“Isn’t it the very definition of tyranny for one person to order people to be imprisoned for going to work among other ordinarily lawful activities?” asked Justice Rebecca Bradley.
Republicans contend that Palm exceeded her authority by enacting the extension and that Evers’s government can’t continue to make these decisions as they relate to the pandemic without input from the legislature.
Colin Roth, an attorney representing Evers’s administration, pointed to a state law that gives the state health department the authority “to do whatever is necessary to combat a novel, deadly, communicable disease like the one we’re facing today.”
As of Tuesday, 353 people have died of covid-19 in Wisconsin, according to the health department’s website
Questions and comments from justices on the majority conservative court indicated agreement with the Republicans’ complaint.
“I’ll direct your attention to another time in history, in the Korematsu decision, where the court said the need for action is great and time is short, and that justified ‘assembling together and placing under guard all those of Japanese ancestry’ in assembly centers during World War II,” said Bradley, referring to the U.S. Supreme Court case in 1944 that upheld internment camps.
Wisconsin’s state government is bitterly divided, with Republicans controlling the state legislature and the Supreme Court while a Democrat holds the governorship. The Republicans have challenged Evers’s authority since he was elected, including passing legislation in the weeks before he was sworn in to strip him of certain powers enjoyed by his Republican predecessor.
More recently, Evers issued an executive order to delay the April 7 Wisconsin primary election to ensure voters didn’t have to choose between their civic duty and personal health. GOP state lawmakers challenged the legality of the move, the Wisconsin Supreme Court promptly blocked the order and the primary went ahead on the originally scheduled date.
At one point, Roth, the administration’s attorney, pointed to the recent spread of the virus from the state’s most populous cities to more rural areas, particularly Brown County, to illustrate the ongoing risk.
Chief Justice Patience Roggensack said the increase in cases in Brown County was the result of an outbreak in a meatpacking facility and that it wasn’t from “the regular folks.”
An earlier version incorrectly attributed a quote about the Korematsu decision; it was said by Justice Rebecca Bradley.