Wisconsin Supreme Court upholds Republicans’ 2018 lame-duck laws.

The ruling will allow laws that restrict Evers’ Justice Department from acting independently of the legislature to remain in effect. Photo: Office of the Speaker, public domain.

Author: Sam Buisman

The Wisconsin Supreme Court upholds the Wisconsin Legislature’s 2018 lame-duck laws that curbed the power of the incoming Evers Administration. 

In a 5-2 ruling, the court decided that the suite of laws passed by the Republican-controlled legislature after Governor Evers won the 2018 gubernatorial election but before he took office did not meet the high constitutional standard to be struck down in their entirety. 

As a result, these laws, which force the Attorney General to get permission from the legislature before withdrawing from or settling lawsuits and enables legislators to intervene in lawsuits independently of the Wisconsin Department of Justice, will remain on the books. 

Writing for the majority, Judge Brian Hagedorn found that these laws cannot be entirely unconstitutional, and thus completely struck down, as the legislature has a legitimate interest in certain court cases.

“The legislature may have an institutional interest in litigation implicating the public purse or in cases arising from its statutorily granted right to request the attorney general’s participation in litigation,” wrote Hagedorn. “These institutional interests are sufficient to allow at least some constitutional applications of these laws.” 

Republican lawmakers praised the court’s decision as a victory for checks and balances between Wisconsin’s branches of government.

“The governor and attorney general can continue to try to work around the legislature and violate laws when doing so,” said Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, “or they can begin to understand that there are checks and balances set forth in our representative democracy, just as the state high court reminded them today.” 

Governor Tony Evers described this lawsuit as state Republicans acting as “sour grapes” in reaction to his 2018 victory.

“From the lame duck laws and challenging my veto power, to Safer at Home and holding an unsafe election this past April, clearly Republicans are going to continue working against me every chance they get, regardless of the consequences,” said Evers.