Sunday, March 06, 2011

John Nichols on Wisconsin: ‘Constitutional crisis’ created by Fitzgerald

Before signing them, Senate majority leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, picks up a stack of folders containing orders to detain the missing 14 Senate Democrats at the state Capitol in Madison, Wis., Thursday, March 3, 2011.

John Nichols (Capital Times-WI):
On Thursday, (Scott) Fitzgerald got his fellow Republican senators to vote to hold the 14 Democrats in “contempt of the Senate” and to order police agencies to “forcibly detain” — translation: arrest — them.

Pretty serious business. But Fitzgerald says: “They have pushed us to the edge of a constitutional crisis.”

Actually, Fitzgerald is the one pushing toward the crisis zone.

The Wisconsin Constitution is clear. It reads: “Members of the Legislature shall in all cases, except treason, felony and breach of the peace, be privileged from arrest; nor shall they be subject to any civil process, during the session of the Legislature, nor for 15 days next before the commencement and after the termination of each session.”

Fitzgerald would have us believe legislative rules give him the authority to override the constitution. But a legal analysis prepared by the law firm of Cullen, Weston, Pines & Bach shreds that argument: “None of the 14 absent senators has been charged with a crime. Nor has any crime occurred. The Wisconsin Senate has absolutely no authority to order any of its members arrested or taken into custody in order to compel their attendance.”

That’s the bottom line.

So if there is a “constitutional crisis,” it has been created by Fitzgerald — at the behest of Walker. MORE...

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