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Wisconsin high court tosses out governor's stay-home order

SeattlePI.com Thursday, 14 May 2020
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down Gov. Tony Evers' coronavirus stay-at-home order Wednesday, ruling that his administration overstepped its authority when it extended the mandate for another month without consulting legislators.

The 4-3 ruling essentially reopens the state, lifting caps on the size of gatherings, allowing people to travel as they please and allowing shuttered businesses to reopen, including bars and restaurants. The Tavern League of Wisconsin swiftly posted the news on its website, telling members, “You can OPEN IMMEDIATELY!”

Local governments can still impose their own health restrictions, however. In Dane County, home to the capital of Madison, officials quickly imposed a mandate incorporating most of the statewide order.

Chief Justice Patience Roggensack wrote for the majority that health secretary Andrea Palm's order amounted to an emergency rule that she doesn't have the power to create on her own, and also imposes criminal penalties beyond her powers.

“Rule-making exists precisely to ensure that kind of controlling, subjective judgement asserted by one unelected official, Palm, is not imposed in Wisconsin,” Roggensack, part of the court's 5-2 conservative majority, wrote.

Rebecca Dallet, one of the court's liberal justices, dissented. She wrote that the court’s decision will “undoubtedly go down as one of the most blatant examples of judicial activism in this court’s history. And it will be Wisconsinites who pay the price.”

Dallet also took aim at the potential delay set up by a rule-making process, writing: “A review of the tedious multi-step process required to enact an emergency rule illustrates why the Legislature authorized DHS to issue statewide orders to control contagion.”

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