Becker v. Dane County

Case Name: Becker v. Dane County

Type of Case: Non-delegation, health department restrictions

Court: Dane County Circuit Courts

Case Number: 

Filed On: January 20, 2021

Current Status: Pending before the District 4 Court of Appeals.

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.

Background

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.

Current Status: Pending before the District 4 Court of Appeals. WILL filed a petition to bypass to the Wisconsin Supreme Court on September 7, 2021.

CASE DOCUMENTS

Dane County Drops Most Fines Against Dance Studio

Health department enlisted the wrong attorneys and filed far too many counts The News: Dane County attorneys, on behalf of Public Health Madison and Dane County, have significantly reduced the fines they are seeking from A Leap Above dance studio in Oregon,...

Dane County Health Department Relaxes Sports Restrictions After WILL Lawsuit

Legal challenge to authority of Dane County health department continues The News: Public Health Madison and Dane County, the local health department, issued a new health order on Monday that relaxes a number of sports-related restrictions WILL had challenged in...

WILL Files Lawsuit Challenging Dane County Health Department’s Authority to Enact COVID Restrictions

Lawsuit in Dane County Circuit Court argues county board must approve health department’s restrictions The News: The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) filed a lawsuit in Dane County Circuit Court, on behalf of two Dane County residents,...