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Gov. Evers' "Safer at Home" order is no more. (PHOTO: Gov. Tony Evers Facebook)

Wisconsin Supreme Court strikes down Evers' "Safer at Home" order

In a 4-3 decision, the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down Gov. Tony Evers' "Safer at Home" order, which has been in effect since March 25 in order to limit the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.

Republican legislators brought the "Safer at Home" order to court after it was extended from its original end date, April 24, to May 26.

Chief Justice Patience Roggensack as well as Justices Rebecca Bradley, Annette Ziegler and Daniel Kelly – whose term on the Supreme Court ends as of July 31 after losing the seat to Jill Karofsky in April's primary election – sided with striking down Gov. Evers' order due to their judgment that the order should've been issued as a rule instead.

"This case is about the assertion of power by one unelected official, Andrea Palm, and her order to all people within Wisconsin to remain in their homes, not to travel and to close all businesses that she declares are not 'essential' in Emergency Order 28," the majority opinion states. "Palm says that failure to obey Order 28 subjects the transgressor to imprisonment for 30 days, a $250 fine or both. This case is not about Governor Tony Evers' Emergency Order or the powers of the Governor.

"We do not conclude that Palm was without any power to act in the face of this pandemic," continues the ruling. "However, Palm must follow the law that is applicable to state-wide emergencies. We further conclude that Palm's order confining all people to their homes, forbidding travel and closing businesses exceeded the statutory authority of Wis. Stat. § 252.02 upon which Palm claims to rely."

Justices Ann Walsh Bradley and Rebecca Dallet wrote dissents along with Justice Brian Hagedorn, the lone conservative judge to rule in favor of the order's legality.

To read the full Wisconsin Supreme Court decision, click here.

Restrictions were already being lifted on Gov. Evers' order as recently as Monday, with most retail stores being open to five-people maximums and drive-in movie theaters given the go to reopen, and Evers had already told reporters that extending the "Safer at Home" beyond the May 26 end date would not be necessary considering the state's progress. According to a recent Marquette University Law School poll, 69 percent of Wisconsinites supported closing businesses, schools and public gatherings.

The Supreme Court's decision, however, strikes down the remainder of the order and now puts the state's pandemic response in the hands of the state's Republican-controlled legislature, who thus far have offered no replacement plan to "Safer at Home" during the ongoing outbreak. Attorneys for the Republican legislature asked the court for a stay of the ruling in order to create their new plan for containing coronavirus in Wisconsin, but the court's ruling takes effect immediately, with the Tavern League of Wisconsin telling its members on its website that they may open immediately.

The City of Milwaukee's "Stay at Home" order, which was also put into effect in March and states that it "will continue to be in effect until it is extended, rescinded, superseded, or amended in writing by the Health Commissioner," still stands.

Stay tuned to OnMilwaukee for more updates.

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