Wisconsin attorney general suing over GOP lame-duck law

FILE – In this Nov. 7, 2019, file photo, Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul speaks during a rally at the State Capitol in Madison, Wis. Wisconsin’s Democratic attorney general filed a lawsuit on Monday, Nov. 23, 2020, together with Gov. Tony Evers, challenging parts of a Republican-authored law limiting their powers that were passed during a lame-duck legislative session two years ago.




MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin’s Democratic attorney general filed a lawsuit on Monday challenging parts of a Republican-authored law limiting his powers that was passed during a lame-duck legislative session two years ago.

The lawsuit from Attorney General Josh Kaul, together with Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, targets parts of the law requiring the state Department of Justice that Kaul runs to get approval from the Legislature’s budget committee before settling certain lawsuits. The change was approved by Republicans in the weeks after Kaul was elected attorney general and just before he took office.

Kaul’s challenge of that part of the law comes four months after the Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld the lame-duck laws, which also reduced Evers’ powers before he took office. The court rejected a lawsuit filed by a coalition of labor unions that argued that the laws give the Legislature power over the attorney general’s office and that violates the separation of powers doctrine in the state constitution.

The court ruled that the attorney general derives his powers from state statutes, not the constitution, and his role is not a core function of the executive branch. But Justice Brian Hagedorn, writing for the majority, also said that the laws remained open to future legal challenges because the decision didn’t address how they were applied.

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