Constitutional Government and Rule of Law

WILL is committed to guarding our constitutional system by standing up for federalism, the separation of powers, and oversight of the administrative state.

Open Case

Notice of Claim: Town of Buchanan Transportation Utility Fee

 

WILL filed a Notice of Claim with the Town of Buchanan, in Outagamie County, that a recently adopted “transportation utility fee” is an unlawful tax and must be eliminated.

NOC Filed: May 2021

Open Case

Notice of Claim: Madison Bird-Glass Ordinance

 

WILL filed a Notice of Claim with the City of Madison warning that the City’s new mandatory bird-safe glass ordinance is preempted by state law. The Notice of Claim warns Madison that the new city ordinance undermines Wisconsin’s uniform building code.

NOC Filed: March 2021

Open Case

Hunter Nation v. DNR (2021)

 

WILL filed a lawsuit against Wisconsin DNR Secretary Preston Cole, the Wisconsin DNR, and the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board, for ignoring a state law requirement to schedule a wolf hunt season for winter 2021.

Filed: February 2021

Open Case

Becker v. Dane County

 

WILL lawsuit in Dane County Circuit Court, on behalf of two Dane County residents, challenging the Dane County health department’s legal authority to issue sweeping restrictions on all aspects of life in Dane County. This lawsuit is substantially similar to an original action WILL filed with the Wisconsin Supreme Court in November 2020.

Filed: January 2021

Open Case

Lindoo v. Evers

 

WILL filed a lawsuit in Polk County Circuit Court on behalf of three residents and taxpayers raising a straightforward argument: governors cannot seize emergency powers more than once to address the same crisis.

Filed: August 2020

Closed Case

Supreme Court Rules Petition: Redistricting

 

WILL filed a rules petition that, if adopted, would enable the Wisconsin Supreme Court to efficiently handle legal challenges to redistricting.

Filed: June 2020

Closed Case

Zignego et al v. Wisconsin Election Commission et al

 

The Wisconsin Elections Commission, a state agency, is putting Wisconsin’s election integrity at risk by intentionally ignoring state law to allow voter registrations at old addresses to remain active. WILL filed this lawsuit to ensure the law is followed.

Filed: November 2019

Amicus

DNC v. Bostelmann

 

WILL filed an amicus brief arguing that the Legislature must be permitted to defend state law in federal court when others, typically charged with doing so, do not. The Wisconsin Supreme Court agreed in a 4-3 decision. Proving the importance of that ruling, shortly after the Court’s decision, the Seventh Circuit stayed the District Court’s ruling, restoring Wisconsin’s election laws prior to the November election.

Closed Case

WEC Rules Petition: Ballot Harvesting

 

WILL submitted a rules petition to the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) asking the state agency to promulgate a rule that makes clear that the practice of ballot harvesting is illegal in Wisconsin.

Filed: June 2020

Amicus

Wisconsin Legislature v. Palm

 

Does a single state official have the power to lock down the entire state of Wisconsin absent a declared public health emergency? WILL filed an amicus brief on behalf of our clients asking the Court to protect our constitutional separation of powers.

Filed: April 2020

Amicus

SEIU v. Vos

 

This case was a challenge to some actions of the legislature, and raises important issues of our constitutional separation of powers. WILL filed an amicus brief asking the court to protect the separation of powers by reinvigorating Wisconsin’s nondelegation doctrine.

Filed: September 2019

WILL Victory

Bartlett v. Evers

Governor Evers used his partial veto authority to create new laws and pay for new projects the Legislature never approved.  We believe that practice is a usurpation of the Legislature’s authority to write laws, and filed an original action in the Wisconsin Supreme Court in order to enforce limits on the power.

Filed: July 2019

WILL Victory

WILL v. DPI

 

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction issued first preliminary, and then final, federal report cards for the Every Student Succeeds Act to every school district in the state.  DPI insisted that school districts “embargo” the report cards and keep them hidden from the public for months, in direct violation of the Open Records Law.  DPI didn’t turn over the records it had on the subject, either, so we sued in order to obtain the records.

WILL Victory

Isthmus v. Madison Police Dep’t

 

Wisconsin law requires custodians to respond to record requests “as soon as practicable and without delay.”  We sued the Madison Police Department when it delayed responding to a simple record request for over 400 days.  It immediately turned over the records.

WILL Victory

Roth v. Brostoff

 

The Wisconsin Assembly has a policy of printing out electronic records and charging requesters on a per-page basis instead of simply sending the files electronically or putting them on a CD or flash drive.  We sued Representative Jonathan Brostoff when he tried to charge us over $3,000 for paper copies of emails, arguing that this practice violates the Open Records Law.  He turned over the records, waived charges, and paid us our attorney fees.

Closed Case

CRG Advocates v. Stamper

 

Wisconsin law requires custodians to turn over requested records “as soon as practicable and without delay.”  We sued Milwaukee Alderman Russell W. Stamper, II when he refused to produce records – or even explain his delay – for over six months.

WILL Victory

Koschkee v. Taylor

 

The REINS Act requires state agencies to submit proposed regulations to the governor for approval.  The Department of Public Instruction has refused to follow that law, so we filed an original action in the supreme court asking it to resolve the issue.

Amicus

Christie v. NCAA

 

The federal government prohibited New Jersey from repealing its ban on sports gambling.  We filed an amicus brief arguing the federal government can’t force states to keep old laws on the books, and the U.S. Supreme Court agreed.

