Federal Judge Dismisses Wisconsin Senate from Lawsuit Over Green Bay City Hall Audio Recording Equipment

GREEN BAY, Wisconsin – A federal judge has dismissed the Wisconsin Senate from a lawsuit against the city of Green Bay over the installation of audio recording equipment as part of a city hall security system. The lawsuit, which has been ongoing for approximately a year, alleges that the recording equipment violated the privacy rights of visitors to city hall and has cost state taxpayers over $400,000. The lawsuit was filed in the weeks leading up to last year’s mayoral election, with individuals involved having close ties to Green Bay Mayor Eric Genrich’s Republican opponent.

U.S. District Court Judge William Griesbach ruled that the Senate did not have standing to bring the lawsuit, stating that the enforcement of audio recording laws falls within the responsibility of the executive branch, not the legislative branch. Griesbach emphasized that allowing parties without standing to remain involved in litigation only serves to make the process more time-consuming, confusing, and expensive.

The two individual parties involved in the case, Republican Senator Andre Jacque and former Green Bay alderman Anthony Thiesen, argued that they should be allowed to remain as parties because they, as individuals, have standing. However, Griesbach rejected this argument, explaining that the state senate does not make claims for damages like the individuals do. He also granted the city’s request to dismiss two claims brought by the Republicans for “declaratory relief,” as they were redundant with other claims in the lawsuit.

Despite the dismissal of the Senate, Jacque and Thiesen can continue fighting the lawsuit, although they will now be without the financial support of the Senate. Griesbach ruled that the pair can still argue they had a reasonable expectation of privacy when having private conversations in the hallways of city hall. The city had argued that after a year of litigation, the existence of these conversations has not been proven.

Jacque celebrated the ruling as a victory, likening the use of audio recording in Green Bay to repressive tactics employed against dissenters in the Soviet Union. The case, if it continues without the Senate’s financial support, will next proceed to discovery.