Bars and Restaurants Can Open – The Wisconsin Supreme Court

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has overturned the state’s stay-at-home order, ruling it “unlawful” and “unenforceable” in a high-profile win for the state’s Republican-led Legislature.

Bars and restaurants in Wisconsin can now reopen immediately, court says.

In a 4-3 decision, the court ruled that Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ administration overstepped its authority when the state Department of Health Services issued an extension of the order to May 26. The Legislature’s Republican leaders argued the order would cost Wisconsin residents their jobs and hurt many companies, arguing that if the order was left in place, “our State will be in shambles.”

The lawsuit was filed last month by the Wisconsin Legislature against state Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm and other health officials, who made the decision in mid-April to extend the state’s “Safer at Home” emergency order. At the same time as the extension, the state loosened some restrictions on certain businesses, including golf courses, public libraries, and arts and crafts stores.

“An agency cannot confer on itself the power to dictate the lives of law-abiding individuals as comprehensively as the order does without reaching beyond the executive branch’s authority,” the justices wrote in their decision Wednesday.

Evers, who had ordered Palm to issue the stay-at-home order in late March, has not yet released a statement on the ruling.

Last month, however, he slammed the lawsuit after it was filed as “focused entirely on how to get legislative Republicans more power” and “exploiting a global pandemic to further their attempts to undermine the will of the people.”

The governor also said Republicans want his administration to “ask for their permission to save lives.”

“Apparently, instead of having us act quickly and decisively to respond to a crisis, Republicans would rather have us jump through hoop after hoop and ask for their permission to save lives. Folks, we don’t have time. Covid-19 will not wait,” Evers said at the time.

After filing their lawsuit, Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald claimed that there’s “immense frustration regarding the extension” of the order and that Evers “has denied the people a voice through this unprecedented administrative overreach.”

“Unfortunately, that leaves the legislature no choice but to ask the Supreme Court to rein in this obvious abuse of power,” they said in a joint statement.

“Wisconsinites deserve certainty, transparency, and a plan to end the constant stream of executive orders that are eroding both the economy and their liberty even as the state is clearly seeing a decline in Covid infections.”
Wisconsin Democrats argued that the health crisis “will only get worse if we end Safer at Home before it’s safe to.”

As of Wednesday, Wisconsin had more than 10,902 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 421 deaths, according to the state’s Department of Health Services.