Alan Nugent, right, owner of the Stockholm Pie and General Store, works with a fellow employee and a customer on Aug. 1, the first day of Gov. Tony Evers’ order making the wearing of masks in public places in Wisconsin mandatory. Nugent said a handful of people have left his store because they would not wear masks, but most people abide by the regulation. (Photo by Julian Emerson)
Alan Nugent, right, owner of the Stockholm Pie and General Store, works with a fellow employee and a customer on Aug. 1, the first day of Gov. Tony Evers’ order making the wearing of masks in public places in Wisconsin mandatory. Nugent said a handful of people have left his store because they would not wear masks, but most people abide by the regulation. (Photo by Julian Emerson)

Also: Wisconsin Republican Party reports a multi-million dollar online theft.

The four conservative-leaning justices on the Wisconsin Supreme Court Wednesday agreed to hear a case that could curtail the governor’s ability to pass emergency orders meant to protect the public during public health emergencies.

The justices agreed to accept the case as the number of coronavirus cases in Wisconsin are surging past 210,000 cases, the number of lives lost to the pandemic tops 1,700, and hospitals across the state are reaching capacity.

The case is being fast-tracked, with oral arguments set to begin Nov. 16. That is five days before the statewide mask order is set to expire. Gov. Tony Evers passed the statewide order that requires residents to wear a face covering in August. It expires Nov. 21, although he has the authority to extend it if he deems the state is still experiencing a public health emergency. 

That ability could be revoked, depending on the outcome of the case. 

The case, filed by Waukesha resident Jere Fabick, argues Evers exceeded his authority in declaring multiple health emergencies to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. The governor has declared three public health emergencies. Fabick contends he is only allowed, by law, to have declared one. 

Justices Rebecca Dallet, Ann Walsh Bradley, and Jill Karofsky argued in the dissent that the case should have first played out in the lower courts. 

“Our original-action jurisdiction is not meant to allow a single, disgruntled taxpayer to jump the line to achieve a desired outcome,” writes Dallet for the dissent. 

She adds this is particularly the case when the only “harm” alleged by the petitioner is that the governor spent time drafting, promoting, and enforcing an executive order.

“By accepting this petition absent even the bare minimum requirement that the petitioner allege some personal harm, the court flings open its doors to any and all taxpayers who are merely unhappy with any government official’s action,” writes Dallet. 

The case is the latest in a string of actions taken by Republican lawmakers and conservative organizations to challenge the ability of the state to pass measures designed to protect the public during a public health crisis. For example, Republican lawmakers who control the Legislature successfully challenged the Evers’ administration in court in May to have the safer-at-home order overturned. 

State GOP says hackers stole $2.3 million

Andrew Hitt, chairman of the Wisconsin Republican Party, told the Associated Press on Thursday that hackers stole $2.3 million from the party’s political war chest last Thursday, less than two weeks before the presidential election.

Hitt said the party noticed “suspicious activity” on Oct. 22 and notified the FBI the next day. Hitt said the FBI is now investigating the hack. 

Special Agent Brett Banner, an FBI spokesman, told UpNorthNews he could not confirm nor deny an investigation, per agency policy.

The money was stolen when hackers altered invoices sent to the state GOP by four vendors, Hitt told the AP. The alterations reportedly rerouted payments for political supplies such as mailers and hats to the hackers. 

The theft strikes a significant blow to the state GOP, which would have used the money in the final days of the presidential election to help prop up President Donald Trump, who has consistently trailed Democratic nominee Joe Biden in Wisconsin polls.