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Judge orders Capitol open to general public (UPDATE)

By JASON SMATHERS
Associated Press

Peggy Lautenschlager, attorney for the petitioners, and state Assistant Attorney General Steve Means talk over paperwork before a hearing at the Dane County Courthouse in Madison on Tuesday. The hearing revolved around a petition for a temporary injunction to require the Wisconsin Department of Administration to reopen the Capitol to the public. Judge John C. Albert ordered Wisconsin officials to open the Capitol to all members of the public during normal business hours. (AP Photo/M.P. King, Pool)

Peggy Lautenschlager, attorney for the petitioners, and state Assistant Attorney General Steve Means talk over paperwork before a hearing at the Dane County Courthouse in Madison on Tuesday. The hearing revolved around a petition for a temporary injunction to require the Wisconsin Department of Administration to reopen the Capitol to the public. Judge John C. Albert ordered Wisconsin officials to open the Capitol to all members of the public during normal business hours. (AP Photo/M.P. King, Pool)

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A Dane County judge on Tuesday ordered Wisconsin officials to open the Capitol to the public during normal business hours, reversing a temporary policy that restricted access to people who had appointments or other specific business.

Judge Daniel Moeser issued a temporary restraining order to reopen the building until a trial court could schedule a hearing, according to court documents. The order said the Capitol must be open during business hours and when “governmental matters, such as hearings, listening sessions, or court arguments are being conducted.”

Police were still limiting access to the building as of early afternoon.

The Department of Administration said Tuesday afternoon that the access policies it now has in place are in compliance with the court order.

Police were granting access to visitors who didn’t have appointments only when equal numbers of other visitors left the building. People who did have appointments were being escorted inside in groups of eight.

Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca said the ruling ensured that clean and open government was upheld.

“People must have the freedom to visit their Capitol and petition their government. It is their constitutional right,” the Kenosha Democrat said. “The fight to restore freedom in Wisconsin continues.”

Barca said he believed the Department of Administration should comply immediately with the order in an organized manner.

Former Wisconsin Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager represents the Wisconsin state employees union and the AFL-CIO in the suit. She filed a motion for an injunction Monday to reopen the Capitol. A hearing on the matter started Tuesday afternoon and was scheduled to resume Wednesday.

Police limited access to the Capitol on Monday after they said demonstrators inside refused to comply with certain police directives. Protesters were not allowed into the building, while constituents and other visitors were given limited access about noon Monday.

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