On September 14, 2012, Dane County Circuit Judge Juan Colas ruled that significant portions of Act 10, the drastic revisions made in 2011 to the law that governed Wisconsin’s public employee unions and the scope of collective bargaining, were unconstitutional. Among other things, the judge struck down Act 10’s severe limitation on the unions’ and municipal employers’ ability to bargain wages and prohibition against bargaining other employment terms, the prohibition on dues deductions from union members’ salaries, and the requirement of annual recertification elections by supermajorities. Plaintiff Madison Teachers, Inc. is represented in the case by CWPB attorneys Lester Pines,Susan Crawford and Tamara Packard.
Within minutes of release of the judge’s decision, Governor Walker attacked the judge, claiming that he was a biased, liberal Dane County jurist. In a press conference the following day, Lester Pines described the Governor’s attack on the judge as “bad manners” and said “All I can predict is that anytime Governor Walker gets a negative ruling from any of the courts he’s going to cry like a baby and whine and say they’re politically biased.”
Wisconsin’s Attorney General, who represents the Governor and the other defendants in the case, promptly filed for appeal and asked Judge Colas for a stay of his order. The Attorney General did not repudiate Governor Walker’s personal attack on the judge, however. That failure led Attorney Pines to send a letter to the Attorney General reminding him of his obligation as an attorney to refrain from personal attacks on judges and stating that his silence in the face of Governor Walker’s behavior was acquiesence.
Immediately following the ruling, at least some municipal employers and their employees’ unions took the opportunity to return to the bargaining table and engage in broader negotiations than were allowed prior to the ruling. New collective bargaining agreements, reflecting mutually agreed upon solutions, were reached in Dane County, the City of Madison and the Madison Metropolitan School District. Those agreements provide for labor peace and harmonious, cooperative relations between the parties, and extend into 2014 and 2015.
A ruling from Judge Colas on the State’s request for a stay is anticipated soon.