Workers Say Ex-Union Keeps Taking Their Money

     MILWAUKEE (CN) — Four employees claim in federal court that a Wisconsin transit union is forcing them to join and pay dues in violation of the state’s right-to-work law.     A posted letter from the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1733’s president falsely states that the law has been struck down pending a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court, according to a federal lawsuit filed Friday in Milwaukee.     Billy Lightsey and three other First Student Inc. employees from Kenosha, Wis., claim they resigned from the union, as was their right, in late April.     Instead of responding to their letters of resignation, the transit workers say, the union continued to withdraw dues from their paychecks through Oct. 28, and posted the misleading letter where all employees could see it.     “Local 1733 breached its duty of fair representation by continuing to seize union dues from plaintiffs’ wages after they resigned their union membership and revoked their checkoff authorizations,” the complaint states. “Local 1733 also breached, and continues to breach, its duty of fair representation by posting and continuing to post the May 5th letter, which contains at least two falsehoods aimed at restricting employees’ ability to resign and/or stop paying dues or fees.”     In fact, the right-to-work law is in effect: In May, Wisconsin’s appeals court stayed Dane County Circuit Court Judge William Foust’s decision overturning the law until it rules on the matter. The appeals court has not yet held oral argument in the case.     Wisconsin lawmakers passed the law after a marathon 24-hour legislative session ending on March 6, 2015. Republican Gov. Scott Walker signed the legislation shortly afterward.      Before Friday’s lawsuit, a federal judge threw out a challenge to the right-to-work law, a decision both the state and the unions have appealed to the Seventh Circuit. That appeals court will have to issue a final ruling before any group can petition the U.S. Supreme Court for review, a lengthy and often unsuccessful venture.     An email requesting comment from Matthew Gilliam, the plaintiffs’ attorney out of the Virginia-based National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation Inc., was not immediately returned Tuesday.     No contact information was available for Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1733, and calls to the national office and another local group went unanswered.     It is unclear whether the union is still withdrawing dues from the paychecks of Lightsey and the other plaintiffs, Richard Erickson, James Wilke and Thomas Peachey.

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Wis. High Court Weighs Release of Immigrant Docs

