New court challenge to Wisconsin union law filed

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 30, 2011 7:54 PM
New court challenge to Wisconsin union law filed

By Jeff Mayers

MADISON, Wisc (Reuters) - The Wisconsin Supreme Court should void a controversial state law curbing the power of public sector unions because a judge who ruled on the law had a conflict of interest, a county attorney said on Friday.

Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne said in a court filing that Judge Michael Gableman should have recused himself from the case.

A divided Supreme Court in June allowed the union law to go into effect by a vote of 4 to 3 with Gableman in the majority. The court would have been deadlocked had Gableman recused himself.

The law set off a fierce national debate on the collective bargaining rights of labor unions and prompted a drive to remove from office nine Wisconsin state senators. Two Republicans who had supported the union curbs were recalled.

The law forced local workers such as teachers to pay more for health care and pensions, and limited the ability of their unions to negotiate wage increases.

Democrats and labor unions are leading a campaign to force a recall election next year of Republican Governor Scott Walker, who championed the union law.

The court filing on Friday said that Gableman should have recused himself because a lawyer who represented the Republican-led state government in the case had represented Gableman on a personal issue.

"Justice Gableman received legal representation from a private law firm, Michael Best & Friedrich, LLP in a personal legal matter without any obligation to pay legal fees," the court papers said.

The filing said that Gableman's personal lawyer, Eric McLeod, attended the oral argument before the state Supreme Court on the union law as a representative of the state government.

The filing asked the court to either void the law or force Gableman to recuse himself. Gableman has denied any wrongdoing.

(Writing by Greg McCune; Editing by Cynthia Johnston)