The Wisconsin Supreme Court overturned Dane County circuit court Judge Maryann Sumi's ruling against the state legislature's procedure in passing Act 10, which eliminates collective bargaining for state employees, effectively making the controversial legislation law Tuesday.
In its 4-3 ruling, the Supreme Court declared that the legislature was not bound by the state's Open Meetings Law, and therefore did not violate them.
The ruling voided the lower court orders passed by Judge Sumi, but Rep. Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said state employees would not face back-payments from the months Act 10 spent in legal limbo.
The decision came down to the deciding vote of recently, narrowly re-elected Justice David Prosser.
"Simply stated, no matter how long we waited to consider a perfect appeal, the legal issues before the court would not change," Prosser wrote in his concurrence. "Delaying the inevitable would be an abdication of judicial responsibility; it would not advance the public interest."
Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, however, contended the opposite, writing the four concurring justices "are entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts."
"A reasoned, accurate explanation is not inconsequential nicety that this court may disregard for the sake of convenience or haste," she wrote in her dissent.
Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) also questioned the unusual rapidity of the court's decision, as well as the "very curious" timing of the ruling.
The Supreme Court's decision came down late Tuesday afternoon, following the Monday announcement by Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Burlington) that Act 10 would be rolled into the budget if the court failed to rule before that time.
Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald (R-Horicon) contended he was hoping for, but not expecting the ruling to come down when it did.
"From day one, I felt that we followed all of our usual procedures," Fitzgerald told the press Tuesday.
For his part, Rep. Barca says he was "shocked."
"The Supreme Court is saying the legislature is above the law," he said.
Barca suggested the best recourse would be passing a constitutional amendment ensuring openness in the legislature.
The collective bargaining law will officially take effect once published by Secretary of State Doug LaFollette, after which time the legislation is likely to see legal challenges, this time on its merits, rather than procedure.
The text of the ruling follows.