WILL Asks Wisconsin Supreme Court to Affirm Right of Municipal Workers to Choose Their Residence

Published on: September 1, 2015

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WILL Asks Wisconsin Supreme Court to Affirm Right of Municipal Workers to Choose Their Residence

Appeals Court Contradicts Precedent, Misinterprets Uniformity

September 1, 2015, Milwaukee, WIThe Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty has filed an Amicus Curiae brief in Milwaukee Police Association v. City of Milwaukee, arguing that the Wisconsin Supreme Court should grant review of a July Court of Appeals decision which reinstated Milwaukee’s ordinance that requires all of its employees to reside within the city.

The Court of Appeals decision invalidated the Legislature’s 2013 statute uniformly guaranteeing residential freedom to all municipal employees in Wisconsin.

Rick Esenberg, WILL President and General Counsel, explained, “The Legislature specifically meant to abide the Constitution’s mandate of uniform applicability when it passed the law to prohibit residency requirements in Wisconsin’s counties, cities, villages, and towns. The Appellate Court wrongly interpreted the ’home rule’ provision to imply that laws cannot have a ’disparate impact’. The Appeals Court’s decision directly contradicts precedent.”

As the brief explains, residency restrictions such as those long in force in Milwaukee (and dozens of other Wisconsin municipalities) are a vestige of urban “machine” politics dating back more than a century, used to shore up the political power of local politicians.  By restricting city jobs to people who lived in the city, those machines guaranteed themselves a substantial voting bloc who would favor increased spending. In recent decades the legislatures of several nearby Midwestern states (Minnesota, Iowa, Michigan, and Ohio) have eliminated or greatly restricted such residency requirements.

Tom Kamenick, Associate Counsel at WILL, noted, “The Appeals Court ignored precedent for analyzing whether a law is of ‘statewide concern’ and wrongly faulted the Legislature for actually taking into consideration objections to the measure by the City of Milwaukee.”

The brief argues that the Court of Appeals erred in ruling that the Wisconsin Constitution prevents our Legislature from adopting this reform. It urges the Supreme Court to grant the petition for review in the case (brought by Milwaukee police and fire fighters) so as to promptly resolve, with certainty, the residential rights of all municipal employees under Wisconsin law.

A copy of the Amicus Curiae brief can be found here.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]