Good Government

The laws that define and limit how government operates are legion.
We do our best to make sure they’re followed.

Open Cases

School Choice Wisconsin v. Bowersox

The Racine health department issued an order shutting down all private and public schools. WILL filed an original action and motion for an injunction with the Supreme Court, arguing that the order was unlawful for the exact same reasons as in Dane County, and the Court promptly issued an injunction and held the case pending its final decision in the Dane County lawsuit.

Zignego et al v. Wisconsin Election Commission et al

The Wisconsin Elections Commission, a state agency, is putting Wisconsin’s election integrity at risk by intentionally ignoring state law to allow voter registrations at old addresses to remain active. WILL filed this lawsuit to ensure the law is followed.

VWF v. Eau Claire (TID 12)

To create a TIF district, a city must show that it will spur development that otherwise wouldn’t occur – that new development wouldn’t exist “but for” the creation of the TIF district.  Eau Claire claimed that an already-finished building somehow wouldn’t be built without a new TIF district, and we sued to stop that abuse.

WCRIS v. Heinrich

WILL filed an original action and temporary injunction motion with the Wisconsin Supreme Court on behalf of multiple Dane County schools, parents, and private school associations, arguing that local health officials lack statutory authority to close schools and that the order violated both religious and parental constitutional rights. The Court granted the case (along with two others) and granted an injunction, allowing private schools to immediately reopen, agreeing with our primary statutory argument.

Lindoo v. Evers

WILL filed a lawsuit in Polk County Circuit Court on behalf of three residents and taxpayers raising a straightforward argument: governors cannot seize emergency powers more than once to address the same crisis. To interpret the law otherwise would allow one-person rule by the Governor for what could be a virtually unlimited amount of time whenever the vague statutory definition of a “public health emergency” or “disaster” can be said to be present.

Mattoon v. Antigo School District

The Village of Mattoon and Antigo School District both claim ownership of a closed elementary school building.  If Mattoon owns it, they will transfer it to our client, Shepherd’s Watch, to run a community center and private voucher school, but Antigo won’t transfer it without a deed restriction preventing any educational use of the building.  We intervened in the lawsuit between the two government entities.

BCTA v. Brown County

State law permits counties to impose a 0.5% sales tax, but requires that tax to be used only for “directly reducing the property tax levy.”  Brown County imposed a sales tax, but is instead using the proceeds to fund new spending.  We sued to have the tax struck down.

Closed Cases

Hunter Nation v. DNR

All Wisconsin hunters born after January 1, 1973 must take a hunter education course before obtaining a hunting license. But, invoking COVID-19, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources adopted a policy that bans in-person hunter education courses, and said they would not issue certificates to anyone who completes a hunter safety course online, effectively preventing many people from obtaining hunting licenses. This policy was unlawful in a variety of ways, including by violating the constitutional right to hunt and by relying on the Governor’s Stay-at-Home order, which was no longer in effect. WILL filed a lawsuit on behalf of Hunter Nation. The DNR quickly backed down and allowed hunter safety courses to resume.

DNC v. Bostelmann

WILL filed an amicus brief arguing that the Legislature must be permitted to defend state law in federal court when others, typically charged with doing so, do not. The Wisconsin Supreme Court agreed in a 4-3 decision. Proving the importance of that ruling, shortly after the Court’s decision, the Seventh Circuit stayed the District Court’s ruling, restoring Wisconsin’s election laws prior to the November election.

SEIU v. Vos

This case was a challenge to some actions of the legislature, and raises important issues of our constitutional separation of powers. WILL filed an amicus brief asking the court to protect the separation of powers by reinvigorating Wisconsin’s nondelegation doctrine.

Bartlett v. Evers

Governor Evers used his partial veto authority to create new laws and pay for new projects the Legislature never approved.  We believe that practice is a usurpation of the Legislature’s authority to write laws, and filed an original action in the Wisconsin Supreme Court in order to enforce limits on the power.

Heritage Christian Schools v. DPI

A family applied for the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program and was deemed “ineligible” based on their income and denied their application. After they filed an amended income tax return showing that their income was, in fact, “eligible” for the program, DPI denied their application citing their policy that once deemed “ineligible”, a family may not re-apply for the program during the same application period. That policy was not lawfully adopted, and WILL filed this lawsuit challenging it on behalf of the family, the school, and School Choice Wisconsin Action.

Wisconsin Elections Commission Ballot Harvesting Rule

WILL submitted a rules petition to the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) asking the state agency to promulgate a rule that makes clear that the practice of ballot harvesting is illegal in Wisconsin.

Michigan v. DeVos; Washington v. DeVos; NAACP v. DeVos

The federal CARES Act, passed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, included an Education Stabilization Fund to support schools with the costs of safely reopening and navigating the crisis. The law directed the Department of Education to distribute these funds “equitably” between public and private schools and students but did not dictate exactly how the funds should be distributed. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos issued an interim final rule that gives states and local public-school districts options for how to fairly allocate CARES Act relief to private schools. Multiple states and local school districts filed lawsuits challenging the rule. WILL filed amicus briefs in three of these cases on behalf of a coalition of roughly 40 state and national groups representing private schools in defense of the rule.

