Courtesy of JS Online
Madison — The state Supreme Court announced Friday it was taking up a case that struck down parts of Gov. Scott Walker's signature law limiting collective bargaining.
The move will speed up the final resolution of the case, which hinges on whether parts of the law, known as Act 10, violate the state constitution.
The court also accepted a case that will decide whether Wisconsin's domestic partnership registry for same-sex couples conflicts with the state's constitutional ban on gay marriage and civil unions.
A Dane County circuit judge in September found parts of the union law violated the state constitution's guarantee of free association and equal protection under the law. The two sides dispute whether the ruling affects only the unions that brought the case or all teachers and local government employees in Wisconsin.
The decision was appealed, and the Madison-based District 4 Court of Appeals in April asked the Supreme Court to take the case directly, without a ruling from the appeals court. The appeals court said the Supreme Court should resolve the matter because of its statewide significance — and because of confusion among local governments about whether the lower court's ruling applies to them.
The suit was brought by Madison Teachers Inc. and Public Employees Local 61, which represents City of Milwaukee employees.
In his ruling last year, Dane County Circuit Judge Juan Colás found parts of Act 10 violated the associational and equal protection rights of local government employees who chose to join a union because it treated them differently than employees who did not choose to join a union. Specifically, those in a union are limited by how much they can seek in wage increases, while those not in a union can seek any amount from their bosses, the judge said.
Colás also ruled Act 10 violated the home-rule clause of the state constitution because it dictated how much Milwaukee employees had to pay into their city pension funds.
The case now goes to a Supreme Court that has shown deep divisions over Act 10, though it has never issued a ruling on the law's merits.
Act 10 was stalled shortly after it passed in March 2011, when Dane County Circuit Judge MaryAnn Sumi ruled a committee of lawmakers had violated the open meetings law in passing Act 10. The Supreme Court reversed Sumi 4-3 in June 2011, and the night before the decision was issued two justices got in a physical altercation while arguing about the case.