Supreme Court Hands Evers Another Defeat
Gov. Tony Evers declares a public health emergency due to the coronavirus on March 12. (Photo © Andy Manis)

Court upholds majority of lame-duck laws, sends case back to lower court. 

Gov. Tony Evers and Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul were handed another defeat from the conservative-dominated state Supreme Court Thursday, with justices upholding a majority of what have become known as the lame-ducks laws passed by the GOP-controlled Legislature just before Evers and Kaul took office.

The rules, passed in December of 2018, took effect a month before power transferred from Republican Gov. Scott Walker to Evers. 

“We had a race for governor in 2018. I won,” said Evers in a statement. “Unfortunately, things got off on the wrong foot because Republicans immediately passed a law overriding the will of the people and the election, and they’ve been sour grapes ever since.”

Evers said from the lame-duck laws and challenging his veto power, to challenging the safer-at-home order and filing suit to override his decision to postpone the April 7 election, that “clearly Republicans are going to continue working against me.”

 “But I’m not going to let that stop me from continuing to do what I promised I would when I ran for this office—I am going to keep putting people first and doing what’s best for the people of our state,” said Evers in the statement. 

In the ruling, the justices upheld the requirements that legislators rather than the attorney general, the elected head of the Department of Justice, approve court settlements and provide greater ability for lawmakers to intervene in lawsuits involving the state. In the dissent were liberal Justices Ann Walsh Bradley and Rebecca Dallet. 

The court also upheld the ability of lawmakers to block the administration from changing Capitol security policies.

“A rogue attorney general can no longer unilaterally settle away laws already on the books and unelected bureaucrats can’t expand their powers beyond what the people have given them through their representatives,” said Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, in a tweet.

Justice Daniel Kelly, in what could be one of his final rulings on the bench, joined with Dallet, Bradley and Rebecca Bradley to write the majority ruling that struck down one part of the lame-duck law that would have required the Evers administration to rewrite thousands of government documents and websites. 

In finding this law unconstitutional, Kelly wrote it was written too broadly. 

The Supreme Court sent the case back to the Dane County Court, meaning portions of the case will continue to be litigated. 

“In grasping at power after the 2018 elections, legislative Republicans demonstrated open hostility to outcomes chosen by Wisconsin voters and made it more difficult for state government to function effectively,” said Kaul in a statement. “Today’s decision leaves for another day a ruling on whether most applications of two provisions undermining the authority of the Office of Attorney General are constitutional, but the ultimate result is inevitable: those provisions will be found to be unconstitutional in nearly all of their applications.”