The founders of the American experiment separated the powers of the federal government they established and encouraged a similar separation in the various states.
Ever conscious of the abuses committed against them by the British monarchy—which employed the false premise of a “divine right of kings” to place the whole of government at the service of a sovereign, they outlined a system of checks and balances that was supposed to counter the corruptions of empire and royalty.
Their great fear was that a political party arise and then use the power vested in it by a temporary electoral victory to grab complete control of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government and use this combined authority not as a guard against corruption but the facilitator of it.
Those fears have now been fully realized in Wisconsin, where the crude power grabs of Republican Governor Scott Walker were initially facilitated by his minions in the Republican-controlled chambers of the state legislature, Assembly speaker Jeff Fitzgerald and his brother, Senate majority leader Scott Fitzgerald. As inept as they were subservient, the Fitzgerald brothers bumbled an attempt to pass legislation that was designed to strip public employees of their collective bargaining rights.
The failure of the Fitzgeralds to respect the state’s well-defined open meetings laws led to a decision by a respected circuit court judge, Maryann Sumi of Dane County, to declare the law invalid because it had not been properly passed. Frightened by the mass demonstrations opposing the law, and by the prospect that another vote in favor of the unpopular measure would encourage efforts to recall and remove Republican state senators, the Fitzgeralds did not want to carry the governor’s agenda again.
But the only way that could happen would be if the state Supreme Court were to overrule Judge Sumi and authorize implementation of the law.
But could the court be so corrupted that it would play the political games as demanded by Walker and the Fitzgeralds? That was hard to imagine, even in a time and place where governmental abuses have become so frequent that dissenting legislators and citizens now refer to the state as “Fitzwalkerstan.”
Racing to deliver the necessary cover before the Fitzegeralds were forced to insert Walker’s anti-labor language in the state budget bill, the court ruled as requested.
Four justices, who have allied themselves politically and ideologically with the governor and his conservative Republican allies, constructed a legal fantasy that said the legislature did not have to follow the open meetings law it had enacted. With that deed done, the jurists—including Justice David Prosser, a former Republican legislator and mentor to Walker who was narrowly re-elected after the “discovery” by a friendly county clerk of thousands of votes favoring his candidacy—declared that the law was valid and in effect.