WILL Client Will Not Face Fines for “Violating” COVID-19 Public Health Order

The News: Representing another legal victory for the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL), attorneys representing Public Health of Madison and Dane County (PHMDC) have dropped their case against WILL client, “A Leap Above.”

WILL represented the family-owned dance studio after the health department fined them for what it misleadingly characterized as a “performance” of the Nutcracker on December 13, 2020. The initial complaint sought nearly $24,000 in fines.

The Quotes: WILL Deputy Counsel, Luke Berg, said, “Our client operated her business safely and responsibly during the COVID-19 pandemic, yet wrongfully faced fines by public health officials.  Dane County has since dropped this case, and WILL is proud of our efforts to protect our clients from these ridiculous financial penalties.”

A Leap Above’s owner, Natalie Nemeckay, said, “We are so thankful this whole chapter is over, and we can go back to helping young dancers pursue their passion for dance. We are grateful to WILL for defending us so we could focus on what we love.”

Additional Background: In early 2021, WILL filed a lawsuit on behalf of multiple Dane County residents, challenging PHMDC health officials’ authority to unilaterally issue restrictions on daily life without approval of the elected Dane County Board.

Shortly after that lawsuit, PHMDC filed a $24,000 enforcement action against A Leap Above, a dance studio in Oregon, for allegedly hosting a “performance” of the Nutcracker in November 2020, during the most egregious of the health orders, which banned most indoor gatherings. In reality, A Leap Above had complied with the order, only allowing its dancers to video record their dances in small groups. WILL agreed to represent A Leap Above in defense of that enforcement action.

WILL moved to dismiss the enforcement action on a variety of grounds, including that A Leap Above did not violate the November 2020 order, and that the order violated the First Amendment and was unconstitutionally vague. WILL’s motion was stayed while WILL appealed its broader challenge to PHMDC’s authority to issue such restrictions to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

The Court unfortunately ruled against that broader challenge in a narrow, 4-3 decision in the summer of 2022, and then denied WILL’s motion to reconsider in May 2023. After the case was remanded to the trial court, PHMDC agreed to drop its enforcement action rather than defend its order against WILL’s additional arguments for dismissal.


Luke Berg

Luke Berg

Deputy Counsel

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