Wisconsin’s response to the global COVID-19 pandemic is back before the state Supreme Court.
The case was brought by Jeré Fabick, a policy adviser at the conservative Heartland Institute and a Republican donor who’s also president of a Caterpillar equipment dealer.
Fabick’s attorney, Matthew Fernholz, said Monday that Governor Tony Evers’ repeated executive orders are invalid, because his emergency powers have expired
“We are not taking issue with the governor’s decision to label COVID a public health emergency under the statute. We agree it meets the definition. The problem for the governor is it met the definition in March, it met it in July and it met it in September. And for him to issue those second and third emergency declarations, he needed approval from the legislature, and he didn’t receive it.”
Hannah Jurss, an assistant attorney general defending the Evers administration, argued that the governor’s authority over a health emergency allows him to issues multiple orders as conditions change. “The definition of public health emergency is not what defines when a governor issues a state of emergency order, but that’s what Fabick is arguing,” she said. “I think it’s important that the court consider the absurd results the would flow from Fabick’s ‘one and done’ interpretation.
If the conservative majority rules in Fabicks’ favor, Evers and Republican legislative leaders would have to cooperate on a coronavirus strategy, which hasn’t happened so far. The court’s liberal justices noted the legislature has failed to take any action on the pandemic for the past seven months.
The justices heard arguments virtually and are are expected to issue a decision soon. In May, the Court struck down Evers’ “safer at home” order, ruling that the administration had overstepped its authority when it extended the order without consulting lawmakers.