A Dane County judge denied a request by state attorneys Friday to temporary delay a police union’s lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a law curbing collective bargaining rights for some public employee unions.
The Wisconsin Law Enforcement Association filed a lawsuit against the law in November, alleging provisions violated the state constitution’s equal protection clause. However, a different Dane County judge in a case brought by Madison Teachers Inc. issued an injunction on parts of the law, which the state is currently challenging in an appeals court.
The Department of Justice asked Dane County Judge John Markson for a stay in the WLEA’s case until the appeals court reaches its decision, claiming the decision could have an impact on the case and the state could save resources by waiting, according to Markson.
Markson, however, issued an oral ruling Friday that the public has an interest in having the case decided as quickly as possible.
“The case needs to be decided,” Markson said. “And in my view, there is no need for us to wait until the court of appeals decides a different case about a different group of affected employees under a different part of the law, however similar they may be.”
Steven Kilpatrick, assistant attorney general, said the parties involved in the appeals court case received notification March 19 the court had received the case is considering and ruling on the matter.
The appeals court could issue a decision at any time, which Kilpatrick said he would support a stay in the case.
“The court of appeals is considering the merits of that case as we speak,” Kilpatrick said.
However, Markson said no one knows when the court will issue its decision. He said this was insufficient reason for him to issue a stay.
While he respected the state’s arguments concerning the cost of resources and time, Markson said the state has already received multiple challenges against the law, reaching a decision as quickly as possible.
“If constitutional rights are being violated, by all means that must be addressed as quickly and reasonably as possible,” Markson said. “If that turns out to not to be the case, nevertheless, it’s in the public interest to have the matter move toward a settlement or resolution of that issue.”
WLEA alleged the law violated parts of the equal protection clause in the state’s constitution because it created a distinction between general employees and public safety employees, Markson said.
Markson said WLEA claimed the law prevented them from representing its employees fairly. For instance, public safety employees could collectively bargain through the union, while general employees could not.
Markson also said he decided against issuing a stay because of its current schedule. He said WLEA has 60 days from April 19 to file a brief in support of its position, and the state has 60 days to respond. WLEA also has a 30-day period to respond to the state’s brief.
Although WLEA and the state could file its brief and response, respectively, before the limits, Markson said the schedule would delay a decision for several months even without a stay.
A Department of Justice spokesperson declined to comment on the decision. A WLEA spokesperson did not return requests for comment.