Madness in Madison – Calm Before the Storm

By YeOldeScribe ~ April 4th, 2011 @ 11:15 pm

Friday’s proceedings in the courtroom of Judge Maryann Sumi were largely uneventful, but that was to be expected. The big decision she was supposed to make that day – whether or not the Budget Repair Bill was law – was already decided a day earlier when she released a special statement saying that it wasn’t. The biggest bomb that was dropped on Friday was that Sumi gave each side two months to form their cases before she would hear them. This, of course, drew outrage from Republicans, who feel that Sumi is unfairly holding up their legislation.

We’re not going to lie that we at snickered a little bit when we heard that decision. After all, two months ago, the Budget Repair Bill didn’t even exist. In that frame of mind, two moths seems like forever – especially to Republicans who have gotten everything they wanted recently in a matter of weeks, or even days in some cases. But is Judge Sumi being unfair by giving each side two months to prepare?

About the only way we see that decision being unfair is that it gives each side too little time. Ask any lawyer or attorney how much time they have to prepare for a major, groundbreaking trial – I guarantee it’s longer than two months. When cases are heard by the Supreme Court or the State Supreme Court, both sides will almost always be given more than two months to prepare. Sometimes you’ll get well over a year to prepare a case – especially if you consider the appeals process.  Considering the number of witness Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne was willing to present for the original hearing, he’ll be stretching his offices’ resources thin just to get the case ready to be presented in the short timeframe he’s been given. No, in our opinion, Judge Sumi’s two-month delay is not punishing to Republicans – even if it seems that way. The time allotted is the perfect balance between the need for proper preparation and the importance/timeliness of a decision on the legislation.

But just because the bill is out of Sumi’s courtroom doesn’t mean it’ll be left alone for two months. As we originally reported, Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk also filed suit at the same time as Ozanne. The difference being Ozanne’s suit challenged the constitutionality of the bill because it violated open meetings laws, while Falk’s suit says the bill is unconstitutional because it still contained fiscal components, and thus required quorum to pass, which it did not have. Ozanne’s case was given an emergency hearing, Falk’s was not. Flak’s case was slated to begin in the middle of this month, and we haven’t heard anything to the contrary. We’re imagining that Falk’s case will take longer to decide than the first wave of Ozanne’s case did, mainly because the issue is more complex (and less obvious, in our opinion). So we wouldn’t be surprised if Falk’s case is still going on when Ozanne’s resumes.

The biggest surprise throughout this whole situation has bee the unwillingness of the Republicans to pass their bill correctly. Honestly, we’re dumbfounded by it. If the Republicans wanted to, they could have the budget bill passed legally by the time the Falk trial starts, much less Ozanne’s. Yet the Republicans are convinced that staying the course is the best way to go. At the onset of our Madness in Madison series, we were very critical of Wis. Gov. Scott Walker, and rightfully so. However, in the last few weeks, a different Scott – Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald – has taken most of the press on the bill – and consequentially, most of our flack. To our pleasure, Fitzgerald stepped up to the proverbial plate of ineptitude once again.

“We passed the law correctly, legally the first time,” Fitzgerald said. “Passing the law correctly and legally a second or third time wouldn’t change anything. It certainly wouldn’t stop another activist judge and room full of lawyers (from trying) to start this merry-go-round all over again.”

Uh, actually Scott, it would. The guy who is suing you even says so, as did the judge who ruled against you. Remember, Ozanne’s suit is only against the open meeting laws. If the Republicans post a meeting announcement with 24 hours notice to discuss the original budget repair bill (the one that passed the Assembly, shadily), hold that meeting and then vote on the bill (which Democrats would be powerless to stop), then Walker signs the bill and it’s law (in 10 days when Secretary of State Doug La Follette would publish the bill). Both lawsuits effectively go away and Walker and the Repubs get even more of what they want then they’re getting now. The only way I can think to describe the foolishness of the situation is that Walker and his Republicans are trying to get from Chicago to Dallas by going through London. They are literally throwing away a win-win scenario just so they can continue to bitch and moan while sticking it to Democrats. But remember, the bill is really about helping Wisconsin families.


But we digress. The point is that for now, the Budget Repair Bill will hopefully be off the radar for a bit, and we can focus our efforts and research on other issues. Like we said, is not a Wisconsin Politics blog, nor do we exclusively cover the Budget Repair Bill – it just seems that way sometimes. While tomorrow’s post will be about the Wisconsin State Supreme Court Elections, look for more posts relating to our national government coming up in the near future. As always, if you have a topic you’d like us to cover, feel free to comment, or email us at Tim[at] And as always, stay progressive, people!

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