UPDATE: Wisconsin Supreme Court hearing case over COVID-19 order

Published: May. 5, 2020 at 9:20 AM CDT
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It's been two weeks since the Wisconsin legislature filed an emergency petition with the state's highest court, asking for the current 'Safer at Home' order to be struck down.

The basis for the petition by the legislature is the elected officials in the State Senate and State Assembly should have a say in the emergency order.

Tuesday, the Wisconsin Supreme Court heard the case.

Attorneys for the legislature argued Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm does not have the power to create Emergency Order #28, also known as the 'Safer at Home' order extension.

"We are irreparably harmed as the entity that created DHS and gave it its powers in the first place. The public is also harmed because they get no input through an elected official other than the governor, but consider that the governor has only 60 days to respond. The people have no means to oversee this exercise of power that derives from them in the first place," said Attorney for the Wisconsin Legislature Ryan Walsh.

While Colin Roth, attorney for Andrea Palm, says the DHS Secretary can do whatever is necessary to protect public health.

"The COVID-19 virus is a wildfire that's spreading across the state and DHS is the fire department that the legislature has empowered to fight that fire. And that fire is still burning, it's still smoldering across the state and if we start lifting these restrictions it's going to pop back up," said Roth.

Oral arguments lasted for around an hour and a half between the two attorneys.

The justices also went back and forth on interpretations of the law.

"Where in the constitution did the people of Wisconsin confer authority on a single unelected cabinet secretary to compel almost 6 million people to stay at home and close their businesses and face imprisonment if they don't comply with no input from the legislature, without the consent of the people," said Justice Rebecca Bradley.

"Is the legislature as a legislative body, the entity that brings those type of issues before us. That puts a framework upon the boundaries are for violation of rights. How can the legislature step in on behalf of someone, an individual, and make those claims," said Justice Rebecca Dallet.

The seven justices went into closed session to discuss the case Tuesday afternoon.

If the injunction is granted and the 'Safer at Home' extension is overruled, there would be a six day stay of the current order so the DHS and legislative leaders can work to make a new order in its place.

To see the oral arguments on the lawsuit in its entirety

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Conservative justices on the Wisconsin Supreme Court are casting doubt about the power of Gov. Tony Evers' health secretary to issue a "safer-at-home" order closing most nonessential businesses in the state.

The court held oral arguments in the case Tuesday. Republican legislative leaders want the court to block the order issued by Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm. They argue that Palm exceeded her authority in issuing the stay-at-home order that's set to run until May 26.

Justices on the conservative-controlled court questioned what would happen if they invalidated the order immediately. Assistant Attorney General Colin Roth said "people will die" if the order is repealed with nothing to replace it.

Justice Rebecca Bradley had some of the sharpest questions for Roth, saying she did not think the state health secretary had the power to compel people to remain at home and force businesses to close.

MADISON, Wis. (WEAU)--The future of Wisconsin's "safer at home" order that sets to run until May 26 is at stake in a case brought by Republican lawmakers being heard by the conservative-controlled state Supreme Court.

The case being argued Tuesday seeks to block the stay-at-home order issued last month by Evers' health department secretary as a way to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The order closing most nonessential businesses was issued under powers of the state health secretary to deal with outbreaks of communicable diseases.

Republicans argued that Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm exceeded her authority with the order.

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