State Watch

Wisconsin Supreme Court justice questions whether stay-at-home orders are ‘definition of tyranny’

A conservative justice on Wisconsin’s Supreme Court is questioning whether Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’s stay-at-home orders are the “definition of tyranny.”

Evers issued his first stay-at-home order on March 24 and then extended it on April 16. It is currently set to expire on May 26, but a case brought by Republican legislative leaders could scale it back immediately. 

“My question for you is, where in the constitution did the people of Wisconsin confer authority on a single, unelected Cabinet secretary to compel almost 6 million people to stay at home and close their businesses and face imprisonment if they don’t comply, with no input from the Legislature, without the consent of the people?” Justice Rebecca Bradley said during oral arguments heard via video conference, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.

“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?” she added. 

Bradley offered the remark after Assistant Attorney General Colin Roth of Wisconsin said “people will die” if the order is repealed with nothing to replace it.

As of Thursday, the state has reported 8,566 confirmed cases and 353 deaths, some of which are believed to be linked to the election last month, which the state Supreme Court ruled not to postpone despite efforts by Evers. 

In response to Bradley’s remarks, Roth insisted there are statutes in the state law that give the governor power to punish those who violate the order.

“If you look at the statute, it’s in there,” Roth told Bradley, according to the Journal.

The litigation comes as states have begun to relax their stay-at-home orders even as cases across the country continue to rise. Federal and state Republican lawmakers typically have been quicker to call for reopening than their Democratic counterparts.

As tensions began growing in states under such orders, protesters began flooding statehouses, often referring to the actions of their governors as tyranny

Republicans hold a 5-2 majority in the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

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