Becker v. Dane County
Case Name: Becker v. Dane County
Type of Case: Non-delegation, health department restrictions
Court: Dane County Circuit Courts
Filed On: January 20, 2021
Current Status: Pending before the Dane County Circuit Court
The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) filed a lawsuit in Dane County Circuit Court, on behalf of two Dane County residents, challenging the Dane County health department’s legal authority to issue sweeping restrictions on all aspects of life in Dane County. This lawsuit is substantially similar to an original action WILL filed with the Wisconsin Supreme Court in November 2020. The Court voted not to grant WILL’s original action, 4-3, without addressing the merits of the case, but four Justices indicated the claims had substantial merit.
WILL filed an original action to the Wisconsin Supreme Court in November 2020 challenging Emergency Order #10, an order issued by Dane County’s health department, as an overreach of the legal authority granted to local health officers and an unlawful delegation of authority from local elected bodies. In particular, WILL argued the new restrictions were not voted on by the Dane County Board.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court did not grant WILL’s original action on a 4-3 vote in December. Justice Hagedorn, who concurred in the denial, agreed with the dissenters that the petition presented “important statutory and constitutional questions that deserve judicial scrutiny,” but concluded that the case should begin in circuit court.
Public Health Madison and Dane County issued a new health order in February that relaxes a number of sports-related restrictions WILL had challenged in a lawsuit filed in January. Order #13 allows for indoor team sports for up to 25, and outdoors for up to 100. Masks are required while playing indoors, and outdoors if maintaining 6 feet of separation is not possible.
WILL’s lawsuit in Dane County Circuit Court will continue, however, to ensure a court addresses the merits of WILL’s challenge to the legal authority of Dane County’s health department. Orders from Dane County’s health department constitute an unlawful delegation of authority from local elected bodies. In particular, WILL argues the various restrictions ought to have been voted on by the Dane County Board.
A Leap Above
WILL is also representing A Leap Above Dance Studio, in Oregon, Wisconsin, in an enforcement action brought against it by Dane County’s health department. The department sought nearly $24,000 in fines for what it misleadingly characterized as a “performance” of the Nutcracker on December 13, 2020.
A Leap Above Dance Studio also joined WILL’s lawsuit challenging a Dane County ordinance that makes the health department’s orders enforceable, filed in January.