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Liberal Wisconsin Judge Tipped Off Anti-Walker Suit Was Coming

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Emails obtained through the Wisconsin Open Records law indicate former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk emailed all county employees and circuit court judges, including Circuit Court Judge Maryann Sumi, with a memo announcing her intention to file suit against Gov. Scott Walker’s budget repair bill.

In response, Falk received three responses from court employees.  Kathy Melzerand Elaine Creagerresponded with encouraging notes.  Peter Anderson repliedwith “doubts about the appropriateness of sending a message about filing a legal action to the judges of the circuit court where the action is likely to be filed.”

Anderson is Sumi’s colleague on the bench.  He’s a judge who felt it was inappropriate to give the judges a heads-up that this lawsuit was coming.

There was no similar statement from Sumi.  Instead, with this knowledge in hand, she moved quickly to agree with Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne’s suit to void the budget repair law.

Was this all a set up from the beginning?

The end result, of course, was that Sumi’s ruling was ridiculous and the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported, “The court concluded that Sumi exceeded her jurisdiction, ‘invaded’ the Legislature's constitutional powers and erred in halting the publication and implementation of the collective bargaining law.”  The Supreme Court reinstated the budget repair legislation, including the curtailment of collective bargaining privileges.

Ozanne was quoted by the AP as saying, “We've done the best we can…it looks like we've lost."

That sounds more like an apology to supporters than an acknowledgement of a loss in the judicial process.

As I said, Education Action Group received Falk’s communication via an Open Records request.  At the same time, we filed one for Ozanne’s communications.  He ignored our repeated requests.

To that end, Education Action Group is suing Ozanne for his lack of transparency.  That is the irony of the whole thing:  two individuals – a judge and a DA – purport to care so much about government openness and transparency, yet one of them requires an organization to hire an attorney to get the public records.

Ozanne said of his lawsuit to block Walker’s bill, “Transparency in government is of the utmost importance. It's the foundation that builds communities trust in representatives and government.”

If he’s sincere, one wonders why EAG would have to spend hard-earned resources to make Ozanne hand over public documents?

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