Jul 29, 2016

Wisconsin Partisan DoJ Appellate Unit Protects GOP Laws Against Individual Rights Claims

The people of Wisconsin will not give up their claims of liberty to vote, to marry, to use public bathrooms, to breathe safe air, drink safe water, to organize and on and on.

Constitutionally protected liberties must therefore be fought by Republicans running Wisconsin government for the benefits of Republicans and far-right forces like the Koch brothers for whom Republicans use state government.

To accomplish their task, Wisconsin Republicans passed the 2015-17 budget with funds for the creation of the Republican litigation unit, the Office of the Solicitor General, in the Republican-led Department of Justice.

Writes Steven Verburg is the Wisconsin State Journal:

[C]ritics view the five-lawyer office as money wasted on far-right legal battles most voters don’t support.

'It’s a mini right-wing law firm in the attorney general’s office,' said state Rep. Chris Taylor, a Madison Democrat and member of the Legislature’s finance committee who opposed adding the office’s five attorneys to Schimel’s Department of Justice budget.

Of the 35 cases the new office was involved in, about one-third list the state as defendant. Those include a challenge that overturned a state law restricting abortion rights last month, and pending Constitutional tests of a voter identification requirement and limits on labor unions.

The office is also handling several appeals of criminal convictions. Most of its caseload, however, is made up of Schimel’s challenges to federal policy in such areas as immigration, health care, transgender access to bathrooms, and pollution controls. ...

Madison attorney Carl Sinderbrand said his concern was with how Schimel was using the office. Sinderbrand, who was a state assistant attorney general from 1979 to 1990, recalled when one of his assignments was to keep an eye on federal officials who were looking for sites to store nuclear waste.

Sinderbrand said Schimel’s use of the solicitor general’s office was misguided because it went beyond the usual level of partisanship he has seen in other attorneys general of both parties.

'This is hyper partisanship,' said Sinderbrand, who has since represented state agencies, fought against them in court, and been hired as an arbitrator for department lawsuits. 'And that’s damaging, because the attorney general should be out there as the people’s lawyer, not his party’s lawyer.'

Conservationists have said Schimel’s aggressive opposition to federal pollution regulations raised concerns especially in light of his reduction of a department unit responsible for enforcing environmental laws.

Taylor, the Democratic state legislator, pointed to materials distributed by the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, calling on states to file lawsuits to block the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan. The U.S. Supreme Court has stayed the air pollution rule while court challenges from 26 states are being heard.

Rep. Chris Taylor's office put a press release out this month noting the private creation of the "Center for Competitive Federalism (CFC), whose main objective will be engaging in ideological litigation aimed at advancing conservative policies and ideas," (Wheeler Report).

The Office of Solicitor General works in political concert with rightwing interest groups like CFC to defend anti-public interest and anti-liberty laws passed by Republicans.

Below is the Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) Summary of the 2015-2017 budget and the budgetary description of the Office of the Solicitor General.

Governor Jt. Finance/Leg.
(Chg. to Base) (Chg. to Gov) Net Change
Funding Positions Funding Positions Funding Positions
PR $1,027,700 4.00 $0 0.00 $1,027,700 4.00
FED 0 0.00 0 - 4.00 0 - 4.00
Total $1,027,700 4.00 $0 - 4.00 $1,027,700 0.00

Governor: Provide $443,200 in 2015-16 and $584,500 in 2016-17, and 4.0 unclassified positions, to create a solicitor general and three deputy solicitors general. Funding would be provided as follows: (a) $302,500 in 2015-16 and $403,300 in 2016-17 for permanent position salaries; (b) $121,500 in 2015-16 and $162,000 in 2016-17 for fringe benefits; and (c) $19,200 annually for supplies and services. Program revenue for the Solicitor General's Office would be generated from funds received from other DOJ appropriations for expenses related to the Office. The administration indicates that the creation of a Solicitor General's office would, "allow the Department to provide a more in-depth level of representation for the state at both the state and federal appellate levels for increasingly complicated legal issues."

Provide the Attorney General authority to appoint, in the unclassified service, a solicitor general and no more than three deputy solicitors general, each of whom must be an attorney at law licensed in Wisconsin. Further, provide the Attorney General authority to assign assistant attorneys general to assist the solicitor general.

Finally, create a continuing, program revenue solicitor general appropriation to support the Solicitor General's Office. Program revenue for the appropriation would be generated from funds transferred from other DOJ appropriations for expenses related to the Solicitor General's Office.

Joint Finance/Legislature: Delete the solicitor general appropriation. Further, delete funding and position authority totaling $443,200 PR in 2015-16, $584,500 PR in 2016-17, and 4.0 unclassified PR positions annually.

Instead, authorize the legal services investigation and prosecution continuing PR appropriation to support the Solicitor General's office. Further, increase the position and expenditure authority of the investigation and prosecution appropriation by $443,200 PR in 2015-16, $584,500 PR in 2016-17, and 4.0 unclassified PR positions. Under current law, the appropriation is authorized to support DOJ's expenses related to the investigation and prosecution of violations, including attorney fees. Program revenue for the appropriation is generated when DOJ recovers expenses from its investigation and prosecution of violations relating to: (a) the Medical Assistance program; (b) marketing and trade practices; (c) trusts and monopolies; and (d) various environmental violations enforced by the Department of Natural Resources. There is no base funding or position authority associated with this appropriation.

Direct the Attorney General to eliminate 4.0 position vacancies. For purposes of this summary, it is assumed that the Attorney General would eliminate 4.0 FED positions. However, the Department could eliminate 4.0 positions from a combination of other funding sources.

[Act 55 Sections: 744v, 3501, and 3671]

No comments:

Post a Comment