On Wednesday, Wisconsin’s Supreme Court struck down Gov. Tony Evers’ (D) coronavirus stay-at-home order, effectively reopening the state, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
In its 3–4 ruling, Wisconsin’s highest court sided with Republican lawmakers who claimed that state Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Andrea Palm had exceeded her constitutional authority in promulgating the order.
Court strikes down stay-at-home order
“This case is about the assertion of power by one unelected official, Andrea Palm, and her order to all people within Wisconsin to remain in their homes, not to travel and to close all businesses that she declares are not ‘essential’ in Emergency Order 28,” the majority opinion read.
“Palm says that failure to obey Order 28 subjects the transgressor to imprisonment for 30 days, a $250 fine or both,” it continued, stressing, “This case is not about Governor Tony Evers’ Emergency Order or the powers of the Governor.”
The opinion ultimately concluded by stating that “Palm’s Emergency Order 28 is declared unlawful, invalid, and unenforceable.”
The decision largely broke down along ideological lines, with conservative Chief Justice Patience Roggensack joining with Justices Rebecca Bradley, Daniel Kelly, and Annette Ziegler voting to overturn the order.
Bradley authored a concurring opinion in which she explained: “However well-intentioned, the secretary-designee of the Department of Health Services exceeded her powers by ordering the people of Wisconsin to follow her commands or face imprisonment for noncompliance.
“In issuing her order, she arrogated unto herself the power to make the law and the power to execute it, excluding the people from the lawmaking process altogether. The separation of powers embodied in our constitution does not permit this,” Bradley added.
Justice Brian Hagedorn is normally considered to be part of the court’s conservative wing, according to NPR; however, he stood with liberal Justices Ann Walsh Bradley and Rebecca Dallet in dissenting from the majority.
Almost immediately after the ruling was announced, bars in Wisconsin were filled with patrons eager to exercise their newfound freedom, according to CBS News.
It is worth noting that the court’s decision did not reverse the part of the state order that closed K-12 schools, and local governments across Wisconsin retain the ability to continue or impose new restrictions of their own. Dane County, for example, has already issued an order effectively reinstating the state’s mandate in large part, as the Wisconsin State Journal reports.
Whether the Wisconsin ruling is a sign of things to come in other states where lockdown orders are being challenged in court remains to be seen.