Lawyers react to collective bargaining ruling

Attorneys point to long appeal process ahead
Lawyers react to collective bargaining ruling

Nearly 18 months after the battle began over collective bargaining, Friday’s ruling by a Dane County circuit court judge proves that the fight is not over.

After Judge Juan Colas ruled that the law was unconstitutional, Gov. Scott Walker reacted.

“I think you’ve got an activist judge in Dane County like we’ve seen so many times in the past,” said Gov. Walker. “Ultimately, we’re confident when it comes to the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court the law will be upheld.”

Gov. Walker wasn’t the only one to speak out about Friday’s ruling.

Lawyers for Madison Teachers Incorporated (MTI) and a group of Milwaukee sanitation workers, the organizations that filed the lawsuit against Act 10, are speaking out about Friday’s ruling.

The news of the ruling came as a surprise to a number of people on both ends of the debate, but not to Pines and Tamara Packard of the Cullen, Weston, Pines, and Bach law firm, or Nick Padway with Padway and Padway, Ltd.

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Pines and Packard represent MTI, while Padway is going to court for Milwaukee sanitation workers.

The lawyers explained in a press conference that state circuit judges have a maximum of six months to make a decision on cases like this one. That deadline would have come Monday.

Pines explained that the ruling makes collective bargaining effective immediately, but there’s likely a long process ahead. He expects the appeals decision to be handed down in four or five months. Pines estimates the earliest the state Supreme Court could reach its own decision on the case would be six months.

Pines anticipates this case to be significantly weighed down with litigation along the way.

Some of those predictions were repeated in a statement that was released by Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen released.

The statement in part read: “We believe that Act 10 is constitutional in all respects and will be appealing this decision. We also will be seeking a stay of Friday’s decision pending appeal in order to allow the law to continue in effect as it has for more than a year while the appellate courts address the legal issues.”

Pines emphasized his disappointment with Walker’s reaction to the ruling, saying he should not be labeling the court system as partisan.

“Any time Governor Walker gets any negative ruling from any court, he’s going to cry like a baby and whine and say they’re politically biased,” Pines said.

“He could have asked for a different judge, and it would have been given to him. Automatically,” Pines’s partner Packard said. “It’s an automatic right for every single defendant and every single plaintiff in every single trial court case to ask for a different judge.”

Pines added, “Governor Walker is undermining, clearly attempting to undermine confidence in the judiciary.”

The ruling’s opponents not surprisingly are taking Gov. Walker’s side, saying the decision was clearly driven by political views.

“At first, I didn’t believe it, quite frankly,” Republican state senator Glenn Grothman said. “I couldn’t believe we have another ridiculous decision from a Dane County judge, but apparently they have a bottomless degree of arrogance in that judiciary. And it’s just another decision that’s going to have to be appealed.”

Grothman went on to express concern for school districts with already cash-strapped budgets. He said adding more costs to that will be very difficult to handle.

“Where is that money going to come from?” Grothman asked. “I mean, obviously there are going to be big cutbacks in the state unless you get some kind of temporary order overturning the decision of this judge.”

The union’s bargaining rights are applicable now, according to MTI’s attorneys. Pines says school districts need to be ready to re-enter contracts with teachers.

“They should start dealing with the unions as the exclusive representative to their employees until they’re told not to do so by some court,” Pines said.

MTI executive director John Matthews said meeting union demands will not be a budget burden, at least for the Madison school district. He does say that adjustments will have to be made, including the reinstatement of elementary school planning periods.

“There’s a few things that they’re going to have to modify to conform with the terms and conditions they agreed to in 2009,” Matthews explained.

Lawyers stressed that this lawsuit only challenges the rights for municipal workers, not for state workers. However, Pines and Packard said those workers could file their own similar lawsuit after seeing this ruling go in their favor.

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