After over a year of draconian mandates ushered in under “state of emergency” orders that seem to renew like clockwork every couple of months, we are finally seeing the courts stepping in and holding these power hungry governors to task.
A divided Wisconsin Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down Governor Tony Evers’ mask mandate, saying he exceeded his authority and violated the separation of powers by reissuing emergency orders during the pandemic.
In its 4-to-3 ruling, which voids a Feb. 4 face-covering order currently in effect, the court found that Evers effectively breached a statute that limits his emergency powers to 60 days without approval of the state legislature.
“The question in this case is not whether the governor acted wisely; it is whether he acted lawfully,” Justice Brian Hagedorn wrote for the majority. “We conclude he did not.”
Evers, a Democrat, declared a state of emergency last March, which the Republican-controlled legislature never extended beyond its statutory 60-day limit.
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Evers reissued his orders roughly every 60 days, changing some of the requirements each time to bypass the legislature.
His most recent renewal of an emergency health order on Feb. 4 came shortly after the legislature voted to repeal his earlier order requiring face coverings in public places.
The court’s majority likened the governor’s recurring orders to a game of whack-a-mole in which he sought to dodge the legislature, which opposed his extended emergency powers, by altering each new order even though it was substantially similar.
“The governor cannot make an end run around legislative revocation simply by itemizing a previously unidentified justification for the state of emergency,” it said.
In response to the high court ruling, Evers said he followed the guidance of health experts to keep residents safe.
“While we work to get folks vaccinated as quickly as we can, we know wearing a mask saves lives, and we still need Wisconsinites to mask up so we can beat this virus and bounce back from this pandemic,” he said in a statement.
Two of the justices, including Chief Justice Patience Roggensack, issued a separate concurring opinion.
In their dissent, three justices faulted the majority for granting standing to the plaintiff, Jere Fabick, a Midwest dealer in Caterpillar Inc products who sits on the board of a conservative think tank, arguing that he was unharmed by the orders as a taxpayer.
“Unfortunately, the ultimate consequence of the majority’s decision is that it places yet another roadblock to an effective governmental response to COVID-19, further jeopardizing the health and lives of the people of Wisconsin,” Justice Ann Walsh Bradley wrote in her dissent.
There is little doubt the divided court was along party lines. In the end, it is not up to the courts to decide on “effective governmental response” but to determine whether our elected officials are following the Constitution for their state and of the United States.
No matter your feelings about wearing a mask, the court did the right thing in reigning in Evers’ ceaseless orders. Let’s hope the courts continue to make choices according to the law of the land and not political agendas so we can get back to the land of the free.
Reuters contributed to this report.
ARTICLE SOURCE: thefederalistpapers.org