Statement on the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s ruling regarding the state’s Open Meetings law

Action alerts

It’s important to be clear about what the state Supreme Court did not do today. It did not rule that the Wisconsin Legislature obeyed the state Open Meetings Law in passing changes to collective bargaining. It did not deem the Open Meetings Law a dumb idea. Rather, it concluded, on separation of powers grounds, that the judiciary had no right to “intermeddle” with the Legislature’s interpretation of its own rules.           

The upshot of this decision is that the state Legislature, alone among public bodies in Wisconsin, can sidestep the Open Meetings Law with impunity. We think that’s bad for the state and bad for the Legislature. The Open Meetings Law has served Wisconsin well, opening deliberative processes to the public and helping those in power build relationships of trust with the citizenry.

If the court is unable or unwilling to trump the Legislature’s ability to interpret its rules, then the public should demand that the Legislature change those rules to remove any ambiguity about its need to obey the simple and sensible dictates of the Open Meetings Law.

Bill Lueders, president
Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council