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Public Health Emergency: Legal Preparedness and Response

Wisconsin Legislature v. Secretary-Designee Andrea Palm


Wisconsin Legislature v. Secretary-Designee Andrea Palm (Wisconsin Supreme Court, May 13, 2020): The Wisconsin Supreme Court held the “Safer At Home” Emergency Order extending requirements that all nonessential businesses remain closed and forbidding all nonessential travel is unlawful. The court concluded the state Secretary of Health’s (Secretary) promulgation of the order did not comply with Wisconsin administrative procedure. The initial order was to expire April 24 and was based on authority granted to the Secretary by Governor Evers’ Executive Order (EO) 72. The Secretary based her authority for the extension order on the EO and Wisconsin statute § 252.02(3), which states that the Secretary “may close schools and forbid public gatherings in schools, churches, and other places to control outbreaks and epidemics.” The Wisconsin Legislature filed an Emergency Petition for Original Action. The court concluded that the extension order was a rule subject to rule-making requirements. Because the Secretary did not follow statutory rule-making procedures, the order is unconstitutional. The court further found that the broad substance of the extension order exceeded the Secretary’s statutory authority. The ruling essentially lifts multiple public health restrictions, including the three-phased opening plans proposed by Governor Evers, although local authorities like the City of Milwaukee can set  their own restrictions. Read the decision here.

View all cases in the Judicial Trends in Public Health – June 15, 2020.

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