Wisconsin Supreme Court Strikes Down Extension of “Safer at Home” Order

By and
May 13, 2020

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has ruled that Governor Tony Evers’ administration overstepped its authority when it extended the governor’s “Safer at Home” order until May 26.

The original “Safer at Home” order went into effect on March 25 and was initially expected to expire on April 24, but the governor’s administration extended the order until May 26. The Wisconsin Legislature submitted an emergency petition to the Supreme Court on April 21, arguing that Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm exceeded her authority when she extended the order.

On a 4-3 vote, Chief Justice Patience Roggensack and Justices Rebecca Bradley, Daniel Kelly and Annette Ziegler sided with the lawmakers that brought the suit.

Justice Brian Hagedorn wrote a dissent joined by justices Ann Walsh Bradley and Rebecca F. Dallet.

According to the Supreme Court decision, Palm’s Emergency Order was declared “unlawful, invalid, and unenforceable.” The decision requires Governor Evers and his administration to work with the Legislature to decide how to respond to the pandemic going forward.

The lawmakers that brought the suit had originally asked for a stay in implementing any ruling from the court, but the court declined to grant one.

The majority opinion stated, “We trust that the Legislature and [Andrea] Palm have placed the interests of the people of Wisconsin first and have been working together in good faith to establish a lawful rule that addresses COVID-19 and its devastating effects on Wisconsin.”

In an additional concurring opinion, Chief Justice Roggensack wrote that she would like to have seen the order stayed until May 20th, but said she trusted that the Legislature and governor would quickly work to implement a new rule.

Until the parties come to an agreement, the Safer at Home order is not enforceable.  Counties and local municipalities do have the power to issue their own restrictions, so business should be aware of local orders affecting them. The team at Ruder Ware is ready to assist you and your business in navigating these local rules.

Read the full Wisconsin Supreme Court decision here.

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