By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Mar 31, 2021 at 10:01 AM

In a long-awaited decision, the Wisconsin Supreme Court voted, 4-3, to strike down Gov. Evers' statewide mask mandate renewals. 

The vote landed down party lines on the case, with conservative judges Brian Hagedorn, Rebecca Bradley, Patience Rogensack and Annette Ziegler voting that Evers unlawfully issued the emergency order extentions – the latest announced on Feb. 4 and set to expire on Monday. That most recent statewide mask mandate came after the Republican-controlled legislature voted the then-current version down, a decision with no formal support but 24 groups – including the Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, the Medical College of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Hospital Association, the Wisconsin Medical Society, the Wisconsin Public Health Association and the Wisconsin Council of Churches – in opposition.

"The question in this case is not whether the Governor acted wisely; it is whether he acted lawfully. We conclude he did not," writes Judge Hagedorn in his majority opinion.

"Governor Tony Evers' successive declarations of emergency – each stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic – violate the law, specifically Wis. Stat. § 323.10's express temporal limitation: 'A state of emergency shall not exceed 60 days unless the state of emergency is extended by joint resolution of the legislature,'" writes Judge Rebecca Bradley in her concurring opinion. "Because the Wisconsin Legislature never extended Governor Evers' declared state of emergency, it ended on May 11, 2020. Any exercise of executive power in the name of the COVID-19 pandemic beyond that date is unlawful unless the people consent, through their elected representatives in the legislature."

Judges Ann Walsh Bradley, Rebecca Dallet and Jill Karofsky voted in favor of retaining the mask mandate, still considered one of the best ways to stop day-to-day transmission of the virus while the vaccination effort continues. 

"This is no run- of-the-mill case," writes Judge Ann Walsh Bradley in her dissent. "We are in the midst of a worldwide pandemic that so far has claimed the lives of over a half million people in this country. And with the stakes so high, the majority not only arrives at erroneous conclusions, but it also obscures the consequence of its decision.

"Unfortunately, the ultimate consequence of the majority's decision is that it places yet another roadblock to an effective governmental response to COVID-19, further jeopardizing the health and lives of the people of Wisconsin."

Gov. Evers responded to the Supreme Court's decision on Twitter:

The decision arrives as health officials both local and national warn the public of a potential new surge of cases as COVID-19 precautions and safeguards are lowered across the country. In Wisconsin, active cases and hospitalizations are up from previous lows this month while in Milwaukee County, health officials stated on Tuesday that, due to a rise in cases, previously lifted restrictions may be reimposed if the numbers continue to head in the wrong direction. 

While the statewide mask mandate is no more, the City of Milwaukee's mask ordinance, as well as all other local mask orders, are not affected by today's Supreme Court decision. The city's mandate currently has no set expiration date. 

The good news is the state continues to be one of the nation's leaders in vaccinations – a trend that looks likely to continue after Gov. Evers announced Tuesday that everyone 16 and older will be eligible for vaccination beginning on Monday, April 5. So get vaccinated when you can (for information and resources on where and how to sign up for your shot, click here) and please continue to wear a mask in public to protect yourself and others.

Matt Mueller Culture Editor

As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.

When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.