Filed: Spetember 2017

Amicus

Tetra Tech v. DOR / DWD v. LIRC

 

When courts defer to agency interpretations of statutes, they abandon their constitutional duty to say what the law is.  We filed two amicus briefs arguing that practice is unconstitutional, and the Wisconsin Supreme Court agreed.

Filed: 2017

Amicus

Gill v. Whitford

 

A 3-judge panel employed a novel theory to invalidate Wisconsin’s legislative redistricting map.  We filed an amicus brief arguing that theory is foreclosed by binding precedent and the map is lawful.

Filed: 2017

 

WILL Victory

WILL v. U.S. Department of Justice

 

The U.S. DOJ ignored a FOIA request WILL filed in January 2016 for over 13 months.  We were seeking records regarding their fruitless investigation into alleged discrimination by choice schools.  After we filed a lawsuit seeking to compel release of those records, they finally turned them over.

Closed Case

Lueders v. Krug

 

State Assembly members have a policy of refusing to provide electronic copies of files, instead printing them out and demanding that requesters travel to Madison to obtain them.  Along with four other organizations concerned about government transparency, we filed an amicus brief in a case challenging that practice.

WILL Victory

Kittle v. Jefferson County

 

In response to a 7th Circuit decision, overcautious law enforcement departments around the state started redacting basic information from incident reports and citations – information like who committed the crime.  We filed a lawsuit and obtained a favorable settlement where the Jefferson Country Sheriff’s Department turned over unredacted records related to an incident where a women vandalized a GOP booth at the county fair.

Amicus

Frank v. Walker / LULAC v. Deininger

 

When Wisconsin implemented voter ID , progressive groups filed federal lawsuits arguing that the law was racist.  We provided legal counsel for a key state witness during the trial held for these consolidated cases.  We also filed an amicus brief in the 7th Circuit, which upheld the law.

Filed: December 2011

WILL Victory

WILL v. Milwaukee Public Schools

 

Sometimes we need to file a suit on our own behalf.  The Milwaukee Public Schools were unreasonably delaying responding to a records request.  They turned the records over the day after we sued them.

Closed Case

Johnson v. Office of Personnel Management

 

The ACA requires congress and staff to purchase their insurance plans through exchanges, with no tax-free employer contribution.  Obama’s Administration defied the law and continued to make tax-free contributions.  On behalf of Senator Ron Johnson and one of his staff, we sued.  But the courts concluded that because they “benefited” from the illegal actions, they lacked standing to challenge them.

Filed: January 2014

Amicus

Coyne v. Walker

 

Even though the Wisconsin Constitution expressly says that the legislature can define the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s powers, the SPI ignored a 2011 law requiring agencies to get gubernatorial approval before implementing new rules.  We filed an amicus brief urging the Wisconsin Supreme Court to apply the Constitution’s plain language, but the Court disagreed.

Filed: October 2011

WILL Victory

Krueger v. Appleton S.D.

 

Wisconsin school districts often form committees to review book selections for libraries and literature classes.  Appleton Area School District didn’t hold those committee meetings in public, however, and we filed suit.  The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that the district violated the Open Meetings Law.

Closed Case

Rice v. Milw. Co. Bd. 2013

 

The Milwaukee County Board voted in closed session to authorize collective bargaining (illegally, under Act 10), and travelled to Madison en masse to speak at a legislative hearing on a bill affecting the Board’s authority.  We sued, arguing that both incidents violated the Open Meetings Law, but the judge disagreed.

Amicus

NAACP v. Walker

 

This challenge to the voter ID law argued that it denied minorities the right to vote, because they were less likely to have an ID.  We filed amicus briefs justifying the law by showing that voter fraud exists in Wisconsin and can swing local elections that are sometimes decided by single-digit margins.  The supreme court upheld the law.

Filed: December 2011

Amicus

League of Women Voters v. Walker

 

This challenge to the voter ID law argued that the presentation of an ID was an “additional qualification” to vote not permitted by the Wisconsin Constitution.  In amicus briefs, WILL argued that it was not an additional qualification, but rather a method of establishing that a voter meets the existing qualifications.  The court of appeals and supreme court agreed, upholding the law.

Filed: October 2011

WILL Victory

MacIver v. Erpenbach

State Senator Jon Erpenbach redacted the names of hundreds of people who contacted him regarding Act 10 from emails he produced in response to a records request.  We sued and obtained a published decision from the Wisconsin Court of Appeals requiring him to release the names of public employees who wrote him.

WILL Victory

NCTQ v. UW Bd. of Regents

 

The University of Wisconsin refused to turn over course syllabi and other documents in response to a records request.  We filed a lawsuit, and obtained a settlement in which our clients were able to obtain everything they needed for their research into university education programs.

WILL Victory

Baldwin-Woodville Sch. Dist.

The Baldwin-Woodville School District’s Board of Education went into closed session and voted to pay Christmas bonuses (essentially in lieu of pension and insurance payments the district could no longer make under Act 10).  We filed an open meetings complaint with the Attorney General pointing out that the meeting was illegal, and he agreed.

WILL Victory

Streetcar Challenge

Milwaukee wanted to force utilities to move their underground lines to make way for the 2.1-mile streetcar, and wanted the utilities (and their customers) to bear those costs.  We convinced the Public Service Commission to protect those customers by requiring Milwaukee to pay the costs itself, and the courts upheld that ruling.

Filed: 2011

WILL Victory

Rice v. Milw. County Board

 

The Milwaukee County Board took up decennial redistricting at a public meeting without putting it on the agenda.  In our first case (and our first victory) we obtained a declaration that they violated the Open Meetings Law in doing so.