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Civil liberties on appeal

By M.D. Kittle

Wisconsin Spotlight | July 9, 2020

MADISON  — In overturning a temporary injunction that paused the Safer Racine ordinance, Wisconsin District II Judge Paul Reilly ruled that Racine’s health officer has the authority to strip the civil liberties of residents and business owners to “protect” the public. 

As Empower Wisconsin Reported, Reilly undid the work of Racine County Circuit Judge John Fredrickson, who twice sided with plaintiffs in a civil liberties lawsuit against the city. 

Fredrickson originally issued a restraining order while the lawsuit progressed. City officials, led by Racine Mayor Cory Mason, crafted a new ordinance much like the original Safer Racine measure and the City Council swiftly passed it. Fredrickson quickly slapped the city’s overreaching hand, seeing through the ruse. He said he would hold Racine government officials in contempt of court if they tried it again. 

Forty-eight hours later, Reilly accepted the city’s appeal, without the plaintiffs having adequate time to weigh in. He lifted the injunction while the appeals court deliberates. 

Meanwhile, Mason and Racine Health Commissioner Dottie-Kay Bowersox rapidly moved to reactivate the ordinance. The liberal mayor said the ordinance “will be enforced.” 

Reilly could have kept the injunction in place while the appeals court took up the case. He didn’t. An appeals court with two judges appointed by liberal governors and another who served as a city attorney, it appears unlikely will agree with Fredrickson’s opinion that Safer Racine “is unconstitutionally vague and overboard, and is unenforceable as drafted.” 

No doubt the ordinance has and will continue to severely restrict business in Racine, and it gives an unelected bureaucrat the power to regulate private property — restricting the number of people a homeowner can welcome into his residence. 

David Yandel, the Racine fitness club owner who filed the lawsuit against the city, told Empower Wisconsin that he plans to take the case directly to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. He doesn’t have much confidence in the District II Appeals Court’s position on civil liberties. 

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