Wisconsin Legislature v. Palm

Does a single state official have the power to lock down the entire state of Wisconsin absent a declared public health emergency? WILL filed an amicus brief on behalf of our clients asking the Court to protect our constitutional separation of powers.

School Choice Wisconsin Action v. DPI

DPI says that public schools can use virtual learning time to meet their required minimum number of hours of instruction but that voucher schools can’t do the same thing.  We filed a lawsuit challenging that indefensible discrimination.

Milwaukee Police Association v. City of Milwaukee

Milwaukee refused to follow a law banning municipalities from imposing residency requirements on their employees.  We filed an amicus brief urging the supreme court to take the case.  When it did, we filed an amicus brief on the merits, and the court agreed with us.

Streetcar Challenge

Milwaukee wanted to force utilities to move their underground lines to make way for the 2.1-mile streetcar, and wanted the utilities (and their customers) to bear those costs.  We convinced the Public Service Commission to protect those customers by requiring Milwaukee to pay the costs itself, and the courts upheld that ruling.

Coyne v. Walker

Even though the Wisconsin Constitution expressly says that the legislature can define the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s powers, the SPI ignored a 2011 law requiring agencies to get gubernatorial approval before implementing new rules.  We filed an amicus brief urging the Wisconsin Supreme Court to apply the Constitution’s plain language, but the Court disagreed.

Frank v. Walker / LULAC v. Deininger

When Wisconsin implemented voter ID , progressive groups filed federal lawsuits arguing that the law was racist.  We provided legal counsel for a key state witness during the trial held for these consolidated cases.  We also filed an amicus brief in the 7th Circuit, which upheld the law.

League of Women Voters v. Walker

This challenge to the voter ID law argued that the presentation of an ID was an “additional qualification” to vote not permitted by the Wisconsin Constitution.  In amicus briefs, WILL argued that it was not an additional qualification, but rather a method of establishing that a voter meets the existing qualifications.  The court of appeals and supreme court agreed, upholding the law.

NAACP v. Walker

This challenge to the voter ID law argued that it denied minorities the right to vote, because they were less likely to have an ID.  We filed amicus briefs justifying the law by showing that voter fraud exists in Wisconsin and can swing local elections that are sometimes decided by single-digit margins.  The supreme court upheld the law.

JEAMEC v. Milwaukee

Milwaukee decided that a small plot of open land a northside church used for religious and charitable purposes was “unnecessary”, and tried to tax it.  We sued and convinced a judge not only that the land was necessary, but that a state law prohibiting the church from challenging their exemption denial until they paid the tax was unconstitutional.

Johnson v. Office of Personnel Management

The ACA requires congress and staff to purchase their insurance plans through exchanges, with no tax-free employer contribution.  Obama’s Administration defied the law and continued to make tax-free contributions.  On behalf of Senator Ron Johnson and one of his staff, we sued.  But the courts concluded that because they “benefited” from the illegal actions, they lacked standing to challenge them.

Duncan v. Nevada

Nevada created an education savings account program to expand school choice.  Predictably, teacher unions challenged the law as unconstitutional.  We filed an amicus brief in support of the law, which the Nevada Supreme Court found did not unconstitutionally spend public funds for a religious purpose.

In re G.G.

The Obama administration required all school districts to allow students to use whichever bathroom they wished.  While we take no position on how schools should address transgender children, we object to bureaucrats re-interpreting federal statutes and issuing formal requirements without using the proper procedures.  We filed an amicus brief to fight against federal interference with a purely local issue.

Christie v. NCAA

The federal government prohibited New Jersey from repealing its ban on sports gambling.  We filed an amicus brief arguing the federal government can’t force states to keep old laws on the books, and the U.S. Supreme Court agreed.

Tetra Tech v. DOR / DWD v. LIRC

When courts defer to agency interpretations of statutes, they abandon their constitutional duty to say what the law is.  We filed two amicus briefs arguing that practice is unconstitutional, and the Wisconsin Supreme Court agreed.

S.W. v. Evers

Wisconsin law permits school districts to discriminate against disabled students by refusing to permit them to open enroll into their district.  We sued to stop this practice, which violates federal anti-discrimination law.

Saint Joan Antida v. MPS

The Milwaukee Public School District refuses to transport children to private schools as it is required to do by state law.  We sued to force the district to abide by its obligations.

Gill v. Whitford

A 3-judge panel employed a novel theory to invalidate Wisconsin’s legislative redistricting map.  We filed an amicus brief arguing that theory is foreclosed by binding precedent and the map is lawful.

Voters With Facts v. City of Eau Claire (TID 8 & 10)

Cities around the state use TIF districts as a way to give taxpayer funds to developers while claiming that the money is “free”.  State law requires cities to follow very strict procedures in order to create TIF districts.  When Eau Claire failed to follow those procedures, we sued to hold them accountable.

Koschkee v. Taylor

The REINS Act requires state agencies to submit proposed regulations to the governor for approval.  The Department of Public Instruction has refused to follow that law, so we filed an original action in the supreme court asking it to resolve the issue.

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