Gov Tony Evers

Gov. Tony Evers wears a mask during his press briefing from Madison on July 7, 2020. 

(The Center Square) – Wisconsin residents will be required to continue to wear face masks for the time being. 

A St. Croix County judge on Monday refused to overturn Gov. Tony Evers’ order from September that extended his mask mandate. 

“Nothing in the statute prohibits the governor from declaring successive states of emergency,” Judge R. Michael Waterman wrote. “Instead, the statute allows a declaration ‘if the governor determines that a public health emergency exists.’ That language gives the governor broad discretion to act whenever conditions in the state constitute a public health emergency.”

Judge Waterman's ruling does not uphold the governor's order. Instead, the judge simply refused to issue an temporary injunction. 

"Temporary injunctions are not issued lightly," the judge said. "The Supreme Court has stated on several occasions that where the issuance of a temporar

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty sued over the governor’s September order. WILL argued Evers does not have the power to continually issue emergency orders. WILL cited a Wisconsin Supreme Court decision from May that stated Evers must work with lawmakers to extend an emergency order past 60 days. 

WILL President Rick Esenberg said the ruling from Judge Waterman is disappointing. 

"It is with regret that the Judge held that the Governor of the State of Wisconsin can rule the state by decree for an unlimited amount of time with the acquiescence of the legislature,” Esenberg said. “We look forward to making an appeal on this critical constitutional matter."

The challenge could very easily end up before the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Waterman’s ruling does appear to be in disagreement with the May ruling from the Wisconsin Supreme Court. 

Waterman said WILL misread the state law at the heart of the May court ruling when filing the challenge. 

“The plaintiffs disagree with this reading of the plain text,” the judge wrote. “When an executive order ends after 60 days, it forces the governor, before issuing another order, to reexamine the situation and publicly identify existing, present-day facts and circumstances that constitute a public health emergency. The 60-day limit provides an important check against runaway executive power, but it does not prevent the governor from issuing a new executive order when the emergency conditions continue to exist.”

Waterman then took it a step further, and said state lawmakers, not the court, should determine what to do about Evers’ mask mandate. 

“The legislature can end the state of emergency at any time, but so far, it has declined to do so,” Waterman said “As the statewide representative body of the citizens of Wisconsin, the legislature’s inaction is relevant and it weighs against judicial intervention, especially when the requested intervention will have statewide impact.”

 

The Center Square Correspondent

An industry veteran with two decades of experience in media, Benjamin Yount reports on Illinois and Wisconsin statewide issues for The Center Square.