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WILL files lawsuit over Dane Co. gathering order in circuit court

Published: Jan. 20, 2021 at 12:00 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 20, 2021 at 12:20 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - A conservative law group filed a lawsuit Wednesday in Dane County to challenge their gathering order.

The Wisconsin Institute for Liberty and Law (WILL) accuses Public Health Madison & Dane County of not having the legal authority to issue “sweeping restrictions” on residents in Dane County in relation to Emergency Order #12.

“This lawsuit asks the court to rein in the ability of local, unelected health officers to unilaterally issue sweeping restrictions,” said WILL Deputy Counsel Luke Berg.

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi pushed back on the lawsuit Wednesday, saying that “now is not the time to go backwards.”

“Had this conservative group’s outdated ideology prevailed over the course of this pandemic, more of our Dane County neighbors would have needlessly suffered the ravages of Covid-19,” Pairisi said. “This conservative group’s last attempt to usurp common sense public health policy failed and this one will as well.”

Emergency Order #12 was issued on Jan. 11 and allows indoor gatherings of up to 10 people, so long as masks are worn and physical distancing guidelines are followed.

Additionally, the order allows outdoor gatherings of up to 50 people—a 25 person increase from the previous order—with physical distancing.

According to a news release, this lawsuit is similar to one that WILL filed with the Wisconsin Supreme Court in November of 2020 to challenge Emergency Order #10. All indoor gatherings in Dane Co. were banned from that order and all outdoor gatherings were capped at 10 people.

In a 4-3 vote, the high court rejected WILL’s request that it bypass lower courts and take up its case.

In his majority opinion, Justice Brian Hagedorn emphasized the Supreme Court isn’t designed to take up cases in the first instance, a job meant for circuit courts.

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