Wisconsin Supreme Court will take up “Safer at Home” lawsuit

The Wisconsin Supreme Court announced Friday that it will hear oral arguments early next week in a lawsuit seeking to block Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ stay-at-home order.

Evers issued the order in March. It was supposed to expire on April 24, but state Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm extended it until May 26 at Evers’ direction.

The order closed schools, shuttered nonessential businesses, limited the size of social gatherings and prohibited nonessential travel.

The governor and the state’s public health leaders have said the order is designed to slow the virus’ spread. But Republicans have grown impatient with the prohibitions, saying they are crushing the economy.

Republican legislators filed a lawsuit directly with the conservative-controlled Supreme Court last month challenging the extension. They have argued that the order is really an administrative rule, and Palm should have submitted it to the Legislature for approval before issuing it. Evers has countered that the executive branch has broad authority to combat communicable diseases.

The ruling said the court will consider whether the order was really an administrative rule and whether Palm was within her rights to issue it unilaterally. Even if the order doesn’t qualify as a rule, the court said it will still weigh whether Palm exceeded her authority by “closing all ‘nonessential’ businesses, ordering all Wisconsin persons to stay home, and forbidding all ‘nonessential’ travel.”