The Wisconsin Supreme Court heard oral arguments today in a case challenging the constitutionality of the state legislature’s December 2018 extraordinary session and resulting legislation, which would make changes to administrative processes in the state.
A group of individuals and organizations, led by the League of Women Voters, filed the lawsuit in January 2019 seeking to void the legislation passed during the extraordinary session on the grounds that state lawmakers had convened the session in violation of the Wisconsin Constitution.
The legislation at issue would implement broad changes to administrative procedures in the state, including codifying the end of judicial deference, setting new standards for guidance documents issued by state agencies, and abolishing sue-and-settle practices, among other changes.
The line of questioning from the court’s conservative justices, who hold a 4-3 majority, centered on the Wisconsin Constitution’s grant of broad authority to the governor and the state legislature to determine the time and frequency of legislative sessions. The justices also observed that the state legislature has convened in unchallenged extraordinary sessions for 40 years. The liberal justices, on the other hand, pointed to the lack of explicit language in the Wisconsin Constitution allowing for the state legislature to call an extraordinary session.
Three other pending lawsuits challenge the extraordinary session and resulting legislation. A state lawsuit filed by Wisconsin union groups claims that the legislation violates the separation of powers by increasing legislative authority over executive branch actions. A federal lawsuit seeks to overturn changes to early voting procedures that were included in the legislative package. Lastly, another federal lawsuit argues that the extraordinary session violates the U.S. Constitution’s Guarantee Clause, which guarantees every state the right to a republican form of government.