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Supreme Court hears oral arguments, considers Safer at Home lawsuit

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MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) – The state’s highest court is considering whether or not to end the Safer at Home order extension.

The Evers administration and the Republican-controlled Legislature faced off Tuesday before the state Supreme Court for oral arguments.

Conservative justices expressed skepticism of the Evers administration’s standing that Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm acted within her powers to extend the Safer at Home order.

“Isn’t it the very definition of tyranny for one person to order the imprisonment of people for going to work?” Justice Rebecca Bradley asked the attorney representing the Evers administration.

At one point during Justice Bradley’s line of questioning, she discussed how Palm’s justification for the use of powers to extend the order may be a comparison to the internment of Japanese-Americans in concentration camps during World War II.

“I’ll direct you to another point in history and the Korematsu decision,” Bradley said. “Where the court said the need for action was great and time was short and that justified.”

“What are the statutory limits on the secretary’s power?” Bradley asked.

“You take the statutory text as it is,” Colin Roth, the Department of Justice attorney representing the Evers administration replied. “The statutory text empowers DHS to take all necessary action to combat communicable diseases.”

The Evers administration argued the powers that Palm has utilized were given to her by the Legislature. The Legislature, led by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R – Rochester) and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R – Juneau), believe the extension of the order should have gone through a legislative process and not be left in the hands of one cabinet secretary.

“The department needs to do what is should’ve done in the first place,” Ryan Walsh, the attorney representing the Legislature said. “Sit down at a table with the very body whose powers it exercises and which created the department in the first place: the Legislature.”

The Evers administration noted the danger of blocking the order with no backup plan.

“People will die if this order is enjoined with nothing to replace it,” Roth said. “That is exactly what will happen.”

The court has a 5-2 conservative majority. If It sides with the Legislature, Republicans asked the court to issue a six-day stay which would keep the current Safer at Home order in place until a new plan with approval from both the Legislature and the Governor’s office could go in place. The court, however, could immediately strike down the order in its ruling.

Republicans in the Legislature have not presented a plan that the entire party if fully behind in order to replace the governor’s Badger Bounce Back plan. The GOP has promoted a ‘Back to Business’ plan that was assembled by the state’s largest business lobby, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce.

Governor Evers held a meeting with legislative leaders on Monday to discuss a potential bipartisan plan.

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