Wis. AG appeals union law ruling, asks for stay

Associated Press Modified: September 18, 2012 at 4:46 pm •  Published: September 18, 2012
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MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin's attorney general on Tuesday appealed a court ruling repealing major parts of Gov. Scott Walker's law effectively ending collective bargaining for most public workers.

J.B. Van Hollen also asked a judge to place his ruling on hold while the appeal is pending.

Van Hollen's request just four days after the ruling Friday comes as school districts and local governments attempt to understand the ramifications of the decision and whether it opens the door to new negotiations previously barred with unions.

Van Hollen, a Republican, asked that Dane County Circuit Judge Juan Colas act quickly on the request to halt his ruling, which overturned the law as it pertained to school and local government workers. Not taking swift action, Van Hollen argued, would lead to chaos and further confusion given that Walker's law effectively ending collective bargaining has been in effect for more than a year.

"It makes no sense to force a return to a broken system before the appellate process is completed," Van Hollen said in a statement. He filed the appeal with the state's 4th District Court of Appeals in Madison.

Lester Pines, the attorney representing the Madison teachers union that brought the lawsuit, promised to vigorously fight the request to put the ruling on hold.

"It's not going to be chaotic," Pines said. "We believe that these assertions of chaos are more propaganda than anything else."

Pines sent a separate letter to Van Hollen on Tuesday asking him to clarify whether he accepts the authority of Colas to preside over the case given that Walker, a Republican, had called Colas a "liberal activist judge" who "overturned the will of the people and imposed his personal political beliefs on all of us."

Pines, in a sternly worded letter, said it was unacceptable for Van Hollen to say nothing while his client, Walker, accused a judge of bias and prejudice.

Van Hollen told The Associated Press in an interview Monday that he didn't want to comment on Walker's statements or "go into Colas' head." Van Hollen said "legal minds can disagree" on the merits of the ruling, but he found it to be "woefully legally deficient."

Also Tuesday, the Madison teachers union notified the school district that it wanted to begin talks on a new contract in light of the ruling. The district's roughly 4,700 union-covered employees are working under a contract that runs through June 2013.

District Superintendent Jane Belmore has said nothing should be done given the legal uncertainties surrounding the law.

While the legal battle moved forward, those affected by Friday's ruling continued to try to understand its ramifications.

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