Sen. Michael Ellis, R-Neenah, has crafted a bill that would require the state Supreme Court to take up constitutional challenges to state statutes directly and expeditiously, by-passing lower courts along the way.
This is an incredibly bad idea that deserves to be promptly scrapped. Ellis told the Associated Press he believes the state Supreme Court alone should decide issues on laws that affect the entire state rather than local judges.
"(Lower courts are) in effect negating on a temporary basis an act of the Legislature. Only the Supreme Court should have that authority on constitutional issues," Ellis said. "It's about bringing some finality to an act of the Legislature ... I don't think this is unreasonable."
Not only is Ellis' proposal unreasonable, it's part of a troubling pattern on the part of Republicans to circumvent, steamroll and eradicate due process. It ignores the valuable role lower and appellate courts play in shaping, defining and understanding complex legal issues before they end up in the hands of the Supreme Court.
Nor is it any sure bet the Supreme Court will decide to take a case. Justices often decline to take constitutional cases if lower courts properly apply judicial precedents or if the case is weak or lacks merit. In addition, the Legislature has no business dictating to the Judicial branch an artificial deadline of determining cases within 120 days. That in effect turns the legal system into kangaroo courts where legislative decision-making is merely rubber stamped.
Ellis, who serves as President of the Wisconsin Senate, has often served as the voice of reason over the past two tumultuous years in Madison, urging colleagues on both sides of the aisle to take the long view and working to maintain the public's trust in the institutions of state government. Republicans have passed a host of controversial laws since majorities were elected in the Legislature and Scott Walker became governor in 2010, many of which have been challenged in the court system.
Putting such questions on an express train review by the Supreme Court will only serve to weaken support for state government. The legitimacy of the system depends on the public having trust and faith that complex legal questions are thoroughly, exhaustively and painstakingly reviewed and tested. Short-circuiting the review process is legislative overreach that will only add to the toxic atmosphere in the capital.
The Final Thought: Sen. Ellis' proposal to expedite judicial reviews undermines legitimacy of state government.