News: Public Health

Attorney General Kaul Issues Interim AG Opinion

Friday, May 15, 2020  
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May 15, 2020

In a news release issued today, Attorney General Josh Kaul announced the issuing of an interim attorney general opinion on the applicability of Wisconsin Legislature v. Palm to local health officers’ ability to issue local orders responding to the COVID-19 pandemic which can be found here.

The Milwaukee Journal in their coverage of this announcement reported:

[AG Kaul] noted the state Supreme Court’s ruling threw out the state’s stay-at-home order primarily because of a rulemaking process that applies to state officials but not local officials. But Kaul noted the court's majority was suspicious of including criminal penalties for violations of health orders and urged local officials to use civil penalties instead. He stressed that local officials need to clearly explain why they’re imposing the rules that they are, especially if they are stringent.

“The local authority should ensure that any measures that direct people to stay at home, forbid certain travel, or close certain businesses speak specifically to the local authority’s statutory power to ‘prevent, suppress and control communicable diseases’ and ‘forbid public gatherings when deemed necessary to control outbreaks or epidemics,’” Kaul wrote, quoting from the law that gives local officials their powers.

The advice comes after Department of Health Services officials provided local health officials with a template to create their own order that mirrors the state order that was just struck down — including criminal penalties. It's unclear whether the orders tossed on Friday would be redrafted without such enforcement provisions.

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