The Wisconsin Supreme Court’s decision to invalidate Emergency Order 28, the statewide “Safer at Home” order issued by Department of Health Secretary Andrea Palm, has left Wisconsinites with a patchwork safety net that may not protect the most vulnerable from exposure to the coronavirus that causes COVID19. While some counties and municipalities, including Milwaukee, have issued orders similar in scope to the statewide order, many have not. And though Wisconsin Attorney General Joshua Kaul issued an opinion declaring local stay-at-home orders legal, these orders, too, already face court challenges.
It is important to note that at least some statewide protections remain in place, because the court’s decision only directly affected the validity of Order 28. Important orders unaffected by the decision include:
- the closing of schools (Order 1);
- a temporary moratorium on new admissions to the prison system (Order 9) and;
- a temporary ban on evictions and foreclosures (Order 15), which expires on May 26.
Even these more modest public health measures are vulnerable to challenge and are set to expire soon in any event.
In this time of public health emergency, the ACLU of Wisconsin is urging legislators and executive branch actors to set aside partisanship and adopt appropriately narrow, time-limited measures aimed at protecting people of color, low-wage workers, incarcerated people and others most heavily affected by the spread of the virus. Here’s how to contact your Wisconsin state legislators and make your voice heard.
It is also crucial that enforcement of any orders, state or local, not result in arrest or criminal charges. Such criminal enforcement is not only dubious legally after the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s decision, but is also likely to be counterproductive, in that it will require close contact between officers and arrestees and potentially put people in prisons or jails, which poses greater transmission risks than most activities that might violate the orders.
Please also refer to our COVID-19 Resource Guide, a comprehensive list of resources, organizations, services, and programs that are available to people across the state to help get Wisconsin through this pandemic.