Judge bars Wis. from carrying out new union law

Judge Maryann Sumi reiterates her temporary restraining order barring further implementation of a Wisconsin law that strips most public workers of nearly all their collective bargaining rights at the Dane County Courthouse in Madison, Wis., March 29, 2011.
AP Photo

Updated at 7:25 p.m. ET

MADISON, Wis. - A Wisconsin judge for the second time directed the state to put on hold an explosive law that strips most public workers of nearly all their union bargaining rights, ordering officials on Tuesday to follow her original instructions to stand down.

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"Apparently that language was either misunderstood or ignored, but what I said was the further implementation of (the law) was enjoined," said a visibly annoyed Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi. "That is what I now want to make crystal clear."

Earlier this month, Sumi issued an emergency injunction prohibiting the Wisconsin secretary of state from formally publishing the law — the final step before it could take effect.

Republican legislative leaders responded by directing the law be published by another state agency, and then declared it valid. State officials began implementing the law this weekend, stopping the collection of union dues for state workers and taking more from their pay for health care and retirement.

Sumi said Tuesday that action violated her original order, and she made it clear after a daylong hearing that the law was on hold while she considers a broader challenge to its legality.

The back and forth furthered the often angry debate between new Gov. Scott Walker, his Republican allies in the Legislature and the state's public sector unions.

Walker and the GOP have aggressively pushed forward their effort to remove the bargaining rights of state workers, using a surprise parliamentary maneuver to break a weeks-long stalemate to get it passed and then finding another route to publish the law after Sumi's order blocked the secretary of state from doing so.

State Department of Justice spokesman Steve Means said the agency continues to believe the law was properly published and is in effect. Walker's spokesman, Cullen Werwie, didn't immediately return a message seeking comment.

Wisconsin Department of Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch, Walker's top aide, issued a statement saying the agency will evaluate the judge's order.

"We will continue to confer with our legal counsel and have more information about how to move forward in the near future," Huebsch said.

The law requires most public workers to contribute more to their pensions and health insurance. It also strips away their rights to collectively bargain for anything except wages.