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OPINION - Crooks' concurrence

by Chris Conley

NEWS BLOG (WSAU) State Supreme Court Associate Justice N. Patrick Crooks doesn't like Act 10. He wrote a separate opinion to make that clear. But it was a concurrence with the courts four conservative justices. Crooks is the hero in this case. He says plainly, just because I dont like a law doesnt make it unconstitutional. He joined the majority in today's 5-2 ruling that upholds Act 10.

That's what's missing in the state and federal courts. Too often a judge who doesnt like a policy-choice made by the legislature goes digging to find a way to bend the case to their view. Justice Crooks says Act 10 infringes on Wisconsin's tradition of collective bargaining. He says it goes further than it needed to for the state to get the cost-savings it sought. But he also says the law is not unconstitutional. As such, he was obligated to uphold it.

Collective bargaining for public employees is not part of the state constitution. The court ruled, correctly, that employees still have the right to form unions (the right to free association) and the right to speak about any job-related issue they wish (freedom of speech). What Act 10 says is some items like work rules will no longer by subject to the collective bargaining process. State employees can still work to elect or defeat school board members or municipal leaders who favor their positions on contacts. It should be noted that many states do not have collective bargaining to public workers. Some states like Virginia and North Carolina have passed legislation that specifically bans collective bargaining for public workers.

The majority ruling says collective bargaining for public employees is a creation of the legislature, not the constitution. As such, the legislature -- the peoples' representatives -- can change it.

Chris Conley

Image: Associate Justice N. Patrick Crooks, Wisconsin Blue Book