June 24, 2024

Wisconsin residents file lawsuit over mask mandate

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Three residents of northwestern Wisconsin have filed a lawsuit to throw out Governor Tony Evers’ (D) health order mandating masks statewide amid the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.  

On Tuesday, the conservative legal firm Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL), filed a lawsuit on behalf of the three individuals seeking to challenge Evers’ emergency health order, claiming it violates the “rule of law” in the state, The Hill reports. 

“This lawsuit is not about whether masks are good or bad, or whether Wisconsin ought to do more, or less, to address COVID-19. It isn’t even about whether the state should have a mask mandate. This lawsuit is about our system of government and the rule of law,” Rick Esenberg, WILL president and general counsel said in a statement, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Read More: Wisconsin police shoot Black man several times from behind, sparking protests

Evers first issued the statewide mask mandate on July 30, it went into effect Aug. 1, and is set to run until Sept. 28. The order requires all residents over the age of 5 to wear facial coverings inside indoor spaces ( except for at home), and enclosed outdoor areas. Violators face a $200 fine. 

The lawsuit calls out Evers’ authority, suggesting he should have sought legislature’s approval to enact a mask mandate. 

The governor declared a public health emergency in March related to the coronavirus, which expired on May 11. The lawsuit alleges his latest statewide mask requirement is illegal because it is based on the same threat of the order issued in May.

“State law forbids a governor from unilaterally extending a public health emergency beyond 60 days or skirting the law by declaring multiple 60-day emergencies for the same crisis,” WILL wrote in a press release. “Governor Evers cannot seize emergency powers more than once to address the same crisis. To interpret the law otherwise, would allow one-person rule by the Governor for what could be a virtually unlimited amount of time whenever the vague statutory definition of a “public health emergency” or “disaster” can be said to be present. The result would be the total breakdown of our constitutional order.”

In an email sent to Newsweek, Evers spokeswoman Britt Cudaback, stated that “Republicans and their allies have tried at every turn to prevent the governor from keeping Wisconsinites healthy and safe.”

She added, “From safer at home to the April election and now masks, they’ve filed more lawsuits than they have passed bills during this pandemic.”

Wisconsin is one of 34 states requiring residents to wear masks in public.

A similar lawsuit was recently filed in Michigan against Governor Gretchen Whitmer, for her mask mandate. 

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