The seven members of the Wisconsin Supreme Court hear oral arguments. (Henry Redman | Wisconsin Examiner)
The Wisconsin Supreme Court, in a 4-3 decision, chose to accept a lawsuit from Gov. Tony Evers challenging the ability of some of the Legislature’s most powerful committees to override executive branch decisions.
Evers’ lawsuit, filed against a half-dozen Republican lawmakers who sit on three committees, argues that these committees work to obstruct basic government functions.
“Through statutes that allow legislative committees to veto executive branch decision-making, small groups of legislators exercise executive authority over large swaths of government activity,” the lawsuit charges. “The powers to create and to execute the law need to be separated again.”
The Court’s four liberal justices voted to accept the case as an original action, meaning it will bypass the typical process of working its way through the circuit and appellate courts. The justices gave no written explanation for their decision, only ordering the parties to file briefs and set a date for oral arguments.
In a pair of dissents, conservative Justices Rebecca Bradley and Brian Hagedorn complained that the lawsuit was being fast tracked. Bradley accused the majority of doing the bidding of Democrats.
“The majority eagerly grants another original action petition, needlessly engulfing this court in the morass of politics,” Bradley wrote in her dissent, which was joined by Chief Justice Annette Ziegler. “When the majority’s political allies say jump, the new majority responds: ‘How high?’”
Hagedorn, in his dissent, wrote that the questions raised in the lawsuit were important yet not an emergency that warranted accepting the case as an original action. He also said that the acceptance deprives the issues raised in the lawsuit of the valuable insight provided by circuit and appeals court judges.
“This petition raises substantial questions about the proper roles of the executive and legislative branches under the Wisconsin Constitution,” Hagedorn wrote. “A decision in this case could occasion a historic shift — both in the operation of state government, and in how this court interprets the boundary lines between the branches of government. In that sense, there can be no doubt the legal questions presented affect matters of statewide importance (a traditional prerequisite for our involvement) and are appropriate for our review in the proper case. In this case, however, no emergency beckons, nor is there a pressing need to short-circuit the normal litigation process.”
Oral arguments in the case are set for April 17.
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