Wisconsin Supreme Court agrees to hear Gov. Evers' lawsuit against GOP-controlled legislature

Posted at 4:24 PM, Feb 02, 2024

MADISON (AP) — The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear Democratic Gov. Tony Evers' lawsuit against the Republican-controlled Legislature arguing that it is obstructing basic government functions.

The court's liberal majority agreed to hear the case, with the three conservative justices dissenting. It set oral arguments for April 17.

The court only agreed to immediately hear one of the three issues Evers brought forward in the complaint. That issue relates to the Legislature's Republican-controlled budget committee blocking funding for state conservation programs.

Evers had also challenged a committee made up of legislative leaders not approving pay raises for University of Wisconsin employees, but after the lawsuit was filed the panel did approve the raises. Evers had also challenged a legislative committee blocking updates to the state’s commercial building standards and ethics standards for licensed professionals.

The court said it was keeping both of those issues on hold pending a future order.

Liberal justices Janet Protasiewicz, Rebecca Dallet, Jill Karofsky and Ann Walsh Bradley agreed to take the case. Conservative Chief Justice Annette Ziegler and justices Brian Hagedorn and Rebecca Bradley dissented.

Evers argued in the lawsuit that committees controlled by a few Republican lawmakers are being used by the Legislature to “reach far beyond its proper zone of constitutional lawmaking authority.”

Evers cites the Legislature’s budget-writing committee’s rejection of dozens of conservation projects selected by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources under the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program. Republicans have long been critics of the program, which protects land from development.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu dismissed the lawsuit as frivolous at the time it was filed, saying in a statement that Evers was “working to diminish the voice of Wisconsinites by limiting the authority of the legislature and unduly strengthening his own administration.”

Evers and the GOP-controlled Legislature have been at odds from the moment Evers was elected in November 2018. He has issued more vetoes than any other Wisconsin governor, including blocking numerous bills changing how elections would be run in the key presidential battleground state.

The Legislature convened a lame duck session just weeks before Evers took office to weaken the incoming governor’s powers. They have repeatedly rejected appointees Evers has made to boards and commissions, including firing a majority of the Natural Resources Board in October.

In another sign of their strained relationship, Evers has rarely met with Republican legislative leaders. Evers is in the second year of his second term.