WI Supreme Court strikes down Evers administration’s Safer at Home extension

NOW: WI Supreme Court strikes down Evers administration’s Safer at Home extension

Updated: 10:53 p.m. on May 13, 2020

MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) – In a 4-3 decision, the state Supreme Court ruled to block the Evers administration’s extension of the Safer at Home order, immediately leaving the Badger State without a plan in place to fight the coronavirus.

The ruling now forces the Democratic governor’s office and the Republican-controlled Legislature, which have long been embroiled in a partisan quagmire, to work together and establish a new statewide response going forward.

“I’m very disappointed in the decision,” Governor Evers said in a press call Wednesday night. “Apparently, with the four that made this decision, facts don’t matter, the law doesn’t matter, precedent doesn’t matter.”

The four justices that ruled in the majority (Chief Justice Paige Roggensack, Justice Rebecca Bradley, Justice Daniel Kelly and Justice Annette Ziegler) concluded Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm overstepped her authority when issuing the Safer at Home order extension, which was set to expire May 26. The justices, all part of the court’s conservative majority, decided that such an order must go through a rulemaking process that involves the Legislature.

Roggensack, writing for the majority, wrote that, “rulemaking exists precisely to ensure that kind of controlling, subjective judgment asserted by one unelected official, Palm, is not imposed in Wisconsin.”

Only one conservative justice dissented. Justice Brian Hagedorn (joined by liberal Justices Rebecca Dallet and Ann Walsh Bradley) maintained that the powers Secretary-designee Palm was utilizing were given to her by the Legislature. Hagedorn added that citizens affected by the order had grounds for bringing lawsuits, but not the Legislature. “Such claims should be raised by those injured by the enforcement action,” Hagedorn wrote in the dissent. “Not by the branch of government who drafted the laws on which the executive branch purports to rely.”

Leaders of the Legislature, including Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R – Juneau), believe they need to be involved in the decision-making process when it comes to the state’s response to the pandemic.

“This can no longer be just one cabinet member issuing those edicts, that apply to the entire state of Wisconsin, the Legislature has to be involved,” Fitzgerald told CBS 58 in a remote video interview. “There has to be some back and forth between the two branches of government to build confidence in what the governor was doing which I think some people had begun to question the rhyme and reason for some of the decisions that have been made.”

A Marquette University Law School Poll released Tuesday found that 69% of people who responded supported the Safer at Home order, though that was down from 86% support in late March.

Fitzgerald and his counterpart in the lower chamber, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R – Rochester), have not put forth their own plan for a COVID-19 response, but they believe a collaborative effort is the most successful path with the governor.

The Senate Majority Leader told CBS 58 that he applauds the testing and tracing efforts implemented by the Evers administration, but that there are other issues he and other GOP lawmakers want to see addressed.

“I think the one thing that we’re going to have to deal with are the bigger societal questions about some of the bigger institutions and whether or not the come back after this is all over with,” Fitzgerald said. “What are we going to do with students? What are we going to do with churches? What are we going to do with major league sports?”

The ruling by the Supreme Court did not leave in place a six day stay that was requested by the Legislature, meaning the Safer at Home order is immediately ended.

Counties and municipalities are left to implement their own orders. Dane and Brown Counties and the City of Milwaukee acted to do so Wednesday night.

The ruling also leaves in place the closure of schools.

Governor Evers expressed concern that the lengthy rulemaking process – which may take more than ten days – will diminish the state’s efforts to fight the virus.

“[Republicans] have provided no plan,” Evers told reporters. “There is no question among anybody that people are going to get sick. The Republicans own that chaos.”


Posted: 5:00 p.m. on May 13, 2020

MADISON, Wis. (AP/CBS 58) — The Wisconsin Supreme Court has ruled that Gov. Tony Evers' administration overstepped its authority when it extended the governor's stay-at-home order until May 26.

Republican legislators asked the conservative-controlled Supreme Court to block the extension and let them offer their own recovery plan.

They argued that the extension amounted to state Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Andrea Palm writing rules without legislative input.

The ruling marks another defeat for Evers as Republicans continue to chip away at the Democratic governor’s authority.

Share this article: