Fox & Friends hosted Wisconsin Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch to discuss a recent court ruling finding that GOP lawmakers may have violated Wisconsin's open meetings law when they pushed through a bill ending most public union collective bargaining rights. During the segment, the co-hosts repeatedly failed to challenge Kleefish's claims about the legality of the proceedings surrounding the bill.
WI Judge Blocks GOP's Collective Bargaining Law
WI Judge Issues Restraining Order On Collective Bargaining Law. On March 18, Judge Maryann Sumi of Dane County Circuit Court in Wisconsin issued a temporary restraining order to prevent the law that would end most collective bargaining rights for public unions from taking effect. According to The New York Times, the ruling delays publication of the law "until at least later in the month, when she plans to hold a full hearing on a lawsuit that accuses Republican lawmakers of violating the Wisconsin open meeting requirements to push through the bill." [The New York Times, 3/18/11]
Fox & Friends Hosts Kleefisch To Claim "The Law Is On Our Side"
Camerota: "Is This Just Another Way For Democrats To Overturn [The Law]?" On March 21, the co-hosts of Fox News' Fox & Friends hosted GOP Wisconsin Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch to discuss Judge Sumi's ruling. The co-hosts did not challenge her repeated claims that "the law is on our side here" and that the judge is "block[ing] publication of a law because she doesn't like what's inside of it." From the broadcast:
ALISYN CAMEROTA (guest host): A Wisconsin judge is blocking Scott walker's law reducing union's collective bargaining rights. Judge Maryann Sumi says the law may violate the state's open meeting laws. So is this just another way for Democrats to overturn it?
BRIAN KILMEADE (co-host): Joining us now on the phone in Wisconsin is Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch. Lieutenant Governor, thanks for joining us...Can you tell us right now how concerned you are that this law you worked so hard to pass will go through?
KLEEFISCH: I'm not concerned, because the law is on our side here. What we have is a legal case that is going to talk about how a specific meeting was convened and not at all the content of the law that was signed by Governor Walker after it was passed by the legislature. So I'm not worried.
CAMEROTA: But since there's this technicality, about how the meeting was convened, is the easiest thing just to reconvene and take another vote?
KLEEFISCH: Well, that is an option, I guess, down the road, but we think that in this case, justice is going to be swift because the law is on our side. We know that in special session of the legislature which the legislature was in when this meeting was convened, both the Senate and the Assembly rules trumped the open meetings law in the state of Wisconsin, and our attorney general, J.B. Van Hollen, has said that Supreme Court decisions have made it very clear that judges can't force the Secretary of State from publishing a law. The secretary of state can't just refuse to publish a law because of procedural or constitutional concerns. And, you know, that speaks to the fact that a judge cannot simply block the publication of a law because she doesn't like what's inside of it. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 3/21/11, emphasis added]
But Legal Status Of The Proceedings Remains Unclear
Judge's Ruling Delays Implementation Of Law Until "Full Hearing" On Whether Open Meetings Law Was Violated. According to reports, Judge Sumi has ruled that it is not legally clear whether or not Republican lawmakers violated Wisconsin's open meetings law by holding a vote on the collective bargaining bill with less than 24 hours' notice. From The New York Times:
Efforts to shrink collective bargaining rights for public workers in Wisconsin were slowed on Friday when a judge issued a temporary restraining order blocking a much-debated law from taking effect.
The decision, issued by Judge Maryann Sumi of the Dane County Circuit Court in Madison, temporarily bars the Wisconsin secretary of state from publishing the law, which limits bargaining to matters of wages. The fight over the law has drawn tens of thousands of demonstrators to the State Capitol, and the issue has become a focus of debate in numerous statehouses.
Publication of the law -- a procedural requirement needed before it can take effect -- had been expected next week. But Judge Sumi's ruling could delay that until at least later in the month, when she plans to hold a full hearing on a lawsuit that accuses Republican lawmakers of violating the Wisconsin open meeting requirements to push through the bill. State officials said they were pursuing an appeal of the restraining order.
The lawsuit says that Republican legislative leaders not only failed to provide 24 hours' notice for the conference committee meeting, they even failed to give two hours' notice -- which is permissible under state law if more notice is "impossible or impractical."
Republican leaders contended that because they were dealing with a bill tied to a special session, they were required only to post a notice of the meeting on a legislative bulletin board. The posts, they said, appeared on boards near the Senate and Assembly chambers two hours before the meeting began. [The New York Times, 3/18/11]
WSJ: Judge Found The Lawsuit "Had Enough Merit For Her To Issue A Temporary Restraining Order To Prevent" Publication Of The Bill. From The Wall Street Journal:
A Wisconsin circuit court judge put on hold Friday a new law that would curtail collective-bargaining rights for public unions, delaying for now the implementation of bitterly contested legislation that drew thousands of protesters and shut down the legislature.
Judge Maryann Sumi said a lawsuit filed by the Dane County district attorney had enough merit for her to issue a temporary restraining order to prevent Secretary of State Doug La Follette from publishing the bill while she reviews the case.
In his complaint, District Attorney Ismael Ozanne argued that the state's open-meeting laws were violated when Republican leaders whisked the bill through committee last week without giving a 24-hour public notice. In emergencies, meetings may be called with just two hours' notice. Mr. Ozanne argued that even that minimal standard hadn't been upheld.
Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, a Republican, said the Wisconsin Department of Justice planned to appeal the judge's restraining order. [The Wall Street Journal, 3/19/11]
Contrary To Fox & Friends' Claims, There Is No Evidence That Judge Was Ideologically Motivated
Judge Sumi Was Appointed By Republican Governor Tommy Thompson. Contrary to Camerota's suggestion that the legal proceedings could be "just another way for Democrats to overturn" the law,as well as Kleefisch's assertion that the judge "cannot simply block the publication of a law because she doesn't like what's inside of it," Judge Sumi was appointed in 1998 by Governor Tommy Thompson -- a Republican. [The New York Times, 3/18/11]
WI State Journal: "Sumi Said She Was Making No Judgment On The Merits Of The Bill." An article in the Wisconsin State Journal stated that Judge Sumi said she was not passing a judgment on the merits of the bill and also noted that she acknowledged she has no power to stop the Legislature from reconvening and passing the bill again. From the article:
Sumi set a hearing on a longer-term order blocking the bill for March 28. That is expected to take much longer, with a number of witnesses expected to testify. But in response to a question from Lazar, Sumi said she can't stop the Legislature from re-convening a properly-noticed meeting and passing the bill again.
In her decision, Sumi said she was making no judgment on the merits of the bill and was deciding only the open meetings issue. [The Wisconsin State Journal, 3/18/11]