Racine County Judge Strikes Down COVID-19 Safeguards - Again.
Racine Mayor Cory Mason described a Racine County Judge who struck down safeguards against COVID-19 Wednesday as "a right-wing, activist judge who had the audacity to proclaim that an ordinance which was lawfully enacted by the Racine Common Council is not valid." (Screenshot via WISN)

The ruling does not preclude the city from passing more specific restrictions.

Racine County Judge Jon Frederickson killed the City of Racine’s local stay-home order Wednesday on the grounds that it was “unconstitutionally overbroad and vague” but did not prevent the city from enacting more specific policies to stop the spread of coronavirus.

“This Court finds that no average person of ordinary intelligence can make sense of its sprawling breadth,” Frederickson wrote in his decision, arguing that the city’s policy was too complicated and broad because it included an abundance of hyperlinks to guidelines published by the Centers for Disease Control and Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. 

Frederickson’s ruling came after he temporarily suspended the city’s homebrewed order, and then threatened to hold the city in contempt of court after it passed a replacement order. The decision was the result of a lawsuit filed by a local gym owner, David Yandel of Harbor Park CrossFit, who argued the stay-home order was costing him business.

Mayor Cory Mason ripped into Frederickson, adding that the city has already filed an appeal and asked for the decision to be stayed.

“Today a right-wing, activist judge in Racine had the audacity to proclaim that an ordinance which was lawfully enacted by the Racine Common Council is not valid,” Mason said in a statement. “The irony is not lost on me that this happened on the same day Dane County proactively put in place additional restrictions on bars and restaurants in order to better protect their residents before the holiday weekend.”

Frederickson, an appointee of ex-Gov. Scott Walker who was then elected to a six-year term in 2019, ruled that it was illegal to give the city’s top health official unilateral power to implement restrictions, arguing that the decisions should be left to the Common Council, even if it means meeting daily.

“The City maintains its full power to issue a new ordinance addressing COVID-19,” Frederickson wrote. “The City has the emergency power and the duty to fight the pandemic and keep the city safe.”

Racine has been trading places with Milwaukee as the most-infected city and county per capita in the state. As of Wednesday, Racine County had 2,176 confirmed coronavirus cases — more than one case for every 100 county residents — and 63 deaths.

When the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down Gov. Tony Evers’ statewide stay-home order, Racine was one of a handful of communities to enact local restrictions. The Central Racine County Health Department, which holds jurisdiction over the rest of the county, merely issued unenforceable recommendations.

Frederickson initially threw Racine’s order out on June 19, saying it was unenforceable while the court case against it was being argued. The city responded three days later by passing an ordinance enacting essentially the same order, a move Frederickson promptly thwarted.