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Sunday, April 20, 2014  |   Madison, WI: 54.0° F  
THE SCONZ: Breaking news and commentary on campus, city and state politics

THE SCONZ

State troopers worry they may be sued for illegal tactics

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The union that represents Wisconsin State Troopers has requested that the state Department of Transportation defend its members in the event of lawsuits in response to the restriction of Capitol grounds to the public.

The law enforcement officers of the State Patrol continue to follow the orders of Governor Walker and Division of State Patrol Superintendent Fitzgerald, despite concerns that doing so may be illegal. The decision of Governor Walker and Superintendent Fitzgerald to call out the State Patrol, however, places the members of the State Patrol in the way of great personal harm.

When Troopers act pursuant to their statutory authority as sworn law enforcement officers while protecting Wisconsin's citizens on our State's highways, Wisconsin law offers them legal representation and indemnification for lawsuits alleging violations of a citizen's civil rights. See Wisconsin Statutes 895.46(1)(a). However, the protections of this law only apply in circumstances where a law enforcement officer acts "within the scope of their employment." Because of concerns that the call out by Governor Walker may be illegal under Wisconsin Statutes 323.17, a ruling by a court or jury that a Trooper was not acting "within the scope of their employment, " could be devastating to a Trooper and their family.

Interesting. The tone of the press release indicates rather overt hostility to the budget repair bill, which is perhaps the most significant point it makes. Although I'm sure there are some potential legal ramifications to the deployment of state troopers to restrict public access to the Capitol, I doubt the consequences will be felt by the individuals. That is a gut prediction that is not grounded in any legal reasoning whatsoever, but I'm nevertheless confident making it.

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