Thursday, March 31, 2011

Constitutional Crisis Mongering In Wisconsin

Moe Lane provides a summary of how it is that a Wisconsin trial judge has been trying, trying, and trying again to stop the new collective bargaining bill from going into effect. Is this "how a bill becomes a law?"
  • Wisconsin Democratic Senators run away rather than do their jobs. This prevents a quorum for bills that are primarily financial in nature.
  • Wisconsin Republican Senators end up passing what they can, including a critical union reform bill.
  • Having returned from self-imposed Illinois exile, Wisconsin Democrats find a convenient judge (Maryann Sumi) to issue a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO), on what is frankly a misunderstanding of the law.
  • Judge Sumi makes a mistake in the TRO by only enjoining the Secretary of State (Democrat) from publishing the law. For example, she did not enjoin the Legislative Research Bureau (LRB) from publishing the law, despite the fact that they are required to by law.
  • The LRB publishes the law, as per their statutory requirements; as the TRO did not cover that department, they have no choice.
  • On Monday, the Wisconsin Department of Justice (DoJ) points this detail out to the courts and asks them to vacate the order, given that the law is published.
  • On Tuesday, Judge Sumi reissues her TRO to prevent implementation of the law.
  • On Wednesday, the Wisconsin Department of Administration (DoA) points out that this ruling was flawed in that it: did not in fact indicate that the law is not in effect; explicitly declined to state that the law was not legally published; and since when did Judge Sumi get to presume to drag the DoA (a non-party in the original dispute) into this mess she made in the first place?
  • On Thursday, Judge Sumi has to fix her TRO again to rule that the law is not published, in a fashion that satisfies the DoA
First of all, if an attorney showed up in court and got a judge to sign an order, and then that attorney realized he had left something out, the judge would throw the guy out of the courtroom if he showed up trying to get that order amended. But, judges - at least this one - can just keep on keepin' on, I guess.

More important, Judge Sumi has (inadvertently, I'm sure) stumbled over a fundamental question for a nation of laws: when does a law "pass?" I used to think that a bill became a law after the legislature voted to pass it, and the head of the executive branch signed it. But, apparently a bill doesn't become a law until it has passed through the printing press. Really? The printers office is now a fourth branch of the government, as important to law making as the governor, the State Assembly and the State Senate? Amazing how no one realized this until now.

Printing a law duly passed by the people's representatives is a purely ministerial act, rather than a weighty constitutional matter. Can it really be the rule that, if there is no printer, then there can be no laws? If so, then there would be no end to penny-ante roadblocks to the enacting of laws.

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