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La Follette wants appeal dropped in union case (UPDATE)

Wisconsin Secretary of State Doug La Follette speaks to reporters April 1 in Dane County Circuit Court. He is asking the Wisconsin Supreme Court to drop the appeal made in his name of a judge's order putting on hold the enactment of the law restricting union bargaining rights. (AP Photo/Michael P. King, Pool)

Madison (AP) — Wisconsin's secretary of state has asked the state Supreme Court to drop an appeal made in his name that seeks to overturn a lower court judge's order barring the state's divisive new union rights law from taking effect.

Doug La Follette, a Democrat who opposes the law and who has hired his own attorney to represent him on the matter, submitted his request to the high court on Wednesday. In it, his attorney, Roger Sage, contends that Justice Department lawyers drafted the March 21 appeal of the judge’s order without consulting La Follette, even though the appeal was submitted on La Follette’s behalf.

The state Supreme Court has not said whether it would consider the appeal, but if it agreed to La Follette’s request to withdraw it, no case related to the union law would be pending before the high court. It’s widely expected that the case will reach the state Supreme Court one way or another.

Justice Department spokesman Bill Cosh said in a statement Thursday that the department disagrees with La Follette’s assertion that he wasn’t consulted about the appeal before it was filed. The Justice Department believes it should be representing La Follette.

The March 21 appeal seeks to undo Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi’s order barring La Follette from publishing the law in the state’s official newspaper — the last step before a law takes effect — while she considers a lawsuit challenging the way the law was passed. Sumi extended the order infinitely last week, and it could be months before she rules.

The law, which was championed by Republican Gov. Scott Walker, would require most state workers to contribute more toward their pensions and health care benefits, amounting to an 8 percent pay cut. It would also strip the workers of nearly all collective bargaining rights.

Republican legislators passed it despite a bitter standoff with Democrats and weeks of large pro-union protests in the state Capitol. Walker signed it on March 11.

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