Maximum Senate Majority-Leader-For-Life (in his own mind) Scott Fitzgerald didn't pull any punches. In a withering statement issued this morning in which he called the 14 Democratic state senators all manner of names, the Republican autocrat said, "Their appearance at the Capitol today is in direct violation of the contempt order issued by the state Senate earlier this month, and it proves their absolute disregard for the institution of the Senate and the constitution they took an oath of office to serve."

But wait, there's more. Interviewed Friday by WITI-TV Fox 6 News in Milwaukee, Fitzgerald was quoted on camera saying that if the returning 14 Democrats appear at today's protest rally, as they plan, they risk being arrested on charges of contempt.

Which of course makes no sense whatsoever, legally, logically, ethically or procedurally. "The Wisconsin Constitution absolutely prohibits members of the Wisconsin Senate from being arrested for a non-criminal offense,” wrote Wisconsin attorneys Lester A. Pines and Susan M. Crawford of the Cullen, Weston, Pines & Bach law firm of Madison. “The failure or refusal of a senator to attend a session of the Senate is not a crime. Nor is it in contempt of the Senate.”

Yeah, but the threat sure sounds tough, and Republicans do love sounding tough.  Red meat tossed to the party's electoral base, dontcha know.

It won't happen.  For one thing, the Senate isn't even in session. What's Fitzgerald's plan? To have the Democratic senators put in handcuffs and escorted into an empty Senate chamber, to sit in the corner for two hours of detention for lipping off?

Then, of course, it would be quite an interesting scene if the senators, amid tens of thousands of protesters expected at the Capitol today, were approached by police officers. It almost makes a person think Scott Fitzgerald and his pals like to cause trouble.

In any event, even if arrests could be arranged and actually made, no court would recognize them. The Senate can make its own rules, but it has no police powers or authority to direct law enforcement agencies to make arrests that are based on those rules. Or maybe Scotty Fitz now thinks he can simply make decrees about civil and criminal law, and that the police then will shout "Achtung!" and carry out his every wish.

Maybe Fitzgerald actually isn't calculating and arrogant. Maybe he's just ignorant and stubborn, enough to try to make happen his silly rhetoric. If so, I'd like to see the unionized police officer or law enforcement agency head that will agree. Whoops, well, there's one: Scott Fitzgerald's dad, whom Gov. Walker conveniently appointed head of the Wisconsin State Patrol. But if cooler heads prevail around him, maybe Scotty Fitz could simply show up at the rally in person and attempt a citizen's arrest. Wouldn't that calm the waters and lead our state back to rational, sane, congenial public discourse?


March 12, 2011 - 11:58am