Injunction motion aims to bring high court back into the mask order fight

    The giant hodag statue wearing a COVID-19 mask
    Rhinelander mythical creature the hodag at the welcome center via State Department of Human Services

    The Waukesha plaintiff who is suing in the Wisconsin Supreme Court to end Gov. Tony Evers’ health emergency and mask order now wants the court to block the governor’s latest COVID-19 emergency declaration.

    Jeré Fabick filed a motion late Tuesday as part of his ongoing lawsuit against the governor, which was argued before the state Supreme Court in November. The court has not yet indicated when it would decide the case.

    Evers declared a new health emergency and mask order on Feb. 4, directly after the state Assembly passed a resolution ending the previous emergency declaration and mask order that Evers issued Jan. 19. Receiving nearly $50 million in federal aid is contingent on having such an emergency order in place.

    Last fall, a majority of justices allowed Fabick to bypass local courts and sue Evers directly in the Supreme Court, challenging the legality of multiple health emergencies that the governor has declared in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Fabick is affiliated with the Heartland Institute, a policy advocacy group that opposes most government regulation.

    His lawsuit — as does another that is still pending — argues that every pandemic emergency that Evers has declared starting Aug. 1 is an illegal extension of the first health emergency, which took effect March 12 and expired May 11. Republicans in the Legislature who voted to end the Jan. 19 emergency made the same argument. Democrats argued that ending the mask order is about masks and the protection they provide against the COVID-19 virus.

    The state’s emergency powers law limits a governor’s emergency declaration to 60 days unless the state Legislature votes to extend it.

    In its defense of the repeated health emergency declarations, the Evers administration has argued that each one reflected distinct circumstances that have changed throughout the pandemic rather than being an extension of earlier emergencies.

    After Evers issued the new emergency Feb. 4, several lawmakers urged the high court to issue a ruling on the Fabick case.

    Erik Gunn
    Senior Reporter Erik Gunn reports and writes on work and the economy, along with related subjects, for the Wisconsin Examiner. He spent 24 years as a freelance writer for Milwaukee Magazine, Isthmus, The Progressive, BNA Inc., and other publications, winning awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, beat coverage, business writing, and commentary. An East Coast native, he previously covered labor for The Milwaukee Journal after reporting for newspapers in upstate New York and northern Illinois. He's a graduate of Beloit College (English Comp.) and the Columbia School of Journalism. Off hours he is the Examiner's resident Springsteen and Jackson Browne fanboy and model railroad nerd.