     MADISON, Wis. (CN) — In an uncharacteristically civil hearing, the Wisconsin Supreme Court tried Thursday to reconcile state and federal law in a dispute over immigration records.     At issue are I-247 immigration detainer forms that U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement use to request that a state detain prisoners an additional 48 hours if they are suspected of immigration law violations.     Voces de la Frontera, an immigrant-rights group, claims Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. uses the detainer requests in a way that violates federal law, and requested 12 of them in late 2014 and early 2015 for review.     Clarke released redacted versions of the requested forms, having blacked out “(1) subject ID, (2) event number, (3) file number, (4) nationality, and (5) a series of boxes pertaining to immigration status,” according to an appeals opinion in the case. He later released versions disclosing nationality.     Though Judge David Borowski granted Voces de la Frontera a writ of mandamus to release the rest of the redacted information, the court stayed that order pending the appeal.     Capt. Catherine Trimboli, the sheriff’s records custodian, had testified in the lower-court proceedings that she deferred to ICE’s request to keep the documents secret when denying a request to view them.     But Borowski found this reason inadequate to trump Wisconsin’s open-records law, saying Voces de la Frontera’s desire to hold a government actor accountable was the more compelling argument on the issue of disclosure.     On appeal, Clarke argued that the records pertained to federal detainees and were thus exempt from disclosure under an exception to state open-records law.     But Justice Kitty Brennan, writing for a three-judge appeals panel in April, said detaining a state prisoner for potential federal jurisdiction does not convert them into federal detainees.     “The I-247 form itself makes clear, as does the case law, that federal custody only begins when the state custody ends,” wrote Brennan, joined by Judges William Brash and Joan Kessler. “Here it is undisputed that the state custody had not ended.”     Thursday’s hearing focused on the 48-hour detention period, with each side arguing the issue of state or federal custody before, during and after the ICE detention.     Oyvind Wistrom of Milwaukee-based Lindner & Marsack SC argued before the Supreme Court on Clarke’s behalf that focusing on when the inmates were in state or federal custody is misguided.     In detaining an inmate for ICE, he argued, the state was acting as an agent of ICE and thus was exempt from providing the records under federal law.     In the April ruling, Brennan noted “that if Sheriff Clarke was correct in his interpretation of the statutes that the filing of an I-247 makes the hold federal, then he was in error to provide any part of the form at all — redacted or otherwise — including the names of the prisoners.”     This same accusation from Justices Rebecca Bradley and Ann Walsh Bradley tripped up Wistrom on Thursday, who stressed that the names were released in chambers with Judge Borowski as a “compromise” in the case.     Milwaukee attorney Peter Earle represents Voces de la Frontera in the case. His attempts to contextualize the case as a civil-rights battle against the ultra-conservative sheriff were nipped in the bud by Justice Daniel Kelly, and his spirited delivery drew the ire of former Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, who repeatedly stopped him to ask that he respond to a question.     Once, she even demanded an answer to Justice Michael Gableman’s question, an uncommon point of agreement acknowledged by the latter, who regularly lobs subtle attacks at Abrahamson during oral argument.     Earle’s answer to Wistrom’s argument that the state is an agent of ICE during 48-hour detentions was to cite the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, arguing that amounted to the federal government commandeering property.     Earle admitted that his case is “dead in the water” if the court finds federal law trumps state law, but as Wistrom confirmed toward the end of the hearing, there is nothing in the record to indicate that ICE cited the federal law at issue in requesting that the records be withheld.     It is unclear when the Wisconsin Supreme Court will issue its ruling in the case.

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Paul Ryan’s Wisconsin Is Leaning Toward Democrats

     MILWAUKEE (CN) — Though they trust state matters to Republicans, Wisconsinites appear set to send Democrats to the U.S. Senate and the Oval Office on Election Day.     That outcome, should it come to pass, would be close to a stunner in a state that is home to GOP Party Chairman Reince Priebus and House Speaker Paul Ryan.     Despite handily ousting former Sen. Russ Feingold, a Democrat, in the 2010 elections, incumbent Republican Ron Johnson has steadily lagged in the polls over the past year, with an average disadvantage of 6.8 points.     The race has tightened since the beginning of October, prompting out-of-state Democratic groups to pour money into the race, though Republicans are still far ahead in spending to promote Johnson, according to Politico.     But Feingold, a Harvard Law graduate, has enjoyed a steadily increasing lead in the polls beginning a week or so after a recording surfaced of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump bragging about his taking liberties with women without their permission.     Though Johnson condemned Trump’s actions, saying at a debate that he wouldn’t “defend the indefensible” act of sexual assault, he was back on the campaign trail for Trump on Nov. 1 after skipping the GOP standard-bearer’s events immediately after the recording was released.     Democrat Hillary Clinton also got a bump in the polls when the “Access Hollywood” recording of Trump became common knowledge, with even the billionaire real estate developer’s core demographic of non-college-educated whites abandoning him, according to the Marquette University poll.     FBI Director James Comey’s revelation last week that his agency is taking another look at Clinton’s emails did not seem to have harmed the former secretary of state’s standing in Wisconsin polls as of Monday.     However, with Clinton’s emails back in the news so close to the election, Feingold’s past references to her being “honest and trustworthy” may provide fodder for his GOP rival in the waning days of the campaign.     Feingold clarified his remarks as referring to his personal encounters with her, and though he is sticking by her side since Comey reignited the email issue, he claimed not to know details and emphasized “transparency” when talking to reporters from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.     While Wisconsin has a long tradition of voting Republican, it is home to a few Democratic strongholds — mainly in its major metropolitan areas.     President Barack Obama won the state twice, in 2008 and 2012, the latter victory coming just two years before Wisconsin voters sent Republican Scott Walker in the statehouse as governor.

