March 27, 2012

The Wisconsin senate, now evenly split, is fighting over access to lawyers' communications about redistricting.

The Republicans lost their majority when Sen. Pam Galloway (R-Wausau), facing a recall election, abruptly quit. Pending the election, which either party's candidate could win, the 2 parties must share power, and the dispute over redistricting enters a new phase:
Republicans hired Michael Best & Friedrich last year to help them draw the maps, with the firm signing separate contracts with the Assembly and Senate. One of those contracts - written when the GOP controlled both houses - says "our client is the Wisconsin State Senate by its majority leader, Scott L. Fitzgerald."
Fitzgerald is no longer the leader of the majority, only the leader of the Republicans. The Democrats also have a leader.
Democrats for the last 15 months have contended they should have equal access to Michael Best because the contract was with the entire Senate. Republicans balked, barring them from consulting with the attorneys.

Now that Democrats share power with the Republicans, they want a chance to review privileged files and help direct what actions the law firm takes next....

But Fitzgerald said that he had spoken with the firm and that the arrangement would continue as it did when Republicans had outright control of the Senate.

"I'm still dealing directly with them," Fitzgerald said. "They said the contract is still between Senator Fitzgerald and the firm. . . . That relationship is still intact."

Michael Best attorney Eric McLeod confirmed the firm would continue to take direction from Fitzgerald.

"Until there's a change in the contract via some action taken by the Senate, we're simply operating under the contract as it was previously written," McLeod said.
Meanwhile, there is litigation in federal court about the redistricting, and the 3-judge panel just held that 2 of the Milwaukee districts had diluted the voting power of Latinos and needed to be redrawn. Of course, the split senate can't get anywhere in this assigned task.
Rick Esenberg, president of the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, said it is hard to know if Michael Best can continue to represent the majority "since there is no majority."

He said it is unclear if the firm can represent both the Republicans and Democrats, or if that would create a conflict of interest that would require the firm to step aside. He also noted the Democrats and Republicans in the Senate could retain separate counsel. Or, the Republicans could have Michael Best continue its work solely through its contract with the Assembly, he said. Whatever the case, there may not be much work left that needs to be done because the case is nearing its end, he said.
Tax money goes to pay these lawyers, which might make it seem as though the Democrats are entitled to access to them as well. But consider that the Democrats, when they had the majority before January 2011, hired their own lawyers for redistricting work, paid them with taxpayer money, required the Republicans to get their own legal representation, and refused to allocate money for those lawyers. It's been a long fight between 2 parties, and they have had their own lawyers.


Scott M said...

The Republicans could just take Michael Best to Illinois and wait it out. Simple. Who cares if he's pregnant or not?

AlphaLiberal said...

In the past decades each party in each chamber, minority or majority, had their own counsel. The Republicans departed from tradition by denying Democrats their own counsel. Republicans are also withholding documents from Michael, Best and Freidrich (a.k.a. Wisconsin's powerful and unelected and corrupt shadow government, active in every branch).

Also, the Senate could certainly pass a plan. They would have to negotiate with their coequals in the Senate, instead of being ham handed autocrats. The failure is with the Republicans.

So, now, Fitz wants AG Van Hollen to bail him out. And the hack AG will probably try, only to irritate the judges even more. '

tim maguire said...

I don't kid myself about the politics of redistricting. But officially, it should be a non-partisan exercise of a constitutional requirement.

If the Republicans can't keep the Democrats out of the loop through the sheer power of their votes, then they shouldn't be able to keep the Democrats out.

edutcher said...

My God, sounds almost like a spec ops job; people used to hire the A-Team for stuff less complicated than this.

Ann Althouse said...

"The Republicans departed from tradition by denying Democrats their own counsel."

Denying in what sense? Not allocating $. The article says the Dems had just done exactly that to the Republicans.

Explain your point.

Ann Althouse said...

An hour later and no more comments... strange!

Did I squelch the discussion somehow?

Curious George said...

I don't think so professor, it's just a yawner to the conservatives here, and after thinking they had "won", only to find out they had lost, to painful for the lefties.

traditionalguy said...

Clearly the answer here is to have the State pay for a cohort of lawyers for each party.

That many lawyers could flat run up hours just filing paperwork pleading that everything is unfair to the side they represent, at the moment.

The lawyer cohorts ( full employment for graduates at last) should change sides every other month like a half time field change in football.

It would not matter that they had confidential information since the arguments are the same for both sides of theses issues ad infinitum.

On Wisconsin!

Rusty said...

Ann Althouse said...
An hour later and no more comments... strange!

Did I squelch the discussion somehow?

Apparently the point cannot be explained.

Other than that, how's your day goin'?

RonF said...

I was unaware that the balance of power in the Senate had changed. Why didn't this guy just say "I'm not going to run" but stay in until a special election was held?