After Courts Block GOP Laws, Wisconsin GOP Pushes Bill To Strip Most State Courts’ Power To Block Laws

Last November, Wisconsin was able to run a fair election unmarred by one of the Republican Party’s favorite voter suppression tactics because two lower courts struck down the state’s unconstitutional voter ID law, and the conservative state supreme court repeatedly refused requests to take up the case before it winds its way through the normal appeals process. Now, a group of Wisconsin Republicans are pushing legislation to ensure that something like this never happens again:

Since 2011, circuit judges have blocked all or parts of laws backed by Republicans that required voters to show photo ID at the polls, limited collective bargaining for public employees and expanded the governor’s power over administrative rules. Under a measure announced Wednesday, such injunctions would be automatically stayed as soon as they were appealed — meaning laws that were blocked would be put back in effect until a higher court issued a ruling. . . .

Currently, circuit court orders in general may not be stayed while an appeal is pending. Under the bill, circuit court orders blocking state laws could immediately be appealed. If appeals were filed within 10 days, the circuit court order would immediately be stayed. The Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court would have the power to reinstate the circuit court’s decision while the appeal was pending.

To be sure, there are sensible positions between generally not allowing stays and making them automatic, but it’s difficult to view this bill as anything other than a Republican power grab. It’s also unconstitutional, according to a former Republican appointee to the state supreme court. Former Justice Janine Geske, who was appointed to the bench by Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson, says that “[t]o statutorily undo a court order before another court has acted on it is clearly to me an infringement on a court’s independence, and I don’t think it will withstand constitutional scrutiny.”