Wisconsin Supreme Court to take up suit against Dane Co. over mask mandate

MADISON, Wis. — The Wisconsin Supreme Court has agreed to take up a case challenging Dane County’s COVID-19 mask mandate.

According to a court order, the state’s highest court will hear the case brought against Dane County, Public Health Madison and Dane County and public health director Janel Heinrich by two county residents and a business.

The order does not list a date or time for arguments.

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL), which filed the suit, issued a statement Monday saying the case, “presents the Court with an opportunity to clarify that local health officers cannot unilaterally issue orders that restrict daily life without approval from a legislative body.”

“The Dane County Board cannot pass the buck and allow an unelected health officer to issue whatever orders she sees fit,” WILL Deputy Counsel Luke Berg said.

RELATED: Conservative firm asks Wisconsin Supreme Court to block latest Dane Co. mask mandate

WILL first asked the court to take the case in August. Since then, the reinstated mask order has been extended several times, including Monday — the same day the court agreed to take the case. Their complaint argued another recent court decision, James v. Heinrich, meant Heinrich did not have the power to put the mask mandate into place. The court ruled in James v. Heinrich that she did not have the power to close all Dane County schools in the fall of 2020.

PHMDC told News 3 Now in August they were confident the mask orders were legal under state law. The agency said Monday it does not comment on active lawsuits.

In a statement, County Executive Joe Parisi said the county has one of the lowest COVID-19 deaths rates in the country in part due to vaccination and mask efforts.

“Legal challenges against masking only confuse the public and risk greater rates of disease and death – further compromising the ability of our doctors and nurses to provide care,” he said. “We are confident in the legality of these orders and hope others will pursue them to help blunt the oncoming force of Omicron.”

The announcement comes on the same day PHMDC announced it will extend the county’s mask mandate to February 1.