MADISON — The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) is asking the Wisconsin Supreme Court to stop Dane County’s sweeping new indoor mask mandate for individuals 2 and up, arguing the court has already determined the orders are an abuse of unelected bureaucrats’ powers.
WILL filed its original action a day after Public Health Madison and Dane County issued the mandate. The court in June ruled that the powers of a local public health officer are limited and must be specifically conferred by a legislative body.
The Milwaukee public-interest law firm wants the court to issue an injunction and review the authority of the Dane County public health officer to issue a county-wide mask mandate and whether the mask mandate constitutes an unlawful delegation of legislative power to an executive official.
“The courts have made clear that unelected public health officers do not have unlimited authority. Dane County’s health officer, simply put, doesn’t have the power to order universal masking, or anything else, without express legal authority,” said WILL Deputy Counsel Dan Lennington.
The new order is slated to go into effect today and remain in place until at least September 16.
WILL is challenging the new order on behalf of a Dane County resident.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court’s decision in James v. Heinrich (issued just 60 days ago) made clear that the powers of local public health officers are not unlimited and must be specifically conferred by a legislative body. Wisconsin law only confers a “series of discrete powers” upon health officials, and if the power is not “specifically conferred,” then “that power is not authorized.” In James, a majority on the Court made clear that Dane County public health officer, Janel Heinrich, violated the law when she ordered all Dane County schools closed in the fall of 2020.