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Wisconsin conservatives ask judge to block governor's mask order

COVID global death toll surpasses 1 million
Coronavirus global death toll surpasses 1 million 01:55

Washington — A conservative law firm in Wisconsin has asked a state court to block enforcement of Governor Tony Evers' mandate that all in the state wear masks, arguing the Democratic governor exceeded his authority in issuing his emergency order in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, which filed a lawsuit on behalf of three Wisconsin residents, argued in their request to the Polk County Circuit Court that Evers does not have the ability to seize emergency powers more than once to address the same crisis.

While Evers first declared a public health emergency in response to the coronavirus in March, the governor declared a second and third state of emergency in July and September, respectively. The second public health emergency was accompanied by the mask mandate, which applied to Wisconsin's 72 counties and was extended with Evers' third declaration into November.

"Right or wrong as a matter of policy, both the second and third states of emergency to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic are unlawful because they are based upon the same public health problem as the first state of emergency," the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty argued in their filing. "The statutes do not allow the Governor to take such extraordinary actions without Legislative approval."

The firm said a state of emergency, which expires after 60 days, can only be extended by the state legislature. 

"This motion for an immediate injunction is a recognition that the executive branch in Wisconsin is, thus far, completely undeterred by the constraints of state law and must be reined in," Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty president and general counsel Rick Esenberg said in a statement.

Wisconsin has had more than 117,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and more than 1,200 deaths.

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