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Racine’s attempt in implementing COVID-19 measures struck down by judge again

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RACINE, Wis. (CBS 58) – On Wednesday, July 1, a Racine County judge struck down the Safer Racine order calling it ‘unenforceable.’ The city’s order was put in place last week by the Common Council after measures by its health department were overturned on June 19.

Judge Jon Fredrickson called the city’s Safer Racine ordinance vague and overbroad. The ordinance reinstated the Forward Racine plan originally put in place by its health department.

“The city of Racine has had more cases per capita of coronavirus than any other community in the state of Wisconsin,” said Cory Mason, the mayor of Racine.

Mayor Mason says he’s outraged after reading judge Fredrickson’s decision.

“For whatever reason only here in Racine County with this one activist judge – we’re being told that the city council doesn’t have any authority to protect public health,” added Mayor Mason.

The Safer Racine order gave the city’s public health administrator Dottie-Kay Bowersox emergency power to modify COVID-19 response until August 5. The judge didn’t agree in fear it could silence the voices of people in the city.  

In a two-hour hearing Tuesday, Judge Fredrickson pointed out a number of things he thought was questionable in the ordinance including its wording on mass gatherings, saying it may infringe on people’s constitutional rights.

“I don’t know of any statute rule or law that would let the City of Racine override the right of the people to peacefully assemble. Yet here I am looking at something that I didn’t think I’d see,” said Judge Fredrickson.

Racine City Attorney Scott Letteney tried to explain, but the judge wasn’t convinced.

“That’s not the way the City of Racine interprets that, it asks for the granting of permits for things like block parties, parades, picnics, that sort of event,” said Letteney.

“The same way we would say people shouldn’t gather in a burning building—we would also say people shouldn’t gather closely together or get a city permit to do that,” said Mayor Mason.

In the written decision Judge Fredrickson commends the work of the mayor, Common Council and health department and says the city upholds its full power to issue a new law addressing the coronavirus pandemic, but says in a statement in part:

“This Court's job is different.  It is not here to make policy.  It is here to ensure that the pandemic fight stays constitutional, and it has done so herein.”

Mayor Mason says with the upcoming Fourth of July weekend, the judge’s decision was flat out irresponsible.

“Nobody knows what protections are really in place anymore and what protections aren’t, so look -- if more people die after this decision comes out and we’re not able to put public health protections in place, it’ll be partly on this judge’s hands,” added Mayor Mason.

Mayor Mason says he plans on working to appeal the judge’s decision immediately.

You can read the decision and order in full below:

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