State Supreme Court Rules Against Mask Mandate

( Residents in Wisconsin will no longer have to wear a mask while out in public.

On Wednesday, the Wisconsin Supreme Court invalidated the statewide mask mandate that Governor Tony Evers, a Democrat, had imposed. The mask mandate was one of the last tools Evers had at his disposal to try to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

The court, which has a conservative majority, ruled 4-3 that the governor violated Wisconsin law when he issued multiple emergency orders unilaterally, and by extending the mandate month after month. The court also ruled that Evers needed to receive approval from the state legislature to issue additional orders after the initial 60-day mask mandate he issued in August expired.

In the majority opinion, Justice Brian Hagedorn wrote:

“The question in this case is not whether the governor acted wisely; it is whether he acted lawfully. We conclude he did not.”

Justice. Ann Walsh Bradley wrote for the minority:

“This is no run-of-the-mill case. We are in the midst of a worldwide pandemic that so far has claimed the lives of over a half million people in this country. And with the stakes so high, the majority not only arrives at erroneous conclusions, but it also obscures the consequence of its decision.

“Unfortunately, the ultimate consequence of the majority’s decision is that it places yet another roadblock to an effective governmental response to COVID-19.”

The invalidation of Evers’ mask mandate follows another loss the governor suffered at the state Supreme Court. In May 2020, the court ruled that Evers’ stay-at-home order was invalid as well. In that case, the court ruled that the state’s health secretary didn’t have the authority to issue the order.

Then, in October 2020, Evers was stopped once again when he tried to set limits on capacity in indoor places, restaurants and bars. That decision was made in a state appellate court.

Some people in Wisconsin say a statewide mask mandate is still necessary because coronavirus cases are rising throughout the state. The state is seeing “warning signs” about another possible COVID-19 surge, according to Julie Willems Van Dijk, the secretary of the State Department of Health Services.

Even with Evers’ statewide mandate struck down, there are still local mask mandates that are in place. Both Dane County, home to the state capital of Madison, as well as the city of Milwaukee have local mask mandates. Now, though, all the governor can do is try to work with local leaders to institute local restrictions.

In a statement following the decision, Evers said he was just trying to keep the residents of Wisconsin safe. He used science to guide the decisions he made, and promised to keep working to get residents vaccinated as well as urge people to continue wearing masks — even though they are no longer mandated to do so.

GOP lawmakers in the state were very happy with the ruling. Devin LeMahieu, the state Senate Majority Leader, said that the governor abused his power with the mask mandate, and the court’s decision only affirmed that fact.