Wisconsin administrators to appeal

University of Wisconsin officials decided Friday to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their case supporting student services fees.
The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in August that students at University of Wisconsin campuses cannot be forced to fund student groups that engage in political and ideological activities through the fees system. The University of Minnesota is currently fighting a similar lawsuit in federal district court, which was brought by five students in February.
Patricia Brady, legal counsel for the Wisconsin system, said the Board of Regents decided to appeal but said they did not specify why.
“We believe we are raising some important issues,” she said.
As of now, the University of Wisconsin is only planning to submit a petition to the Supreme Court to hear the case; the justices decide whether the case will be heard.
Brady said the school has until late January to submit the petition. It is unknown whether or not the Supreme Court will hear the case.
“The current court likes to duck the issues,” said Jim Chen, a professor in the Law School. Because they have power over what they hear and when, they can decide to take this case or wait for another similar case, like the University of Minnesota’s, he added.
What the Supreme Court usually does, he said, is rule on cases that have reached different conclusions in the lower courts. If the University of Minnesota’s case is found against the plaintiffs — opposite of the outcome in the Wisconsin case — then it is likely the Supreme Court will hear the case to set a precedent.
But Jordan Lorence, the plaintiffs’ attorney in the suit against the University of Minnesota, said the Supreme Court predicted in 1995 that it would receive a case like this, which might persuade the justices to hear it.
Chen also said the Supreme Court is more ideologically divided now than in the past, which makes it more likely to avoid controversial issues because it is unlikely a clear majority would emerge to decide the case.
While the appeals court decision stands, the University of Wisconsin and Lorence, who also represents the plaintiffs in the Wisconsin case, agreed not to change the current fees system until a final decision is made in the courts.
He said he didn’t want to confuse students by changing the system every time a lower court’s decision was reversed.