You know, if Scott Walker could, he’d declare some kind of legislative martial law and just impose everything in his union busting “budget repair” bill by gubernatorial fiat. Elections have consequences, after all, so he gets to do anything he wants, whether he campaigned on it or not. Right?
At least that’s what he’s been told by the finest nut-right legal minds, like Marquette law prof Rick Esenberg. Esenberg has admitted on his blog being the brains behind the brilliant effort to have a Republican party official in Oconto County file a “writ of mandamus” to get his Democratic senator to the Senate chamber. The judge in the case summarily dismissed it in world record time (two days), always a proud result for an impact litigation attorney.
Esenberg also admits advising the Senate Republicans on their similarly awesome effort to get their eight-month pregnant colleague and 13 of her fellow Democrats arrested, should they make the mistake of being caught visiting friends and family in Wisconsin. Esenberg, no doubt, was aware of the prohibition in the state constitution against legislators being arrested during a session, except for “treason, felony and breach of the peace”. I’m sure Esenberg also reviewed with the senators that a finding of “contempt of the Senate”, by statute, can only be imposed by causing another member to be arrested; disorderly conduct; failing to appear as a witness or produce documents; or bribing – none of which is involved here. But, the law is a mere inconvenience to these arrogant bastards. And Esenberg is only too happy to facilitate their lawlessness.
Lester Pines appears to have nailed the relevant law in a memo. For his part, Esenberg resorts to name-calling – “the scofflaws - and that's what they are” – which is a poor substitute for law, but, hey, professor spank. I’m guessing Pines has kicked Esenberg’s legal ass before and certainly will again. Esenberg claims to have worked both of these great legal efforts pro bono, which may be true. You get what you pay for.
But the apparent possibility of the brave WI 14 senators being arrested reminds me of other extra-judicial action that has been taken in Wisconsin history in the face of illegal and immoral incarceration. I think we need to prepare for a popular citizen’s jailbreak, in the spirit of Wisconsin hero Sherman Booth.
Sherman Booth had a newspaper back in the mid-19th century called the Milwaukee Free Democrat. In 1854, Booth became aware of the imprisonment of Joshua Glover, a fugitive slave from Missouri, who was being held under the Fugitive Slave Act, a pitiful law that required free states to hold slaves claimed in slave states for their slave masters. Booth ran through the streets of Milwaukee like Paul Revere and convened a mob at the county jail. After asking nicely, the mob stormed the jail and freed Glover. And, you can bet, standing right there, demanding that the mob be arrested and the slave be returned to Missouri, would have been the 19th century version of Rick Esenberg. “The scofflaws - and that's what they are!”
I assume the Senate Democrats are traveling, if not sleeping, with their lawyers in the event that the long arm of the lawless somehow reaches across the state line (you can bet Esenberg and the fine Republican team is trying to find a way to do just that). However, should one of them get caught visiting their grandchildren or hugging their child or going to church or to their obstetrician, they will have to be held in a jail somewhere before they get dragged, feet first, onto the Senate floor.
In such a case, I suggest we organize a posse in each county between Madison and the Illinois state line. When we find out where they are, we storm the building, like the brave Sherman Booth and his mob, and free the political prisoner from the clutches of his or her jailers. Free the Senator! we will shout to the swelling encouragement of the surrounding citizens who have come to see their constitution and their laws restored and enforced, by any means necessary.
In the meantime, I think I found another opportunity to do my own small part through a little identity-bending, a brilliant suggestion by the Stop Scott Walker Watch on Facebook. If I can find one of those "Hello My Name Is..." name tags, I'll be wearing one around the Courthouse this morning. Hello, My Name Is...Chris Larson. Arrest Me! I would hope the law enforcement officers who support the collective bargaining rights the WI 14 are making such huge sacrifices to protect would ignore such an illegal warrant, but, you never know. As Elvis Costello sang: "I'll do anything to confuse the ememy".