By KEVIN WANG
MADISON, Wis. (AP) – Wisconsin attorneys would be able to nullify court rulings that block state laws under a Republican-backed bill approved Thursday by the state Assembly.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. David Craig, R-West Bend, would give attorneys 10 days to file an appeal to a higher court, effectively staying a trial judge’s decision to block a state law from taking effect. The Assembly passed it with a 57-39 vote, and the measure now goes to the state Senate.
It comes after Dane County judges last year struck down portions of Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s signature law stripping most public workers of their collective bargaining rights and voided a Republican law mandating voters show photo identification at the polls.
Craig said at a Capitol news conference before the vote that his proposal would ensure statewide issues won’t be unnecessarily deterred by a single ruling.
But Democrats criticized it during floor debate, saying the Legislature is overreaching and interfering with the judicial branch.
“I don’t know how you can be so cynical,” said Rep. Evan Goyke, a Milwaukee Democrat who is also a former assistant state public defender. “We shouldn’t pretend we know what’s good for our judiciary system.”
Rep. Gary Hebl, D-Sun Prairie, called the bill “despicable” and “assault on democracy,” noting it would lead to future lawsuits over the bill’s constitutionality that are costly to taxpayers.
“Maybe it’s a good jobs bill that would enable lawyers to make lots of money over a long time.” Hebl joked.
Republicans, other than Craig, didn’t react to Democrats’ backlash on the floor, nor did they weigh in on the bill.
Under Craig’s bill, an attorney could stay a trial judge’s order blocking a state law from taking effect by filing an appeal to an appellate court or the state Supreme Court within 10 days. That automatic stay would remain in place until the appellate court or Supreme Court lifted it or tossed the case through a final order.
If an appellate court found the law invalid and lifted the stay, the losing side could reinstate it by asking the state Supreme Court to take the case.
Republicans have long contended Dane County judges are too liberal and have been working to limit their powers since the GOP took full control of state government in 2011. They passed a law that year allowing people to challenge state agency rules in their home county or the county where the dispute arose rather than in Madison.