This is the first edition of League-L, the League of Wisconsin Municipalities legal bulletin for cities and villages. We will use the League-L to bring you up to speed quickly on recent court decisions, arguments and cases that impact local government operations. League-L will not take the place of our in-depth legal articles and notes in the Municipality; rather like the Capitol Buzz, and Legislative Letter, it breaks legal news down into quick, digestible reads focusing on what you need to know. As with all things digital, the League respects your time; if you don’t want to receive League-L in the future, click unsubscribe at the bottom of this email.
Wisconsin Supreme Court Hears Milwaukee Residency Case
Last week, the Wisconsin Supreme Court heard oral arguments in an important home rule case. Depending on what the court decides, the Legislature may have a harder or an easier time limiting local decision-making in the future.
The League of Wisconsin Municipalities was instrumental in passage of the 1924 Home Rule amendment to the Constitution which empowers cities and villages to “determine their local affairs and government” subject only to the Wisconsin Constitution and “to such enactments of the legislature of statewide concern as with uniformity shall affect every city or every village.” While the amendment’s drafters intended not only to empower municipalities to determine their local affairs and government, but also to prevent the legislature from interfering in local matters that are not matters of statewide concern, constitutional home rule power has been watered down by the Court.
In Milwaukee Police Association v. City of Milwaukee, the Court will decide whether Milwaukee’s 1938 charter ordinance requiring employees to reside in the City remains viable following the legislature’s enactment of Wis. Stat. sec. 66.0502 which prohibits municipalities from requiring residency as a condition of employment.
Milwaukee professional police and firefighter associations challenge the validity of Milwaukee’s residency ordinance and also claim under 42 U.S.C. 1983 that a common council resolution stating intent to continue enforcing the residency charter ordinance following enactment of sec. 66.0502 deprived its members of a liberty interest created by sec. 66.0502. The City of Milwaukee has agreed not to enforce its residency ordinance until the courts have decided the matter.
The trial court held that Milwaukee’s charter ordinance was unenforceable in light of sec. 66.0502. That decision was reversed by the Wisconsin Court of Appeals because sec. 66.0502 lacked a statewide concern and did not uniformly affect municipalities because it was really targeted at Milwaukee.
The oral arguments before the Wisconsin Supreme Court focused on whether residency requirements are a “local” or “statewide” concern and how to interpret the limitation that the legislative enactment be one “of statewide concern as with uniformity shall affect every city or every village.” The League filed an amicus brief in support of the City of Milwaukee. The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty and the Wisconsin Attorney General filed briefs supporting the police and fire associations.
The argument can be viewed here: http://www.wiseye.org/Video-Archive/Event-Detail/evhdid/10457.
A Supreme Court decision is expected before July.
Save the Date
for the League's 118th Annual Conference, October 19-21 in Stevens Point.