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Case Challenging Local Stay-At-Home Orders Dismissed

Earlier this week, a judge for the Eastern District of Wisconsin dismissed a lawsuit that challenged various COVID-19 stay-at-home order from local county/city governments. The suit was filed against Governor Evers, Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm, and multiple local officials from Milwaukee, Madison, and Appleton (among others.) The plaintiffs challenged the orders on constitutional grounds, arguing that the orders violated freedom of speech, religion, and assembly, among other things.

The plaintiffs alleged that all of the defendants worked in coordination to limit their constitutional rights. The case was dismissed outright because the judge found that the suit did not properly allege coordination between all of the defendants. The judge said that the local officials talked to each other but did not coordinate together to affect people’s constitutional rights.

This dismissal did not touch on the validity of the constitutional claims, but rather was dismissed simply because the defendants were improperly joined in a single suit. This dismissal allows for two possibilities for this case to move forward. The first is to leave the defendants as-is and to appeal. The other is to refile lawsuits making the same allegations about constitutional violations, but filing an individual one for each governmental entity, or joining those only closely related. Either way the plaintiffs decide to proceed, it will be worth keeping an eye on this moving forward.

Written by GLLF’s Legal Intern, Mike Pflughoeft