ON-Lion Letter

In late July, on the last day of its 2013-2014 Term, the Wisconsin Supreme Court issued opinions upholding Act 10 and Wisconsin’s voter-identification law in their entirety.  The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty in Milwaukee has been a key player in both fights, filing amicus curiae, or "friend-of-the-court," briefs on behalf of diverse clients arguing to uphold the laws.

Writing for the majority in the Act 10 case, Madison Teachers, Inc. v. Walker, Justice Michael Gableman ruled that Act 10 was constitutional, rejecting arguments by teachers’ and other municipal employees’ unions that the law violated their constitutional rights of free speech and free association. 

The unions had argued that the limitations on topics of collective bargaining, along with prohibitions on so-called “fair-share” agreements, dues deductions, and annual recertification requirements, imposed unconstitutional conditions on their ability to organize and speak.  However, the court held that “the plaintiffs' associational rights are in no way implicated by Act 10's modifications to Wisconsin's collective bargaining framework” because “[t]he plaintiffs remain free to advance any position, on any topic, either individually or in concert, through any channels that are open to the public.” 

The court noted that the plaintiffs were erroneously attempting to conflate the constitutional right of joining a union to advocate on behalf of workers with the statutory privilege of collective bargaining.

The vote in the case was 5-2, with Justice Ann Walsh Bradley dissenting, joined by Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson.  Justice N. Patrick Crooks wrote a separate concurrence, noting his political disagreement with Act 10 and grudging acceptance that it is constitutional.

“The court accepted the arguments we have been making all along,” said Rick Esenberg, president and general counsel of WILL, which is substantially supported by Milwaukee's Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation. “Court after court has upheld Act 10 against constitutional challenges, and this decision puts the final nail in the coffin of the hopes of those who sought to achieve through the courts what they could not in the legislature.”

Writing for the majorities in in two voter-ID cases, Milwaukee Branch of the NAACP v. Walker and League of Women Voters v. Walker, Justice Patience Roggensack ruled that Wisconsin’s voter-ID law was constitutional.  The plaintiffs in NAACP had argued that voter ID violated the fundamental right to vote, while the plaintiffs in League of Women Voters argued that the law created an “additional qualification” on voters not permitted under the Wisconsin Constitution.

NAACP was decided on a 4-3 vote, with Abrahamson, Bradley, and Crooks dissenting.  League of Women Voters came down 5-2, with Abrahamson and Bradley dissenting.

Despite these rulings, voter ID remains on hold, as a federal district-court judge has enjoined it.  That case is on appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

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