Wisconsin Supreme Court hears arguments on Safer at Home extension

Published: May. 5, 2020 at 8:51 AM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has heard oral arguments on Gov. Tony Evers' Safer at Home extension restricting non-essential business during the coronavirus pandemic.

At question is whether the order is unconstitutional and state agencies have the power to issue such orders during an emergency.

to watch the full oral arguments.

The governor ordered Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm to extend Safer at Home order until May 26. On April 21, the Republican-led legislature challenged the extension, claiming it violates state law regarding emergency rules and the power to enforce them.

to view the state statute on emergency rules. They also claim it exceeds DHS authority.

Wisconsin's high court heared oral arguments from both sides in the case

Wisconsin Legislature v. Andrea Palm

to watch live coverage on Wisconsin Eye.

The justices are considering these questions:

1. Whether the Department of Health Services (the Department) violated Wis. Stat. § 227.24, governing emergency rules, by issuing Emergency Order No. 28 without complying with § 227.24’s procedures

2. Even if the Department did not violate § 227.24, whether Emergency Order No. 28 exceeds the Department’s authority by closing all “nonessential” businesses, ordering all Wisconsin persons to stay at home, and forbidding all “nonessential” travel

The hearing ended shortly before noon. The justices reconvened at 1:30 p.m.

it expressly says the department may issue orders for any city, village or county, and then it says rules and orders that are issued under this subsection supersede conflicting or less stringent local regulations."

Roth continued, "So I think what 252.02(4) shows is that the legislature has decided, very wisely in my opinion, that the state public health authority is the preeminent one with the power to as it says supersede conflicting local decisions."

Roth stated that the virus does not respect county boundaries.

“We just had this outbreak in Brown County very recently in the meat packing business. This is after Safer at Home. The cases in Brown County in a span of two weeks surged over tenfold from 60 to almost 800. And that's two weeks that would be required for emergency rule making."

CHIEF JUSTICE ROGGENSACK: "These were due to the meat packing, though, that's where the Brown County got the flare. It wasn't just the regular folks in Brown County."

ROTH: "I understand that, Your Honor, but the point I'm trying to make is these flare ups, when Safer at Home is now steadily lifted in stages, are going to happen all across the state. And they're going to happen very quickly. It's like a wildfire. It's smoldering, but a gust of wind is going to fan the flames and it is going to explode again."

Roth argues limiting DHS power would not give them the proper ability to react to the flare ups.

The Evers administration has defended its Safer at Home order, saying "the first three weeks of Safer at Home is estimated to have saved at least 300 lives and perhaps as many as 1,400 lives in the fight against COVID-19. Continued adherence to science and advice of health professionals has the potential to save thousands more in Wisconsin alone. "

“Deadly viruses don’t wait around while bureaucrats and politicians jump through procedural hoops. An effective response requires swift action by public health experts, which is why state law gives DHS the power to act quickly to stop the pandemic and save lives,” said Gov. Evers. “If Legislative Republicans want to be involved in the state’s response to this pandemic, they should stop sitting on the sidelines and start working to find solutions to help farmers, small businesses, and workers.”

to view briefs filed in the case.

It is unclear at this time when the court will reach their decision.