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Lautenschlager v. Gunderson

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Number: 2007AP1930
Year: 2008
State: Wisconsin
Court: District 1 Court of Appeals
Other lawsuits in Wisconsin
Other lawsuits in 2008
Precedents include:
The court ruled that lawmakers can share drafts of bills with lobbyists while withholding the drafts from the public.
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Lautenschlager v. Gunderson is a September 2008 ruling of the District 1 Court of Appeals in Wisconsin dismissing an appeal by former Wisconsin attorney general Peg Lautenschlager of a decision by a Dane County judge. The lower court judge had ruled that Wisconsin lawmakers can share drafts of bills with lobbyists while withholding the drafts from the public.[1]

The September dismissal of the appeal did not discuss the merits of the ruling that Lautenschlager was appealing. Rather, in dismissing the appeal, the court said that Lautenschlager, now a private citizen, did not have legal standing to file the appeal, since she was no longer the attorney general of the state.

Important precedents

The court ruled that lawmakers can share drafts of bills with lobbyists while withholding the drafts from the public.


2005 lawsuit

The original lawsuit was filed by Lautenschlager in 2005 when she did hold the office of attorney general. Her 2005 lawsuit sought a court order declaring that drafts of bills are public records when lawmakers share them with selected lobbyists and experts. She claimed that practice was a violation of the open records law and gave special interests greater influence than average citizens.

The 2005 lawsuit was filed against two Republican legislators, Scott Gunderson and former state senator Dave Zien, subsequent to their refusal to release to her drafts of a bill they were shepherding through the legislature that would allow citizens to carry concealed weapons. Gunderson and Zien acknowledged that they had shared drafts of the bill with lobbyists for the National Rifle Association but nevertheless declined to make those drafts available to the public.

In 2007, a Dane County judge dismissed the original lawsuit, ruling that under the Wisconsin Open Records Law, drafts of bills are not public records until they are formally introduced no matter who they are shared with. He also said it was questionable that courts could tell lawmakers how to conduct a core legislative function such as writing bills.

Ruling of the court

Reasons given for dismissal

The appeals court ruled that private citizens such as Lautenschlager do not have the right to appeal cases that were originally filed by the state's attorney general, should lower court rulings to against the attorney general's position. The ability to appeal unfavorable rulings is only in the hands of the attorney general's office itself.[2]

According to the decision, "If the attorney general brings suit, it is to further the interests of the public in enforcing the open records law, not to represent an individual. Thus ... Lautenschlager does not now have control over a case that was brought to further the state's interest in enforcing the open records law."

Associated cases

See also

External links


  1. Forbes, "Court dismisses case over Wis. lawmakers' secrecy," September 16, 2008
  2. Capital Times, "Lautenschlager's open records lawsuit dismissed," September 16, 2008