Dane County judge orders Capitol open to public - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Dane County judge orders Capitol open to public

Public hearing on temporary injunction to open Capitol to public Public hearing on temporary injunction to open Capitol to public

 By Lysée Mitri - bio | email | Twitter | Facebook

MADISON (WKOW) – A public hearing for further arguments on the temporary order to open the Capitol to the public will continue on Tuesday at 9 a.m. at the Dane County Courthouse.

The court heard from nine witnesses today. They still have about 11 more to get through on Tuesday.

Witnesses for the defense had to leave before they could testify in order to provide security for Governor Scott Walker's budget address.

The temporary injunction filed Monday morning ordered the state "to open the Wisconsin Capitol to members of the public during business hours and at times when governmental matters, such as hearings, listening sessions and court arguments are being conducted."

The order did not change the restrictions that started Monday at the Capitol.

The Department of Administration said the Capitol was open to visitors with appointments with their legislators or visitors attending public hearings.

It said those rules "balance the rights of visitors to assemble and exercise free speech with DOA's obligation to ensure safety and security."

Ultimately, DOA says their procedures are in compliance with the temporary injunction.

The lawyer for the defense, however, admitted in court that DOA was not aware of the lawsuit when they sent out a release establishing the rules at 7:30 a.m. on Monday.

Dane County Circuit Court Judge John Albert began the hearing, saying he wanted to keep politics out of it.

He said it is strictly about access to the Capitol, not views on the repair bill, Governor Walker or the Senate Democrats.

A Department of Justice lawyer suggested the noise level with protesters in the Capitol was disrupting state business.

Meanwhile, the plaintiffs are arguing they have the right to exercise their freedom of speech in the public building and that these restrictions are unprecedented.

Several union leaders took the stand, talking about their experiences trying to get into the Capitol these past two days.

Judge Albert had to end the hearing after 6 p.m. before getting to all the witnesses.

Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney also spoke out on Monday at a press conference against the security situation at the Capitol.

"We have seen hundreds of thousands of people from across this state come together in what really is an example to this world in democracy, and over the last two days, we have placed those law enforcement officers in the position of being palace guards," Mahoney said.

UW-Madison political science professor Donald Downs told WKOW the first amendment issue goes both ways in this case. On the one hand, the public should have access to the public building. However, protesters have even been allowed to sleep in the Capitol, which is normally against the rules. Downs says this now raises the question of what DOA will do in the future when other protesting groups try to sleep in the Capitol.

"The best answer is to find certain areas in the Capitol where protesters can go and not allow them in other areas because that could interfere with state business," Downs said. "It is more of a balancing act."

Downs said, while there have been inconsistencies in access rules at the Capitol, it is an extraordinary situation. People on all sides of the issue are learning everyday about how to handle it appropriately.


MADISON (WKOW) -- Department of Administration says they did receive a temporary injunction requiring the department to open the Capitol to members of the public during business hours and when governmental matters, including hearings, are being conducted.  The DOA says the current policies in place are in compliance with the order. 

At a hearing in the Dane County Circuit Court, a judge said he is trying to keep politics out, saying this is about access to the Capitol not your views on Gov. Walker, the Senate Democrats or the budget repair bill.

Click here to read a copy of the judge's temporary restraining order.

27 News will have the latest online and on the go.


MADISON (WKOW) -- A Dane County judge is ordering the Capitol to be open to the public during normal business hours.

According to court records, Judge Daniel Moeser has issued a temporary restraining order to reopen the Capitol until a trial court can schedule a hearing. The order says the building must be open to the public during business hours and when "governmental matters, such as hearings, listening sessions, or court arguments are being conducted."

Attorney Peg Lautenschlager represents the Wisconsin state employees union. She filed a motion for an injunction Monday to reopen the Capitol. She will submit an amended motion Tuesday.

Police limited access to the Capitol Tuesday after protesters inside refused to comply with police.

"We applaud Judge Moeser for ensuring that clean, open government is upheld," Rep. Peter Barca said. "People must have the freedom to visit their Capitol and petition their government. It is their Constitutional right. The fight to restore freedom in Wisconsin continues."

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