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Lawless bureaucrats must be held to account

Eight long days after hearing arguments, the Wisconsin Supreme Court utterly struck down the “Safer-at-Home” extension issued by Governor Tony Evers’ administration. The practical result is that Wisconsin’s economy can open again except for a few pockets of totalitarianism where local tyrants continue to hold sway. Will anyone be held accountable for the administration’s gross abuse of power to strip Wisconsinites of their civil rights?

The court was not asked to rule on the overall constitutionality of Wisconsin’s “Safer-at-Home” lockdown order. Rather, the court was asked to rule on whether or not the order was legally created. In order to lock down the state, Governor Evers relied on a statute that permits the secretary of the Department of Health Services to take broad emergency actions in order to combat a communicable disease. The statute was designed to allow the Department of Health Services to act swiftly, but not unilaterally.

Governor Evers incorrectly interpreted the statute to allow the Health Secretarydesignee Andrea Palm to act as a dictator with the power to indefinitely micromanage all aspects of citizens’ lives. Under this offensive interpretation, Wisconsin’s unelected health secretary would have the power to suspend civil rights, elected government, private property, and rule as a monarch to make, execute, and enforce laws.

Of course, such arbitrary government and tyrannical rule was never the intent of the Legislature and was certainly never consented to by the people. Under the statute, the secretary of Health Services is required to confer with the Legislature and gain the consent of the people’s elected representatives before ordering the people of Wisconsin around.

The Supreme Court was unequivocal in its ruling. It said, “Palm’s Emergency Order 28 is declared unlawful, invalid, and unenforceable” because Palm broke the law in creating the Safer at Home Order 28.

In her concurring opinion, Justice Rebecca Grassl Bradley was even more strident. She said, “Under the Wisconsin Constitution, all governmental power derives ‘from the consent of the governed’ and government officials may act only within the confines of the authority the people give them. The people of Wisconsin never consented to any elected official, much less an unelected Cabinet secretary, having the power to create law, execute it, and enforce it. However well-intentioned, the secretary- designee of the Department of Health Services exceeded her powers by ordering the people of Wisconsin to follow her commands or face imprisonment for noncompliance. In issuing her order, she arrogated unto herself the power to make the law and the power to execute it, excluding the people from the lawmaking process altogether.”

Such a clear articulation of the importance of the consent of the governed and the separation of powers could have come from the pen of James Madison or Alexander Hamilton.

What happens now? When a normal Wisconsinite is caught breaking the law, they are fined or jailed. When Palm’s illegal order was being enforced, Wisconsinites were being ticketed and arrested for doing things as simple as eating in a restaurant or playing basketball in a park. Will Secretarydesignee Palm be held accountable for breaking the law? Will her boss, Governor Evers, take responsibility for his employee’s blatant flaunting of the Constitution and the law?

So far, neither Evers nor Palm have indicated that they will accept any responsibility for violating the law. They will continue to cash their full paychecks and direct their opulent staffs courtesy of the very citizens they sought to oppress. They have committed to continue on without a modicum of contrition for their unlawful actions.

As an elected official, the voters will have to decide if Governor Evers should be held to account at the next election or sooner. But as an unconfirmed appointed secretary, the Wisconsin state Senate should immediately move to reject Palm’s confirmation so that the people of Wisconsin will no longer be subject to her lawless proclivities. She is clearly unfit for public service.

(Owen B. Robinson is a West Bend resident. He can be reached at owen@bootsandsabers. com.)

So far, neither Evers nor Palm have indicated that they will accept any responsibility for violating the law.



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