Senator Scott Fitzgerald, (R) Juneau
Senate Majority Leader
Senator Scott Fitzgerald's Statement today on the revised TRO issued by Judge Sumi this morning:
“Once again, one Dane County judge is doing everything she can to stand in the way of our efforts to improve the economy and create jobs. The fact that the prosecution didn’t even request an amended TRO makes it clear: this is judicial activism at its worst.
“There are 17 branches of the Dane County Circuit Court. To say that any one of them has more authority to make laws in Wisconsin than the elected Legislature is ridiculous.”It's amazing that a politician can be so inane in just two very short paragraphs of two sentences each. It's almost difficult to know where to start in addressing how bone-headed the statement is. It's as if some reject from Rush Limbaugh's radio staff had been hired to come up from Florida and author these statements for Sen. Fitzgerald unaware that the vast majority of Wisconsinites can still reach up and find that the backs of their heads are there.
Let's start with the last paragraph first. It is cleverly worded (In all likelihood by dumb luck, like the proverbial 1,000,000 monkeys sitting at keyboards and eventually replicating Hamlet.) In one sense Senator Fitzgerald can be seen as saying none of those 17 liberal Dane County Judges has the power that is being exerted here. There is presumably a wide spectrum of political beliefs on the Dane County bench and, under this reading, once again Sen. Fitzgerald has deliberately chosen to try to paint the Dane County Circuit Court with the liberal bias brush. Lawyers seldom have a reliable picture of what they are going to get in terms of philosophical bents in their cases in Dane County, so I doubt very much that Scott Fitzgerald has the solid scoop on Dane County judges.
Judge are temperate, not intemperate. They work hard at being non-partisan. Thus, it's hard to imagine any Dane County judge, or judge in any other county, saying something publicly on the order of: "Gee, if the Republicans hadn't had their heads firmly up their keisters when they rushed things through the conference committee on March 9, 2011, poor Judge Sumi wouldn't be having to put up with all the abuse she is taking." But I wouldn't put it past them to be thinking it, regardless of political leaning, since it is such a rational thought to have.
In another sense, the last paragraph can be viewed as singling Judge Sumi out as the one judge of 17, or in a small subset of 17, who would be prone due to liberal bias to act unlawfully. I posted earlier about the public attacks on Judge Sumi, both dopey and comical. I won't go back over that ground. What I will say is that Judge Sumi took substantially the same oath of office that Scott Fitzgerald took, to act in defense of the state's constitution. If it is determined ultimately in the lawsuit that the Open Meetings Law is grounded in the Wisconsin Constitution, as I believe will surely happen, then we will ultimately know whether Judge Sumi or Senator Fitzgerald has done a better job living up to the oath of office. We already know which person is showing more respect for a co-equal branch of govenrment.
Now to paragraph one. Judge Sumi has repeatedly made clear that she is not addressing whether Act 10 is a good law, a bad law, or a middling law. That's clearly not her job. I doubt that Senator Fitzgerald is right when he says that Judge Sumi wants to see the economy remain in the doldrums. Frankly, the possibility of cuts to funding for the staffing of the judicial branch, of DA's and public defenders, should have all sane judges saying prayers for a rapid improvement in the state's economy. Judge Sumi is a sane judge.
Senator Fitzgerald claims the TRO wasn't even requested. I don't know as I sit here whether DA Ozanne asked for the modification of the TRO, or whether Judge Sumi acted after seeing all the press releases from GOP sources indicating that no one wearing red ties intended to pay any heed to her March 28th order. I will accept the premise that she acted sua sponte, after hearing her order was in the process of being ignored. If you don't know the meaning of sua sponte, it means the court takes an action on its own authority, rather than at the request of a party to the lawsuit. That's the formal Black's Law Dictionary definition. In the context of this case, sua sponte is more aptly defined as: "If you folks in charge of state government are going to keep acting like a law unto yourselves, I am going to at least make it crystal clear to the citizens of this state what you are doing." Judge Sumi did not have to have anyone ask her to modify her order. She had the inherent authority, and frankly duty, to act in order to protect the authority of and respect for the judicial system.
The GOP has screwed up the effort to put the budget repair bill in place from start (springing it on the public after not campaigning on it) to middle (banging the gavel down on poor Peter Barca at the improperly noticed conference committee meeting) to finish (directing the LRB to publish Act 10, thinking there was some loophole in Judge Sumi's original TRO to exploit). Scott Fitzgerald is continuing to try to take the focus off his own inadequacies as a majority leader by attacking Judge Sumi. Through his new attacks, here is what he want Wisconsinites to forget: