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Wisconsin Supreme Court Suspends Madison County School Closure

An order from the Wisconsin Supreme Court last Thursday temporarily suspended Madison & Dane County’s order closing all in-person, public and private schools, leaving the door open for schools to meet in person while the parties brief the case.

Concerned parties brought three separate original actions before the court challenging the order from Madison & Dane County’s public health department as an overreach of authority and violation of the federal and state law. In its Thursday order, the Wisconsin Supreme Court consolidated the cases and ordered the parties to present one, combined brief by October 10th. Dane County will then have 20 days to respond, followed by individual response briefs from the parties.

The remainder of the order addressed the merits of parties’ motion to enjoin the order from Madison & Dane County’s public health department and the likelihood success, focusing particularly on the department’s statutory authority. The court found the challenges were likely to succeed and so suspended the order.

Justice Dallet, joined by Justices Ann Walsh Bradley and Karofsky, dissented from the decision, urging the court not to meddle with local decision making. Justice Rebecca Grassl Bradley addressed her arguments in a concurrence, responding: “Local health officers have no statutory authority to impose the order Dane County’s health officer made.”

Update: The Supreme Court has announced it will hear oral arguments in December.