‘Playing a game:’ Wisconsin Republicans sue Democratic attorney general over ‘lame-duck laws’
MADISON — Wisconsin Republican state lawmakers are suing the Democratic attorney general, arguing that he’s not complying with laws passed during a lame-duck legislative session in December that limited his and the incoming governor’s powers shortly before they took office.
Republicans who control the Legislature filed the lawsuit Thursday against Attorney General Josh Kaul with the conservative-controlled state Supreme Court.
It’s the first lawsuit related to the lame-duck session filed by Republicans who called the session and supported it. Democrats and their allies have filed four other lawsuits fighting the laws.
The Supreme Court in June ruled the session was legal, and nearly all of the laws enacted remain in effect while the lawsuits are pending. Republicans filed their lawsuit directly with the court on the day that Justice Brian Hagedorn took office, increasing the conservative majority to 5-2.
Republicans argue that Kaul isn’t following provisions of the law requiring him to get permission from lawmakers before settling lawsuits and giving the Legislature control over settlement money.
“It is egregious that Attorney General Kaul is playing a game of political keep away with potentially up to $20 million in funds that belong to hard-working Wisconsinites,” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said in a joint statement announcing the lawsuit.
Kaul said in response that the Legislature is “wrong on the law” and incorrect that the Department of Justice he runs has not attempted to properly involve lawmakers on the resolution of cases.
“This is an attempt by the Legislature to use vague and poorly-written statutory language to substantially cut the budget for the Department of Justice, undermining public safety in Wisconsin,” Kaul said.
Republicans contend in the lawsuit that Kaul must get their permission before settling a broad array of cases and any money from settlements must go into the state’s general fund. They contend the state has received more than $20 million in settlements between January and May that Kaul has not correctly deposited.
Kaul argues that he needs approval only in a limited number of cases and that he can set aside money from lawsuit settlements for specific purposes without lawmakers’ approval.