The Wisconsin Supreme Court, in a 4-3 ruling, has invalidated the state’s mask mandate and other emergency orders signed by Governor Tony Evers. The governor must now go to the Republican state legislature for any new mandates or orders.
The ruling represents a victory for Wisconsin conservatives who had been agitating against pandemic restrictions, claiming that the governor did not have the authority to issue them.
“The question, in this case, is not whether the Governor acted wisely; it is whether he acted lawfully. We conclude he did not,” Justice Brian Hagedorn, writing for the conservative majority, said.
In a 4-3 decision, conservative justices in the majority declared the statewide mask mandate invalid and ruled Evers exceeded his authority in issuing multiple emergency declarations over the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Evers used the emergency orders to require face coverings be worn indoors statewide after lawmakers opted not to.
The law says the governor can issue emergency orders for 60 days before having to go to the legislature if he wants to extend them. But lawyers for Evers argued the situation was analogous to issuing emergency orders in several different jurisdictions to deal with the same flood.
The justices weren’t buying it.
Hagedorn said state law governing public health emergencies “must be read to forbid the governor from proclaiming repeated states of emergency for the same enabling condition absent legislative approval.”
Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, writing for the minority, said: “This is no run-of-the-mill case. We are in the midst of a worldwide pandemic … with the stakes so high, the majority not only arrives at erroneous conclusions, but it also obscures the consequence of its decision.”
Why is it the default position of liberal judges and legislators that lifting a mask mandate means everyone will stop wearing a mask? It’s a strawman argument. All that lifting the mandate does is remove the requirement under law to wear a mask and give people a choice. No one is advocating not to mask up. It’s an argument designed to frighten people, not persuade them.
Does that frighten liberals so much that they feel they have to exaggerate the effects of lifting mandates and other health orders?
Senate Majority Devin LeMahieu, R-Oostburg, said Evers’ “repeated abuse of emergency powers and pervasive violation of state statute created a state of chaos and had to be stopped.”
“Today’s ruling vindicates the Legislature as a co-equal branch of government and will expand freedom and opportunity for the people of Wisconsin,” he said in a statement.
The statewide mask mandate was set to expire Monday but now ends immediately following Wednesday’s ruling.
“This case was never about the nature of the emergency. Good intentions, ‘science,’ and fear are not reasons to disobey the law,” Republican Sen. Van Wanggaard tweeted. “The statute does not grant exceptions, no matter the cause.”
Yes, but the governor’s heart was in the right place so he should be given a pass on obeying the law, many on the left seem to be saying.
This will not be the end of the world for Wisconsinites. Life will go on. Those who want to protect themselves and their families will take the measures they deem fitting.
Choosing is always better than being dictated to.