ongoing cases seeking to void the 2018 extraordinary session legislation are moving through Wisconsin and federal courts. This article provides background on each of the cases and updates on where each of the cases are in the legal process.
League of Women Voters v. Evers
6/21/19: In a 4-3 decision the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled the Legislature’s 2018 extraordinary session was constitutional, upholding 2017 Acts 368, 369, and 370 and the confirmation of 82 appointments.
5/15/19: The Wisconsin Supreme Court held oral arguments in League of Women Voters v. Evers.
4/30/19: In a 4-3 decision, the Wisconsin Supreme Court restored the 82 appointments that Gov. Tony Evers had rescinded under the initial circuit court injunction.
4/15/19: The Wisconsin Supreme Court accepted the League of Women Voters’s petition to bypass the Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court will hold oral arguments on May 15.
4/15/19: Gov. Tony Evers filed a brief in opposition to the Legislature’s motion for emergency temporary relief.
4/10/19: The Legislature filed a motion asking the Wisconsin Supreme Court to take original jurisdiction over the case or, alternatively, to immediately reinstate the rescinded appointments.
4/9/19: The appeals court denied the Legislature’s motion to enforce the stay, arguing Gov. Tony Evers’s withdrawal of the appointments was valid because the governor had the authority to rescind the appointments while the temporary injunction was in place.
4/3/19: The plaintiff League of Women Voters petitioned the Wisconsin Supreme Court to bypass the Court of Appeals, arguing the case presents novel questions of state constitutional law, and only the Supreme Court can provide a definitive resolution.
4/1/19: Due to the disagreement between Gov. Tony Evers’s administration and the defendant legislature as to whether the appointees who had been rescinded are now reinstated, the legislature filed an expedited motion to enforce the court of appeals stay after the administration prevented appointees from returning to work the day after the court issued the stay.
3/27/19: The Court of Appeals District III has issued a stay of the temporary injunction issued by a Dane County circuit court. The Dane County judge had ordered the injunction of 82 appointments confirmed in the extraordinary session and the extraordinary session laws in their entirety. The appeals court order reasons that the Dane County circuit court failed to evaluate the irreparable harm that could result from enjoining the legislation if it is later found valid. The order stays the temporary injunction and establishes an expedited appeal process with all briefs due by the end of April.
The plaintiffs argue that the extraordinary session was not convened in accordance with the Wisconsin Constitution, which authorizes the legislature to meet only as provided by law or when convened by the governor (Wis. Const. Art. IV, § 11).
The Legislature intervened as a defendant and argues that convening an extraordinary session does not violate the Wisconsin Constitution because the rules for the 2017-18 session prescribed in 2017 Senate Joint Resolution 1 specifically state that any days not reserved for scheduled floorperiods are available for the legislature to convene an extraordinary session. Therefore, the Legislature met as provided by law under the Constitution and Wis. Stat. § 13.02(3).
SEIU v. Vos
6/11/19: The Wisconsin Supreme Court granted the defendant Legislature’s motion for temporary relief pending appeal by staying the temporary injunction issued by the Dane County Circuit Court. However, the Supreme Court left in place the injunction on Act 369 provisions that would have rescinded improperly promulgated guidance documents on July 1, 2019. Additionally, the Supreme Court stayed proceedings on the case in the lower court, cancelling the trial on guidance document provisions of Act 369 set to begin in Dane County on June 12. Read more.
4/19/19: The Wisconsin Supreme Court assumed jurisdiction of this case, several weeks after a second Dane County judge issued a temporary injunction preventing enforcement of some extraordinary session legislation provisions requiring legislative approval for the attorney general to discontinue or settle cases, requiring transparency for agency guidance documents, and allowing for more legislative oversight of agency rulemaking, while leaving in place other portions of the laws. The defendant legislature had also appealed this injunction, but the court of appeals had not provided a ruling before the Supreme Court assumed the case.
Whereas the League of Women Voters order enjoined the extraordinary session laws in their entirety, the SEIU circuit court order found the plaintiffs did not establish sufficiently that a court would find other provisions unconstitutional. Specifically, the SEIU circuit court judge left in place provisions
- Allowing the legislature to intervene and use outside counsel in certain cases.
- Allowing the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation to designate an unlimited number of enterprise zones, but requiring approval of the Joint Finance Committee on any new zone.
- Requiring legislative oversight of agencies applying for federal waivers and seeking to reallocate funds.
The plaintiffs, Service Employees International Union, Wisconsin Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals, American Federation of Teachers-Wisconsin, and Milwaukee Area Service and Hospitality Workers, allege that the extraordinary session laws are an unconstitutional violation of the separation of powers doctrine.
According to the plaintiffs, Article V of the Wisconsin Constitution gives the governor the exclusive power to execute laws. Furthermore, Article V guarantees that one branch may not interfere with another branch’s powers. The plaintiffs allege that extraordinary session provisions, including increased legislative oversight of rulemaking, attorney general lawsuits, and agency appropriations, interfere with the governor’s and attorney general’s constitutional powers. Furthermore, committee oversight without opportunity for a governor veto violates constitutional separation of powers.
The defendant legislature argues that the Wisconsin Constitution explicitly allows the legislature to prescribe the powers of the attorney general. Furthermore, Wisconsin case law has interpreted the Constitution as a fluid rather than rigid political design of separate branches of government.
Democratic Party of Wisconsin v. Vos
The Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW) has filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court Western District of Wisconsin seeking to declare the extraordinary session legislation in violation of the U.S. Constitution. Parties are continuing to brief the case, and oral arguments were held in April. The federal judge is expected to rule on the motion to dismiss by the end of August 2019. A trial could occur in late summer and early fall of 2020.
The complaint alleges that the legislation violates the plaintiffs’ First and Fourteenth amendment rights, as well as the Guarantee Clause.
The U.S. Constitution Art. 4 § 4 guarantees states a republican form of government. DPW’s complaint alleges that the Republican legislature violated the Guarantee Clause by removing powers from the incoming Democratic administration to the legislature.
DPW also claims that the extraordinary session violated the plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights to free association and free speech because the state legislature retaliated against Democratic candidates based on their political viewpoints by limiting their ability to enact their policy preferences via the newly elected Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul.
Finally, DPW argues the legislation violates the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause because it dilutes the power of Democratic votes.