Supreme Court Lifts Contempt Order on WERC

Yesterday evening, the Wisconsin Supreme Court vacated a contempt order issued by Judge Juan Colás against the WERC commissioners.  The original contempt order prohibited WERC from holding recertification elections for the hundreds of teacher unions around the state as required by Act 10.  That contempt order prompted the State to ask for an emergency stay, which WILL supported on behalf of several public school teachers.  On behalf of those same teachers, WILL filed a lawsuit in Waukesha county seeking an order requiring WERC to hold those elections.

Instead of staying the contempt order (putting a “halt” on its enforcement while waiting to review its legality), the supreme court vacated the entire order, concluding that Judge Colás had acted beyond his legal authority by expanding his initial declaratory judgment to affect non-parties while the case was on appeal.  The vote was 5-2, with Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson and Justice Ann Walsh Bradley dissenting.

The supreme court’s order paves the way for WERC to hold recertification elections for over 400 teacher unions around the state.  WERC has said that as long as the elections begin prior to December 1st, they are legal under state law, even if they conclude afterward.

The order also makes it clear that Judge Colás’ original order has no effect beyond the parties to that case.  In practical terms, there is not, and there never has been, a “window” for other unions to avoid Act 10.

A copy of the order vacating the contempt order is here.

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