Wisconsin Spotlight | Sept 30, 2020
MADISON — Gov. Tony Evers’ sweeping emerging orders — in response to COVID-19 — represent a “gross abuse of power,” according to a motion seeking an immediate injunction against the Democrat’s declaration.
The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) filed the motion this week, seeking immediate relief. WILL sued Evers last month in Polk County on behalf of residents that allege the governor’s health emergency edits are unconstitutional.
Evers announced his emergency declaration and mask mandate on July 30, extending both last week.
WILL argues the governor’s latest emergency order, his third during the run of the pandemic, is simply a continuation of the earlier edicts, something the executive branch cannot do unilaterally.
“To interpret the law otherwise would allow one-person rule by the Governor for what could be a virtually unlimited amount of time whenever the vague statutory definition of a ‘public health emergency’ or ‘disaster’ can be said to be present,” the lawsuit states. “The result would be the total breakdown of our constitutional order.”
Team Evers has used rising COVID-19 case numbers as justification for the order and mask mandate.
“While Republicans ignore the alarming case increases we are seeing across our state, Gov. Evers will continue doing everything he can to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Wisconsin,” Evers spokeswoman Britt Cudaback said in a statement to mainstream media outlets.
In seeking immediate relief, the Milwaukee-based civil rights law firm, pointed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s majority ruling in May that struck down an extension to Evers’ original statewide lockdown first issued in March. The court held that “there is no pandemic exception … to the fundamental liberties that the Constitution safeguards.”
If allowed to stand, the orders will force Wisconsin to spend more than 170 days and counting under a state of emergency, “allowing the Governor to rule by decree,” the motion states.
As the lawsuit notes, there is, in state statute, an expiration date on the executive branch’s unilateral authority. A “state of emergency shall not exceed 60 days, unless the state of emergency is extended by joint resolution of the legislature.”
The governor certainly did not ask the Republican-controlled Legislature to weigh in on his emergency orders.
“This motion for an immediate injunction is a recognition that the executive branch in Wisconsin is, thus far, completely undeterred by the constraints of state law and must be reined in,” said Rick Esenberg, WiLL’s president and general counsel.
Immediate relief, however, is a relative concept in the slow turn of the wheels of justice.
WILL’s motion goes before Polk County Judge Michael Waterman, who will hear arguments at 3 p.m. Monday. If the injunction is granted, Evers’ emergency order could be on hold while the case is under consideration.