State Supreme Court rules against Safer At Home, spurring local governments to enact their own guidelines.

On a 4-3 decision, the court ruled that the Wisconsin DHS overstepped its authority in issuing the Safer At Home extension. Graphic: Sam Buisman

Author: Sam Buisman

The Wisconsin Supreme Court strikes down the Safer At Home order, prompting Dane County and other local governments to enact their own.

In a 4-3 decision in a case brought by the GOP-controlled legislature, the court declared the order illegal on the basis that the Wisconsin Department of Helth Services overstepped their authority by issuing it without approval from the state legislature.

Namecheking DHS Secretary Andrea Palm, the court wrote in their opinion, “Rulemaking exists precisely to ensure that kind of controlling, subjective judgment asserted by one unelected official, Palm, is not imposed in Wisconsin.”

However, the court did not issue the six-day stay on their order that Republicans requested in their initial filing to give them time to negotiate a new order with the DHS. As a result, the court effectively lifted all restrictions on business operations and social distancing, allowing any Wisconsin business to open up at any capacity they choose and for gatherings of any size.

This sent local government across the state into a scramble to enact their own Safer At Home measures. Public Health Madison & Dane County issued its own order preserving the Safer At Home guidelines for Dane County. The City of Milwaukee Health Department also issued its own Safer At Home order in March which will remain in effect despite the court’s ruling.

Governor Tony Evers condemned the court’s decision and encouraged Wisconsinites to continue practicing social distancing regardless of if any order is in place.

“We need everyone to continue doing their part to keep our families, our neighbors, and our communities safe by continuing to stay safer at home, practice social distancing, and limit travel,” said the Governor in a statement, “because folks, deadly viruses don’t wait around for politicians and bureaucrats to settle their differences or promulgate rules.”

In a joint statement from top Republican lawmakers Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, the pair expressed a willingness to work with Governor Tony Evers to craft new safety guidelines for the remainder of the coronavirus pandemic.

“When we met with Governor Evers a week ago, we asked him to begin negotiating with us on a plan for reopening,” the lawmakers wrote. “He politely declined and said we should wait for the court decision. Now that the decision has been rendered, we are confident Wisconsin citizens are up to the task of fighting the virus as we enter a new phase.”

According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, there are currently 10,902 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Wisconsin, 490 of which are in Dane County.