Co-produced with the Administrative and Local Government Section of the State Bar of Wisconsin Endorsed by the Health Law Section of the State Bar of Wisconsin
Questioning the powers that be
On May 13, 2020, Wisconsin’s high court became the first in the nation to overturn a state’s stay-at-home order during the COVID-19 crisis.1 In a 4-3 decision, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that Department of Health Services Secretary-designee, Andrea Palm exceeded her authority when she issued Emergency Order #28 and extended the statewide Safer at Home order without legislative approval.2
This Supreme Court decision, along with recent lawsuits filed against state and county public health leaders across the state, has sparked debate over public health officials’ authority.3 If Emergency Order #28 was ruled to be “unlawful, invalid, and unenforceable,” then what measures are legally permissible in times of crisis?4 What authority do Wisconsin’s state and local public health officials have right now to respond to and contain communicable disease outbreaks?
Understand the current legal landscape
In Public Health Departments on the Frontlines, Marci Paulsen and Diane Welsh will provide a quick history of public health law and explain what authority exists for local public health orders and actions.
- How Wisconsin public health departments have historically exercised authority
- Statutory limitations on public health officials’ powers
- The potential impacts of recent lawsuits challenging the authority of public agencies
Review how legal authority for local public health departments applies in light of COVID-19 with help from Public Health Departments on the Frontlines.
1Wisconsin now without COVID-19 restrictions after state Supreme Court strikes down Gov. Tony Evers’ stay-at-home order
2SUPREME COURT OF WISCONSIN, CASE NO.: 2020AP765-OA
3Lawsuit filed against various Wis. health leaders over stay-at-home orders
4SUPREME COURT OF WISCONSIN, CASE NO.: 2020AP765-OA