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Wednesday, December 6, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Wednesday, December 6, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Branch battles

November 6, 2023

Just because government branches are separated doesn't mean they agree on who gets to do what. Everyone wants to be the boss.

Milt Policzer

By Milt Policzer

Courthouse News columnist; racehorse owner and breeder; one of those guys who always got picked last.

It’s easier to say you’re sorry than ask permission in the first place.

We all know that bit of presumptuous wisdom, and I suppose it could sometimes be true. On the other hand, we’d probably prefer that bank robbers and murderers try to get permission first.

This is the sort of weird stuff that pops into my head when I see an interesting lawsuit like the one filed last week by the governor of Wisconsin and a trio of state agencies against members of the Wisconsin state legislature.

Why sue when you can just go ahead and ignore the legislators? After all, the suit claims that the legislators acted illegally by allowing committees to veto executive branch decisions. Wouldn’t it make more sense, then, to ignore those committees and let them sue if they think they’re right?

No point in asking permission if you think you’re right in the first place.

This, of course, is part of a national debate about how much discretion executive branch agencies should have. You’d think that if Congress created, say, a Commission to Preserve Dung Beetle Habitats, they’d let that commission do the preserving.

Instead, conservative activists and politicians keep suing to stop agencies from using their expertise unless a law specifically allowed what the commission wanted to do. You wouldn’t think there would be much point in having a commission with expertise if Congress was doing all the commission’s work.

Why create a regulatory agency that can’t regulate?

And you wouldn’t think legislators would have the time or inclination to do any of that work.

On the other hand, how much work has Congress done lately? Maybe some of those people really would like to regulate dung beetles.

The other interesting thing about the Wisconsin lawsuit is that one branch of government is going to another branch of government to complain about a third branch of government. Why can’t these powers separate themselves?

The outcome I’d like to see, of course, is the Wisconsin Supreme Court deciding it gets to decide the rules on standards for buildings and ethics for social workers instead of either of the other branches. After all, the court is there for deciding things.

Note to Wisconsin Republicans: Just claim the legislative committees are an agency set up by the Legislature to regulate agencies. Then the legislators are executives.

I need to stop thinking about this.

What’s in a name? Really, what is in a name?

I have good news for California lawyers (and people interested in making fun of Bar bureaucrats). The State Bar of California has offered yet another chance to exercise your creativity. The Bar is soliciting comments on a revised policy governing law school name changes.

Get your jokes in before the Jan. 1 deadline so that the Bar can properly ignore them.

You may be wondering why the Bar needs a policy on law school changes. There’s an explanation in comment solicitation but it’s kind of contradictory. Apparently, the Bar wants to make sure the original law school name is listed on attorney profiles if the school name was changed after a school consolidation or purchase. But if the name was changed for any other reason, attorney profiles should list the new name.

The purchase/consolidation policy, according to the proposal “discussion,” is to avoid factual inaccuracy. The “other reason” policy is to avoid inconvenience and confusion.

Are any of you confused?

You can have some fun with this.

My suggestion to the Bar is a policy that requires all law schools to change their names to honor lawyer-themed TV series.

Imagine having “Damages School of Law” on your resume. Or “The Good Wife College of Law.” Or “Suits U.”

It would be great for business.

Categories / Government, Law, Op-Ed

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