Federal Lawsuit Challenges Local “Safer at Home” Orders
Two plaintiffs are Republican candidates for office, another is a Milwaukee pastor.
A new federal lawsuit challenges local public health orders across the state, arguing that they violate the 17 plaintiff’s constitutional rights to freely assemble and exercise their religion.
Two of the plaintiffs in the new suit are Republicans running for office, including Cindy Werner who intends to run against incumbent Congresswoman Gwen Moore (D-Milwaukee) for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Jay Schroeder is vying to represent the 55th Wisconsin Assembly district in the Fox Valley.
Milwaukee pastor Dan Quakkelaar is also a plaintiff. He leads Friend of Sinners Mission church.
The state ruling did not explicitly reference local orders, instead dealing with DHS Secretary-designee Andrea Palm‘s use of a different state statute.
Milwaukee, the City of Racine and Dane County are some of the only municipalities and counties in the state that have local health orders still in effect. A number of other orders were rescinded after being issued or are expiring, including a joint order covering the Milwaukee County suburbs.
Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul issued an opinion last week that the local orders are legal. Evers and his chief legal counsel Ryan Nilsestuen defended the orders on Thursday during a media briefing.
“We will be defending against that lawsuit, we believe it should be dismissed,” said Neilsetuen. “I am optimistic this lawsuit will go nowhere.”
Mayor Tom Barrett said if courts were to strike down local health orders, he would question what powers local officials have. “Then I think you have to question if health departments have a right to exist, if fire codes have a right to exist,” he said on Thursday afternoon. He said he did not believe the city had been too broad in issuing its order and subsequent revisions.
Barrett, in multiple press briefings, and Kaul, in his legal opinion, noted that the state supreme court ruling dealt with a separate state statute and did not address local orders.
The local orders are issued under state statute 252.03.
A copy of the lawsuit is available on Urban Milwaukee.
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