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Safer at Home extension struck down by State Supreme Court, effective immediately

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Wisconsin state Supreme Court chambers in the state Capitol in Madison. File photo/WKOW.
Wisconsin state Supreme Court chambers in the state Capitol in Madison. File photo/WKOW.

MADISON (WKOW) -- The State Supreme court struck down Wisconsin’s Safer at Home order in its entirety, ordering all future orders to go through the Legislature.

The court ruled 4-3 in a case brought forth by Republican lawmakers that sought to block the Safer at Home extension issued last month by Governor Tony Evers’ top health secretary, Andrea Palm. 

The court ruled Palm did not follow legal rule-making procedures when issuing parts of the Safer at Home order. 

The court also said that because proper rule make procedures were not followed, there could be no criminal penalties for violating the order.

In the end, the court ruled that Ever's emergency order is "declared unlawful, and unenforceable."

(Read the full opinion HERE or below)

This means bars, restaurants, and other establishments can open if they want. Counties and local municipalities do have the power to issue their own restrictions which Dane County alread did.

"Today, Republican legislators convinced four members of the Supreme Court to throw the state into chaos," Gov. Evers said on a phone call with reporters. "They have provided no plan. There is no question among anybody that people are going to get sick. We presently lead the Midwest in having the fewest cases per capita. And Republicans own that chaos."

Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) said in a statement:

 "Now that the decision has been rendered, we are confident Wisconsin citizens are up to the task of fighting the virus as we enter a new phase... Wisconsin now joins multiple states that don't have extensive ‘stay at home orders’ but can continue to follow good practices of social distancing, hand washing, hand sanitizer usage and telecommuting. This order does not promote people to act in a way that they believe endangers their health."

During oral arguments last week, Justice Rebecca Bradley suggested Palm’s decision to extend the order without legislative input amounts to tyranny.

"I think there is a problem with the legislature giving away this much power to an un-elected cabinet secretary," said Bradley. "The people never consented to a single individual having that kind of power."

Assistant Attorney General Colin Roth who defended the Evers administration argued state law clearly gives the executive branch board powers to issue emergency orders to control communicable diseases. 

“Realize that we need to give the agency with expertise to respond to changing dynamic circumstances on the ground,” said Roth. “I think that intent grants DHS whatever is necessary to combat a novel communicable, deadly disease.”

Roth also said the order is similar to those issued in 42 other states who’ve instituted restrictions to save lives. 

Attorney General Josh Kaul said he hopes lawmakers understand when crafting a new plan they don't have to choose between public health and economic growth.

"I hope the Legislature will work constructively with the executive branch to protect the health and wellbeing of Wisconsinites and to ensure that we have the resources in place that will allow for the reopening of the economy be as successful as possible,” said Kaul.

Read the court document below:

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Emilee Fannon

Capital Bureau Chief

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Andrew Merica

Reporter/Producer, 27 News

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