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Greens Challenge Wis. Agency’s Well Permits

     MADISON, Wis. (CN) — Ignoring warnings from state administrators, Wisconsin’s conservation agency is shirking its responsibilities by blindly approving high-capacity well permits, an environmental group claims in court.     Clean Wisconsin Inc. filed nine lawsuits Friday against the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, demanding that it rescind permits for 10 high-capacity water wells and evaluate the environmental impact of future wells before issuing permits.     The DNR has declined to consider environmental factors since Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel issued an opinion on May 10 stating that the agency does not have the authority to do so, according to the lawsuits and the DNR’s website.     The result has been widespread lake drainage and degradation of wildlife habitats, according to Clean Wisconsin, in favor of using the water for irrigation.     “These waters belong to all people of Wisconsin,” Clean Wisconsin’s general counsel Katie Nekola said in a statement. “By relying on the attorney general’s flawed opinion, the DNR is abdicating its constitutional duty to protect the waters of our state.”     The question of the DNR’s duty and authority first arose in 2006 after it granted a town a permit to operate a high-capacity well.     The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled in 2011 that the DNR’s duty to protect public waterways required it to consider potential harmful effects before granting a well permit.     Around the same time, the Republican-controlled state legislature passed 2011 Wisconsin Act 21, which forbid regulatory agencies from imposing conditions stricter than those laid out in state law.     State lawmakers asked Schimel to apply the opinion and state law to high-capacity well permits issued by the DNR, which he did in his May opinion.     “The constitution vested in the state a duty to keep navigable waters in trust for the citizens of the state,” the attorney general wrote. “Nowhere in the constitution is there language delegating that duty to the DNR.”     The Division of Hearings and Appeals disagreed in a 2014 opinion, according to the complaints, and asserted the DNR must go beyond considering the individual impact of each well.     “It is scientifically unsupported, and impossible as a practical matter, to manage water resources if cumulative impacts are not considered,” the division concluded, according to Clean Wisconsin’s lawsuits, which were filed in Dane County Circuit Court.     A spokesperson for the Wisconsin Department of Justice declined to comment on the lawsuits.

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Wisconsin AG Seeks Probe of Scott Walker Leak

     MADISON, Wis. (CN) — Responding to a damning article on Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign finances, Wisconsin’s Republican attorney general asked the state’s highest court to investigate the source of the information.     Brad Schimel sent a letter Thursday to conservative Chief Judge Patience Drake Roggensack of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, requesting a special master to see to the final disposition of the case and all related evidence.     After the conservative-majority Supreme Court officially ended John Doe II, a secret investigation into possible campaign law violations by Walker and third-party groups, the very evidence it ordered handed over or destroyed appeared as source material in a news article on The Guardian’s website.     The article, published Sept. 14, suggests that what special prosecutor Francis Schmitz and several elected Democrats had alleged is true: Walker’s campaign skirted donor disclosure laws by illegally coordinating with third-party groups that are not required to disclose the source of their money.     The article includes emails explicitly stating that Walker told donors to give to these groups for this very reason, along with the image of one check, written to the now-notorious Wisconsin Club for Growth, with a memo reading “Because Scott Walker asked.”     Schimel points to this article in his letter as evidence that state prosecutors have disobeyed court orders to divest themselves of all evidence from the case, and offered support from the Wisconsin Department of Justice to investigate the matter.     “It is important that all involved, directly and the public in general, have confidence in the final results of this process,” Schimel wrote.     To that end, he requested that the investigator be given the power to issue subpoenas to compel attendance and testimony.     After the Guardian article was published, the U.S. Supreme Court passed on the prosecution’s request to review the John Doe II case, which was rife with accusations of political, judicial and prosecutorial bias throughout from both sides.     As is custom, the U.S. Supreme Court did not comment on its refusal to consider the case.

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