FILE - Wisconsin Supreme Court

The Wisconsin Supreme Court room at the Capitol building in Madison, Wisconsin.

(The Center Square) – The schools in Racine are not open, and the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty wants the city’s public health administrator held in contempt of court. 

WILL asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court on Monday to hold Dottie-Kay Bowersox, Racine’s public health executive, and the city in contempt for ignoring the court’s order to allow schools in the city of Racine to remain open. 

WILL says Bowersox is “at best circumventing this Court’s binding order ... and at worst flagrantly violating it.”

On Nov. 12, Bowersox issued an order that closed all school buildings in the city of Racine, which affected public and private schools in the city as well as the schools in the villages of Wind Point and Elmwood Park. Bowersox’s order cited a fear of a post-Thanksgiving spike in coronavirus cases, and would keep schools closed through mid-January. 

About two weeks later, the Wisconsin Supreme Court froze Bowersox’s order because the court is dealing with a similar school closure order in Dane County. 

WILL President Rick Esenberg said on Monday the order to freeze was supposed to be the end of the discussion. 

“Wisconsin Supreme Court orders are neither optional or advisory,” Esenberg said. “We expect the City of Racine to immediately allow schools to open or face sanctions from the Court.”

WILL included in its contempt filing an email from Bowersox in which she claimed the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s decision did not apply to to her order or Racine’s coronavirus restrictions. 

“The Supreme Court has enjoined the School Building Closure Order. This action will be held in abeyance pending this court’s decision in three consolidated original action petitions relating to Dane County Emergency Order #9 which are scheduled for oral argument on December 08, 2020,” the email read. “This determination does not alter the status of the City of Racine Safer Racine Ordinance which is applicable only for the City of Racine. Within this ordinance, school buildings will remain closed from November 27, 2020 through January 15, 2021.”

Bowersox’s lawyers say the school order can continue because the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s order to freeze only applies to an older version of Racine’s broader coronavirus restrictions. 

WILL said in its court filing that Racine and Bowersox are trying to “flout” the Supreme Court’s ruling. 

“In sum, [Racine’s]’ apparent position is this: they may evade this Court’s injunction by enacting a new closure mandate identical to the one this Court enjoined on the view that it is in some unexplained sense different,” WILL wrote to the high court. “In two different letters sent the night before and the day of the Thanksgiving Holiday, counsel for [Racine] failed to offer a coherent explanation of why the new order is different than the old one other than that it is not dated Nov. 12.”