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Conservative Wisc. judges gut stay-at-home order, invite 'chaos'

First, conservative lawmakers in Wisconsin forced a dangerous election. Now, conservative judges have gutted the state's stay-at-home order.
Image: Protesters against the state's extended stay-at-home order demonstrate in Madison
Protesters against the state's extended stay-at-home order demonstrate at the Capitol building in Madison, Wis., on April 24, 2020.Daniel Acker / Reuters

Wisconsin Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm put together a stay-at-home directive for the Badger State, which was scheduled to remain in place until May 26.

The conservative majority on the Wisconsin's state Supreme Court had a different idea.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down the state's stay-at-home order during the coronavirus pandemic as "unlawful, invalid, and unenforceable" after finding that the state's health secretary exceeded her authority.... The ruling says the judges weren't challenging Democratic Gov. Tony Evers' emergency powers, but the decision effectively undercuts his administration and forces him to work out a compromise with the Republican-controlled Legislature.

Given the recent track record of the state legislature's gerrymandered GOP majority, a compromise appears unlikely.

Evers appeared on the show last night and said, in reference to his state's new policy landscape, "We're the Wild West.... At this point in time, there are no orders. There's nothing that's compelling people to do anything other than having chaos here."

The Wisconsin Supreme Court's ruling was 4 to 3 -- one member of the conservative majority actually broke ranks and sided with the more progressive jurists -- and included Daniel Kelly helping cast the deciding vote against stay-at-home restrictions. If Kelly's name sounds familiar, it's because Wisconsin voters recently voted to remove him from office, as part of the state's recent risk-your-lives-to-cast-a-ballot election.

Kelly's term of office, however, doesn't end until July. The state's electorate may not want him on the state Supreme Court anymore, but he's still there anyway, casting votes like these.

One of his state Supreme Court colleagues on the right, Justice Rebecca Bradley, wrote a concurring opinion yesterday in which she compared Wisconsin's stay-at-home order to World War II-era Japanese-American internment camps. She did not appear to be kidding.

Another member of the court's conservative majority, Chief Justice Patience Roggensack, suggested during oral arguments that one of the coronavirus outbreaks in the state happened at a meatpacking facility, which he said meant it didn't affect "the regular folks" in the area.

Those oral arguments, incidentally, were held remotely to ensure the justices' safety. The irony was lost on them.