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Judge Orders State Capitol to Remain Open to Public

Injunction says doors must be open during normal business hours and when legislative meetings are under way.

Madison – A Dane County Circuit Court judge this morning issued a temporary injunction against the Department of Administration ordering that the Capitol building be opened to the public.

 Judge Daniel Moeser issued the order at 10 a.m. as a growing crowd of protesters were being held back from the doors of the statehouse by a line of police officers.

The Capitol had been open around the clock to members of the public, most of them protesting Gov. Scott Walker’s budget repair bill, since Feb. 15. But on Sunday, the DOA announced that the building would close at 4 p.m.

The Capitol remained closed to the public Monday, and shortened hours were announced today. But the injunction says that the administration “shall 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.”

Democratic legislators and protesters were demanding that the doors be opened to all without restrictions as security checks remained in place as of 11:30 a.m.

“We applaud Judge Moeser for ensuring that clean, open government is upheld,” state Rep. Peter Barca said in a statement. “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.”

The Department of Justice, acting on behalf of the administration, is challenging the restraining order, and a hearing is set for 2:15 p.m. today before Circuit Judge John Albert.

If the order stands, the Capitol would have to remain open not only for the governor's budget address at 4 p.m. but for an open meeting of the Joint Finance Committe, which is required to meet after the budget is introduced.

Robert March 01, 2011 at 06:25 PM
Let the judge go in and clean the place. he probably lives liek apig too.
Bob McBride March 01, 2011 at 06:51 PM
This could be the circus to end all circuses tonight if they keep it open. I'm sure I'll be reminded that it's "the people's house"and that, as such, it should be open for whatever kind of disruption those protesters are intent on providing. If nothing else, it will demonstrate the difference in the ways the two sides approach governance.
Harvey March 01, 2011 at 07:50 PM
I hope the judge does as he says--I hope he remembers that his courtromm is the peoples too. Will he let a mob into his courtoom during proceedings?
Kathy March 01, 2011 at 09:01 PM
I was at the capitolon Thurs Feb 24. There was a tremendous crowd but the building was not being trashed. Instead, people were respectful, leaving many signs saying "this is our house, treat it with respect", and were courteous and respectful of the police. There was not a lot of trash on the floor, it was being put in receptacles. It was noisy, absolutely, but I found it gratifying to hear the chant "This is What Democracy Looks Like" People are bringing their children to see and hear what is going on. It was not a mob. It is concerned citizens who do not want to see anyone's rights taken away. I went into the assembly gallery. The audience in the gallery were absolutely quiet as is required in there. If you haven't been there, don't make wild accusations. I have no union affiliation. I just know that taking away the rights of some is weakening the rights of all. And I know that selling off our state assets on a NO BID basis, like the bill's provision for no bid sale of the state's power plants, is an abuse of power. There is definitely reason why some signs read "Walker is not a badger, he's a weasel." Even four state assembly republicans voted against the bill.
Kathryn Ameringer March 02, 2011 at 04:00 PM
The Capitol building should remain open during normal business hours, but people should be required to leave when it closes. Last time I checked, the Capitol was not listed as a Wisconsin state campground! Seriously, we have a beautiful historic building that we should respect. It needs to be cleaned throughly on a daily basis and this just can't be accomplished when the building remains full of people. And there is no reason to pay overtime to the Capitol police and others to remain in the building overnight, night after night for security and crowd control. Allow the protesters and whomever else chooses to be there to come when the doors are open, but when the place closes, go home.

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